WBS Integrated Life Cycle Sustainability Analysis

Research output: NRELPresentation


The main objective of this project (following the 2017 BETO Program Peer-Review) is to provide BETO with a coherent methodology and modeling framework based on life cycle (LCA) and economic input-output analysis, tested and vetted with stakeholders, to better understand the effects of an expanding U.S. bioeconomy at specific levels including economic dimensions such as jobs, gross domestic product (value added), and environmental criteria such as air pollutant emissions, water and land use, ecotoxicity, and others. This supports a 2019 milestone in the BETO MYP and simultaneously addresses a gap previously identified in the BETO program and highlighted, e.g., by BETO Program Peer Reviewers in 2015 and 2017. To fill in this gap, NREL started collaborating with developers of the national level U.S. Environmentally-Extended Input-Output (USEEIO) model in FY18. This peer-reviewed, open source model is based on publicly available data, and developed and maintained by U.S. EPA where it has been the basis for EPA's Sustainable Material Management analyses and program. Also, USEEIO was initially designed for use with EPA's Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemicals and Other Environmental Impacts (TRACI). It aligns well with similar efforts including the Federal LCA Commons and the Sustainable Acquisition Program at the Department of Defense (DoD). In FY18, NREL convened stakeholders from federal agencies, universities, and private sector entities to identify and form a common understanding of (1) models describing the U.S. economy and how to build off of them, (2) a bioeconomy definition for the next modeling steps, (3) the (sub)sectors that can/should be used in the framework, and (4) opportunities for collaboration and data sharing. NREL then created a first order model by disaggregating, i.e., separating the economic activities associated with and attributed to a selected product of the bioeconomy: corn ethanol. Corn ethanol is well studied and has a significant amount of public, validated economic industry information. This is important as disaggregation is a critical step in creating a representative and accurate framework. Corn ethanol served as a validation test case for the method and framework. By the end of FY18, the team was able to generate several scenarios for corn ethanol on national and selected regional levels providing results on the absolute and relative (Megajoule) effects in several environmental and economic impact categories. A second objective of the project is to inform BETO's strategic decision making, specifically its sustainability research portfolio, by engaging in, evaluating, and synthesizing selected global multi-year activities from the perspectives of a variety of complex multilateral and multi-stakeholder processes that pertain to bioenergy. This helps to (1) identify gaps, barriers, and critical areas for future BETO bioenergy and sustainability assessments; (2) identify opportunities and challenges to a sustainable U.S. bioeconomy; and (3) contribute to and disseminate BETO information to and from major global bioenergy and sustainability efforts. This project's work with multilateral organizations ensures that U.S. science-based viewpoints are considered and helps to balance the influence of the large number of countries with the same centralized philosophy. This engagement builds a more solid foundation for sustainable biomass and bioenergy systems in the U.S. and in the world. Working with multi-lateral, international platforms including IEA Bioenergy, Global Bio-Energy Partnership (GBEP), and their partner organizations also allows engagement with important stakeholders including policy makers, industry, NGOs, and academia.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePresented at the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) 2019 Project Peer Review, 3-8 March 2019, Denver, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A20-73215


  • bioeconomy
  • economic dimensions
  • gross domestic product
  • input output modeling
  • jobs
  • life cycle analysis


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