Science Magazine Policy Forum Discusses Biofuels Sustainability


The October 3, 2008, issue of Science contains a Forum contribution led by Phil Robertson of Michigan State University.  Robertson is the lead sustainability investigator for the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and a scientific advisor to the upcoming October 28 DOE/USDA Sustainability workshop.  In the article, Robertson and coauthors describe potentially harmful environmental impacts resulting from fuel uses of grain-based ethanol and suggest ways to reduce them. Production of ethanol and other biofuels from cellulosic biomass appears to have substantial sustainability advantages compared to grain-based ethanol, but the authors caution that an expanded research agenda and careful policy consideration will be required to realize the potential benefits. The authors conclude that “sustainable biofuel production systems could play a highly positive role in mitigating climate change, enhancing environmental quality, and strengthening the global economy, but it will take sound, science-based policy and additional research effort to make this so.”