The must, can and should of bioenergy

This little article focuses on my friend John Sheehan and his take on biofuels and land-use. He proposed reframing the issue in an interesting way:

"We need to not look at land use as a biofuels problem, we need to look at biofuels as (being part of) a mix of solving our land use problem," he said.

John's proposal makes me think of three questions that I was recently discussing with folks in Delft, the Netherlands, as part of the Global Sustainable Bioenergy Project. For the purpose of these questions let's define sustainability as encompassing hunger, economic security, climate, water, and biodiveristy. Lot's that one could add to that list, but it get's at a lot.  Here are the three questions I've been thinking about:

  1. Given a global commitment to achieving some minimum level of sustainability by, say, 2050, is there a minimum amount of bioenergy that we must use?
  2. Given the same global commitment to a minimum level of sustainability by 2050, what's the maximum amount of bioenergy we can use?
  3. And if we committed to maximizing our global sustainability, what's the amount of bioenergy we should use?

Image removed.

I'm not going to try to answer these questions here, nor do I think I even come close to having the answers. That's what I think the GSB Project is all about. I'm heading down to Brazil in a few weeks to continue the discussion. If you have thoughts and ideas to add to the discussion, come to the meetings. Here's the schedule.