Scenario Uncertainties in Estimating Direct Land-Use Change Emissions in Biomass-To-Energy Life Cycle Assessment

Published in: Biomass and Bioenergy, 2012

by Aimee E. Curtright, David R. Johnson, Henry H. Willis, Timothy Skone

Read More

Access further information on this document at Biomass and Bioenergy

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

The use of biomass for energy production has increasingly been encouraged in the United States, in part motivated by the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to fossil fuels. However, the GHG-intensity of biomass-derived energy is highly dependent on how the biomass is obtained and used. We explore scenario uncertainty in GHG estimates in the Calculating Uncertainty in Biomass Emissions (CUBE) model and find that direct land-use change emissions that result during the biomass production often dominate the total "farm-to-hopper" GHGs. CUBE represents each land-use change decision as a conversion of land from one of four specified baseline ecosystem to produce one of seven feedstock crops, both distinct by geographic region, and then determines the implied changes in soil organic carbon, root carbon, and above-ground biomass. CUBE therefore synthesizes and organizes the existing literature to represent direct land-use change emissions in a way that can be more readily incorporated into life cycle assessment. Our approach to representing direct land-use change literature has been applied to a specific set of data and offers immediate implications for decisionmakers, but it can also be generalized and replicated in the future, making use of improved scientific data on the magnitude and rates of direct land-use change emissions as it becomes available.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.