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Issues to consider, existing tools and constraints in biofuels sustainability assessments


  • Silva Lora, Electo E.
  • Escobar Palacio, José C.
  • Rocha, Mateus H.
  • Grillo Renó, Maria L.
  • Venturini, Osvaldo J.
  • Almazán del Olmo, Oscar


Biofuels world production has increased sharply in recent years. Oil reserves depletion, the oil high price and the confidence in biofuels “carbon neutrality” are the main causes of this phenomenon. However, claims related to the negative consequences of biofuel programs are frequent; mainly those related to the biofuels/food competition and sustainability. This paper aims to contribute for the development of a framework for sustainability indicators as a tool for performance assessment. The most used indicators to measure the biofuels sustainability are: Life Cycle Energy Balance (LCEB), quantity of fossil energy substituted per hectare, co-product energy allocation, life cycle carbon balance and changes in soil utilization. On the other hand, existing assessment tools, such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Integrated Environmental Assessment (IEA), are compared emphasizing their advantages and disadvantages. Main constraints related to the studied frontiers, as well as the lack of reliable data and their effects are also discussed. Discussions are held on the basis of real life cycle studies carried out by the authors about palm oil biodiesel and different alternatives for the stillage treatment and disposal. Finally, suggestions and recommendations are made to improve existing methodologies for biofuels sustainability evaluation, all this from a south perspective.

Suggested Citation

  • Silva Lora, Electo E. & Escobar Palacio, José C. & Rocha, Mateus H. & Grillo Renó, Maria L. & Venturini, Osvaldo J. & Almazán del Olmo, Oscar, 2011. "Issues to consider, existing tools and constraints in biofuels sustainability assessments," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 2097-2110.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:energy:v:36:y:2011:i:4:p:2097-2110
    DOI: 10.1016/

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Alejos Altamirano, Carlos Alberto & Yokoyama, Lídia & de Medeiros, José Luiz & de Queiroz Fernandes Araújo, Ofélia, 2016. "Ethylic or methylic route to soybean biodiesel? Tracking environmental answers through life cycle assessment," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 184(C), pages 1246-1263.
    2. da Silva César, Aldara & Conejero, Marco Antonio & Barros Ribeiro, Eliene Cristina & Batalha, Mário Otávio, 2019. "Competitiveness analysis of “social soybeans” in biodiesel production in Brazil," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 1147-1157.
    3. Shafiei, Ehsan & Davidsdottir, Brynhildur & Leaver, Jonathan & Stefansson, Hlynur & Asgeirsson, Eyjolfur Ingi & Keith, David R., 2016. "Analysis of supply-push strategies governing the transition to biofuel vehicles in a market-oriented renewable energy system," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 409-421.
    4. César, Aldara da Silva & Batalha, Mário Otávio & Zopelari, André Luiz Miranda Silva, 2013. "Oil palm biodiesel: Brazil's main challenges," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 485-491.
    5. Peralta-Ruiz, Y. & González-Delgado, A.-D. & Kafarov, V., 2013. "Evaluation of alternatives for microalgae oil extraction based on exergy analysis," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 226-236.
    6. Kou, Nannan & Zhao, Fu, 2011. "Techno-economical analysis of a thermo-chemical biofuel plant with feedstock and product flexibility under external disturbances," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 6745-6752.
    7. Aguilar-Rivera, Noé, 2019. "A framework for the analysis of socioeconomic and geographic sugarcane agro industry sustainability," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 149-160.
    8. Tan, Inn Shi & Lee, Keat Teong, 2014. "Enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation of seaweed solid wastes for bioethanol production: An optimization study," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 53-62.
    9. Deborah Bentivoglio & Adele Finco & Mirian Rumenos Piedade Bacchi, 2016. "Interdependencies between Biofuel, Fuel and Food Prices: The Case of the Brazilian Ethanol Market," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(6), pages 1-16, June.
    10. Jianliang Wang & Yuru Yang & Yongmei Bentley & Xu Geng & Xiaojie Liu, 2018. "Sustainability Assessment of Bioenergy from a Global Perspective: A Review," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(8), pages 1-19, August.
    11. Acreche, Martín M. & Valeiro, Alejandro H., 2013. "Greenhouse gasses emissions and energy balances of a non-vertically integrated sugar and ethanol supply chain: A case study in Argentina," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 146-154.
    12. Fitzpatrick, John J., 2016. "Environmental sustainability assessment of using forest wood for heat energy in Ireland," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 1287-1295.
    13. Malça, João & Freire, Fausto, 2012. "Addressing land use change and uncertainty in the life-cycle assessment of wheat-based bioethanol," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 519-527.
    14. Musango, Josephine K. & Brent, Alan C. & Amigun, Bamikole & Pretorius, Leon & Müller, Hans, 2011. "Technology sustainability assessment of biodiesel development in South Africa: A system dynamics approach," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 6922-6940.
    15. Triana, Cristian F. & Quintero, Julián A. & Agudelo, Roberto A. & Cardona, Carlos A. & Higuita, Juan C., 2011. "Analysis of coffee cut-stems (CCS) as raw material for fuel ethanol production," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 4182-4190.
    16. César, Aldara da Silva & Batalha, Mário Otávio, 2013. "Brazilian biodiesel: The case of the palm's social projects," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 165-174.


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