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EU-US Workshop on the Sustainability of Biomass Production for Bioenergy
Illinois, USA
October 25-26, 2011

Programme  PDF icon 73 KB

List of participants  PDF icon 66 KB

Workshop outcome  PDF icon 967 KB


Steve Long, University of Illinois, EBI
Guido Reinhardt, Heidelberg, IFEU

The WS was co-organised by RTD-E, the Department of Energy of the United States (US) and the US Department of Agriculture, under the umbrella of Working Group of Biobased Products and Bioenergy of the EC-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research.
The meeting was hosted by the University of Illinois, Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI).

The expectations of millions of hectares of certain first and second generation and more sustainable annual and perennial crops such as triticale, poplar and perennial grasses feeding emerging renewable power and biofuel projects, has not come to pass.  Indeed forward industry plans continue to shrink, despite government mandates.  Economic and Environmental LCAs have had a major influence on policy toward the emerging bioenergy industry in both the US and EU.  Policy changes reflecting ILUC, have perhaps had the most influence but ILUC is far from the only uncertainty.  Conflicting LCA outcomes have contributed to an uncertain policy environment.  This is likely one factor in the downturn in investment in our countries at a time when large investments are being made elsewhere.  Next to this, also other implications such as on social welfare, biodiversity especially in emerging countries if it comes to the import of biomass and the controversial discussion concerning different certifications systems for sustainable biomass have further complicated the scene. The objective of this workshop is to look forward to how we may produce better LCAs and a framework of interaction that does not result in premature policy, while protecting the environment and assisting our economies and living quality.  A second objective is how to intensify the co-operation between the EC and the US in this field. Specific, but not exclusive, issues that we aim to address:

  • Question 1: How do we achieve better and more consistent reporting of the uncertainty in different stages of the scenarios considered by environmental and economic LCAs? Achieving clear communication of quantified uncertainty in data as well in methodological approaches in LCAs is necessary, to avoid premature policy development on the one hand or on the other timely policy development where there is a high degree of certainty. The discussion might consider if the IPCC model of communicating the level of certainty might be considered for adoption here.

  • Question 2: Are LCAs too far ahead of the data? What are the examples and how do we achieve better alignment? LCA predictions of the environmental impacts (especially greenhouse gas accounting and nitrogen use) and the economics of bioenergy feedstocks, appear well ahead of the actual data.

  • Question 3: What are the obstacles and/or uncertainties to overcome in achieving improved scientific LCAs? Points to consider in Discussion (although not an exclusive list):

    • What are the appropriate comparators? For example, for biofuels "well to wheels" should the comparison be with today's oil or with the more difficult sources such as tar sands that will be an increasing part of the future liquid fuel mix?
    • Incremental improvements in technology from crop to fuel, and disruptive inventions, will change the LCA. How do we account for this in reporting outcomes of LCA's?
    • What are the perspectives to integrate iLUC into the LCA and/or certification systems?
    • Is there a need to have a harmonization in co-product handling and how to proceed with this?

  • Question 4: How do we combine the existing methodology of environmental LCA with the new developments on economic and social LCAs towards a uniform approach to measure the sustainability of bioenergy production and use? Whereas environmental LCAs are discussed and applied for more a decade (despite still having some open questions), economic and social LCAs are on its way since just a few years. Therefore it is obvious that a harmonization between these methodologies is needed as well as a common understanding how to merge the single results into overall conclusions.

  • Question 5: What are the main differences between the scientific LCA models and the politically driven certification systems and how might a more harmonized and coequal coexistence be achieved? Quite a number of certification systems for sustainable biofuel production have been introduced recently especially in Europe targeting biomass and its biofuels production worldwide if used in Europe. Still, they are not fully in compliance with scientific sound LCA methodologies. The discussion might consider the ILCD and RED activities of the EC, the worldwide activities of GBEP and ISO, the US activities such as RFS2 and GREET and others.

  • Question 6: How do the challenges to reaching the above position differ between the EU and US ? More than 20 years of experience in biofuel assessments and policies exist in the EC and the US. Also, some collaboration and co-operation in science and policy on this topic has taken place and is still running. But there seems to be a big potential to increase these, especially as it became obvious in the last few years, that biomass for bioenergy is not a country-specific issue what it was mainly in the 90ies for the US and some European countries, but nowadays affects also foreign countries worldwide


Office of Biological and Environmental
Research, SC-72/Germantown Building
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585-1290

Room 4-2204
5601 Sunnyside Avenue
Mailstop 5139
Beltsville, MD, 20705

Research Programme Officer
European Commission
Biotechnologies Unit
Directorate for Biotechnologies, Agriculture and Food
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
Square de Meeûs, 8, B-1050 Brussels

Research Programme Officer
European Commission
Biotechnologies Unit
Directorate for Biotechnologies, Agriculture and Food
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
Square de Meeûs, 8, B-1050 Brussels