The biofuel boom has raised great expectations regarding renewable, domestic and carbon-free bioenergy sources but at the same time has led to concerns about the adverse environmental and socio-economic implications such as land-use competition, deforestation and market distortions. In this context, bioenergy systems have to demonstrate their environmental sustainability, economic viability and societal acceptability compared with fossil fuels and alternative energy sources. To address some of these concerns, it is important to optimize the entire bioenergy infrastructure, value chain and lifecycle, including feedstock production, harvesting and transportation, processing, distribution and use. Integrated assessment approaches and lifecycle analysis are scientific tools that can be used to support decision-making on the future of bioenergy. Concrete measures include development of integrated biorefineries, minimizing transportation costs and cascading use of residues and waste material. Improving the energy and carbon balance, and reducing the impact of bioenergy pathways on land, water and the biosphere are key requirements. Food security should not be threatened, favoring efficient cellulosic materials over food crops. In addition, minimum social standards need to be respected. Respective principles and criteria will be discussed, as part of global efforts to develop sustainability standards for certification of biomass products.

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Jürgen Scheffran
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Jürgen Scheffran
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