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A systems approach to evaluating sustainability of biofuel systems

Listed author(s):
  • Mangoyana, Robert B.
  • Smith, Timothy F.
  • Simpson, Rodney
Registered author(s):

    Biofuels are evolving in complex systems of interrelating environmental, economic and social issues. For this reason a number of sustainability criteria covering these issues have been developed. However, there has been little effort given to the development of a mechanism to evaluate compliance of biofuel systems with the sustainability criteria available. Grounded in the theoretical and practical insights from systems thinking and literature on indicator selection processes, this paper intends to extend the existing discussions on the sustainability of biofuels by providing a critical review of biofuels sustainability literature and providing a conceptual framework to guide thinking about measuring, monitoring and evaluating sustainability of biofuel systems. The paper focuses on the integration of social, economic and environmental issues to establish holistically the sustainability of biofuel systems. The paper established that monitoring and evaluation indicators should reflect: (i) all the processes involved in the life cycle of biofuels; (ii) interrelationships of subsystems and related impacts; (iii) different subsystem perspectives (economic, environmental, and social); and (iv) a process of continual learning, which facilitates improved functioning of the entire biofuel system.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

    Volume (Year): 25 (2013)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 371-380

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:rensus:v:25:y:2013:i:c:p:371-380
    DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2013.05.003
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    1. Bockstaller, C. & Girardin, P., 2003. "How to validate environmental indicators," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 639-653, May.
    2. Mog, Justin M., 2004. "Struggling with Sustainability--A Comparative Framework for Evaluating Sustainable Development Programs," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(12), pages 2139-2160, December.
    3. Mangoyana, Robert B., 2011. "Bioenergy from forest thinning: Carbon emissions, energy balances and cost analyses," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 36(9), pages 2368-2373.
    4. Searchinger, Timothy & Heimlich, Ralph & Houghton, R. A. & Dong, Fengxia & Elobeid, Amani & Fabiosa, Jacinto F. & Tokgoz, Simla & Hayes, Dermot J. & Yu, Hun-Hsiang, 2008. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    5. Stewart Lockie & Geoffrey Lawrence & Allan Dale & Bruce Taylor, 2002. "'Capacity for Change': Testing a Model for the Inclusion of Social Indicators in Australia's National Land and Water Resources Audit," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(6), pages 813-826.
    6. Cabrera, Derek & Colosi, Laura & Lobdell, Claire, 2008. "Systems thinking," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 299-310, August.
    7. Anonymous, 2007. "Returns to Biofuel Production," FAPRI-MU Report Series 44775, Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at University of Missouri.
    8. Pannell, David J. & Glenn, Nicole A., 2000. "A framework for the economic evaluation and selection of sustainability indicators in agriculture," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 135-149, April.
    9. Mangoyana, Robert B. & Smith, Timothy F., 2011. "Decentralised bioenergy systems: A review of opportunities and threats," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 1286-1295, March.
    10. Kemmler, Andreas & Spreng, Daniel, 2007. "Energy indicators for tracking sustainability in developing countries," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 2466-2480, April.
    11. Itf, 2007. "The Environmental Certification of Biofuels," OECD/ITF Joint Transport Research Centre Discussion Papers 2007/6, OECD Publishing.
    12. Meppem, Tony & Gill, Roderic, 1998. "Planning for sustainability as a learning concept," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 121-137, August.
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    14. Leontief, Wassily, 1970. "Environmental Repercussions and the Economic Structure: An Input-Output Approach," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 52(3), pages 262-271, August.
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