You are here

Sustainability

The Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is committed to developing the resources, technologies, and systems needed to support a thriving bioenergy industry that protects natural resources and advances environmental, economic, and social benefits. BETO’s Sustainability Area proactively identifies and addresses issues that affect the scale-up potential, public acceptance, and long-term viability of advanced bioenergy systems; as a result, the area is critical to achieving BETO’s overall goals.

Our Vision

BETO is committed to growing a bioenergy industry that achieves multiple national goals:

  • Displaces fossil fuels
  • Enhances energy security
  • Promotes environmental benefits
  • Creates economic opportunities

Figure 1: Sustainability is not an end state or specific goal; rather, BETO is committed to developing and applying scientific approaches to quantifying bioenergy sustainability and promoting continuous improvements across multiple environmental, economic, and social objectives.

Figure 1: Sustainability is not an end state or specific goal; rather, BETO is committed to developing and applying scientific approaches to quantifying bioenergy sustainability and promoting continuous improvements across multiple environmental, economic, and social objectives.

Current Office Activities

BETO identifies and addresses challenges for sustainable bioenergy production by collaborating with national laboratories, universities, and other federal agencies to conduct field trials, applied research, capacity building, and analysis. In the area of environmental sustainability, our efforts are primarily focused in the following areas:

Climate Change and Air Quality—Analyzing biofuel pathways to quantify progress towards reducing life-cycle greenhouse gases, regulated emissions, and fossil energy use.

Water Quantity and Quality—Assessing the water resource use and water quality of bioenergy production, and investigating opportunities for bioenergy crops to improve water quality

Soil QualityDeveloping strategies and tools for producing biomass feedstocks while maintaining or enhancing soil quality. 

Biological Diversity—Investigating relationships between bioenergy crops and biodiversity, and engaging with diverse experts to understand and promote practices that conserve wildlife and biodiversity.

Land Use and Productivity—Advancing landscape design approaches that increase biomass production while maintaining or enhancing ecosystem services and food, feed, and fiber production.

Commitment to Continuous Improvement

  • Bioenergy sustainability indicators—Collaborated with researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop a suite of bioenergy sustainability indicators to measure and assess environmental and socioeconomic sustainability along the bioenergy supply chain.
  • Online toolkits and data resources—Developed and maintains the Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework (KDF), a database and geospatial analysis tool that is a national decision-support framework to foster a sustainable and robust bioenergy industry.
  • Green job creation—Facilitates the growth of bioenergy-related green jobs through cost-shared research, development, and deployment, and measures these effects using tools like the Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (JEDI) model from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In 2012, the ethanol industry supported an estimated 383,000 green jobs, including feedstock production, construction, and research.
  • Global scientific dialogues—Participates in international dialogues on sustainable bioenergy to contribute technical expertise and communicate the U.S. experience in evaluating and enhancing bioenergy sustainability. Organizations we work with include the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Global Bioenergy Partnership, and the International Organization for Standardization.

For more information, see a fact sheet of our efforts: Our Commitment to Bioenergy Sustainability