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A systems approach to evaluating sustainability of biofuel systems


  • Mangoyana, Robert B.
  • Smith, Timothy F.
  • Simpson, Rodney


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Mangoyana, Robert B. & Smith, Timothy F. & Simpson, Rodney, 2013. "A systems approach to evaluating sustainability of biofuel systems," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 371-380.
  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    8. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bergthorson, Jeffrey M. & Thomson, Murray J., 2015. "A review of the combustion and emissions properties of advanced transportation biofuels and their impact on existing and future engines," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 1393-1417.
    2. Siegmeier, Torsten & Blumenstein, Benjamin & Möller, Detlev, 2015. "Farm biogas production in organic agriculture: System implications," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 196-209.
    3. Gilio, Leandro & Azanha Ferraz Dias de Moraes, Márcia, 2016. "Sugarcane industry's socioeconomic impact in São Paulo, Brazil: A spatial dynamic panel approach," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 27-37.
    4. Luthra, Sunil & Mangla, Sachin Kumar & Kharb, Ravinder K., 2015. "Sustainable assessment in energy planning and management in Indian perspective," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 58-73.
    5. Trumbo, Jennifer L. & Tonn, Bruce E., 2016. "Biofuels: A sustainable choice for the United States' energy future?," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 147-161.


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