Biofuel Life-Cycle Analysis

Jennifer B. Dunn*, Jeongwoo Han, Joaquim Seabra, Michael Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Life-cycle analysis (LCA) is an important tool used to assess the energy and environmental impacts of biofuels. Here, we review biofuel LCA methodology and its application in transportation fuel regulations in the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom. We examine the application of LCA to the production of ethanol from corn, sugarcane, corn stover, switchgrass, and miscanthus. A discussion of methodological choices such as co-product handling techniques in biofuel LCA is also provided. Further, we discuss the estimation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of land use changes (LUC) potentially caused by biofuels, which can significantly influence LCA results. Finally, we provide results from LCAs of ethanol from various sources. Regardless of feedstock, bioethanol offers reduced GHG emissions over fossil-derived gasoline, even when LUC GHG emissions are included. This is mainly caused by displacement of fossil carbon in gasoline with biogenic carbon in ethanol. Of the ethanol pathways examined, corn ethanol has the greatest life-cycle GHG emissions and offers 30% reduction in life-cycle GHG emissions as compared to gasoline when LUC GHG emissions are included. Miscanthus ethanol demonstrates the highest life-cycle GHG emissions reductions compared to gasoline, 109%, when LUC GHG emissions are included.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNatural Resource Management and Policy
Number of pages41
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NameNatural Resource Management and Policy
ISSN (Print)0929-127X
ISSN (Electronic)2511-8560


  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Land use change
  • Life cycle analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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