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Title: Assessing multimetric aspects of sustainability: Application to a bioenergy crop production system in East Tennessee

This paper connects the science of sustainability theory with applied aspects of sustainability deployment. A suite of 35 sustainability indicators spanning six environmental, three economic, and three social categories has been proposed for comparing the sustainability of bioenergy production systems across different feedstock types and locations. A recent demonstration-scale switchgrass-to-ethanol production system located in East Tennessee is used to assess the availability of sustainability indicator data and associated measurements for the feedstock production and logistics portions of the biofuel supply chain. Knowledge pertaining to the available indicators is distributed within a hierarchical decision tree framework to generate an assessment of the overall sustainability of this no-till switchgrass production system relative to two alternative business-as-usual scenarios of unmanaged pasture and tilled corn production. The relative contributions of the social, economic and environmental information are determined for the overall trajectory of this bioenergy system s sustainability under each scenario. Within this East Tennessee context, switchgrass production shows potential for improving environmental and social sustainability trajectories without adverse economic impacts, thereby leading to potential for overall enhancement in sustainability within this local agricultural system. Given the early stages of cellulosic ethanol production, it is currently difficult to determine quantitative values for all 35more » sustainability indicators across the entire biofuel supply chain. This case study demonstrates that integration of qualitative sustainability indicator ratings may increase holistic understanding of a bioenergy system in the absence of complete information.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4]
  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Center for BioEnergy Sustainability, Environmental Sciences Division
  2. Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN (United States). Agricultural and Resource Economics Department
  3. Genera Energy Inc., Vonore TN (United States)
  4. Univ. of Tennessee, Jackson, TN (United States). West Tennessee Research and Education Station
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 7; Journal Issue: 2; Journal ID: ISSN 2150-8925
Ecological Society of America
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
Country of Publication:
United States
09 BIOMASS FUELS; 54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; sustainability; multimetric; scale; indicators; bioenergy crop; biofuels; decision support; switchgrass; cellulosic ethanol
OSTI Identifier: