Biofuels are a key component of a comprehensive strategy to improve domestic energy security and the environmental profile of transportation fuels. Key questions exist, however, regarding the life-cycle energy and environmental benefits of these renewable fuels. In this research emphasis area, we investigate the complete supply chain of biofuel production, from farm-to-wheels, to develop a comprehensive assessment of the energy consumption and environmental impacts of biofuels.
Supply chain stages include feedstock production and transportation, feedstock conversion to biofuels, the transportation and distribution of the fuel product, and the consumption of the fuel in a vehicle. Our analyses include biofuels used in ground transportation, aviation, and the marine sector. We include a wide range of feedstocks from first generation crops such as corn and sugarcane, to second generation cellulosic crops (switchgrass, short rotation woody trees), to algae, a third generation feedstock. As part of this analysis, we examine closely the carbon cycle of biofuels, including the above and belowground carbon stock altering effects of land-use change. Finally, we are expanding our analyses to include bioproducts, which will likely be a key part of integrated biorefineries.