Global Sustainable Bioenergy Project - Feasibility and Implementation Paths Versão em português


Biofuels, Bioproducts, & Biorefining

January, 2010
Interview: Global Sustainable Bioenergy Project offers a new approach to key bioenergy issues
Article (PDF file)

Mail & Guardian Online
August 26, 2009
Make biofuels while sun shines

Executive Summary

Fuels and electricity from plant biomass, "bioenergy", can potentially address urgent sustainability, energy supply, and rural economic development challenges. Yet the world is currently confused and uncertain about whether to look to bioenergy to play a prominent role in the future, and if so, what policies are needed to ensure a sustainable result. This state of affairs is undesirable because we are likely underestimating meritorious options, overestimating non-meritorious options, or – in light of the many bioenergy feedstock, processes, and products – perhaps both. This uncertainty constrains efforts by industry, government, and others interested in developing more sustainable energy systems.

The Global Sustainable Bioenergy (GSB) project seeks to bring needed clarity and resolution to this situation within a three-stage framework:

Stage 1. Hold five continental conventions with outcomes as follows:

   1. gather input on structuring the analysis to be carried out in Stages 2 and 3;
   2. endorse a common resolution about the importance of bioenergy and the goals of the GSB project;
   3. approve resolutions representing perspectives on bioenergy from each of the world's continents;
   4. write a report encompassing a, b and c;
   5. recruit participants and support for stages 2 and 3.

Stage 2. Definitively test the working hypothesis that it is physically possible for bioenergy to sustainably meet a substantial fraction of future demand for energy services (≥ 25% of global mobility or equivalent) while feeding humanity and meeting other needs from managed lands, preserving wildlife habitat, and maintaining environmental quality. We intend to approach this unconstrained by current practices, since a sustainable and secure future cannot be obtained by continuing the practices that have led to the unsustainable and insecure present.

Stage 3. Analyze and recommend transition paths and policies in light of Stage 2 results, incorporating analysis of macroeconomic, environmental, ethical and equity issues as well as local-scale effects on rural economies.

The focus of the GSB project is different from that of the many other worthy initiatives in the bioenergy field. Rather than focusing on what is most probable, the GSB project is focused on what is most desirable. Rather than reflecting often sharply divided expert opinion, the GSB project seeks to build new understanding and consensus. Rather than having the present as a point of reference, the point of reference for the GSB project is a vision for the future. Stage 2 seeks to determine with unprecedented openness to change, breadth of international involvement, and technical detail whether it is possible to gracefully reconcile large scale bioenergy production with other priorities. Results from stage 2 will motivate, inform, and provide a distinctive context for a multidimensional analysis of transition paths and policies undertaken in Stage 3.

When completed, the GSB project will provide critical guidance toward the overall feasibility of a sustainable, bioenergy-intensive future and will define policy and land use trajectories that foster this outcome.