The 2016 Billion-Ton Report (BT16), Volume 2: Environmental Sustainability Effects of Select Scenarios from Volume 1, jointly released by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is a pioneering effort to analyze a range of potential environmental effects associated with illustrative near-term and long-term biomass-production scenarios from the 2016 Billion-Ton Report, Volume 1

The 2016 Billion-Ton Report, Volume 1, released in July 2016, concluded that the United States has the potential to produce at least 1 billion dry tons of nonfood biomass resources annually by 2040. These estimates consider projected needs for food, feed, forage, and fiber production. To account for major environmental considerations, volume 1 applied constraints on feedstock supplies, including, but not limited to, avoiding production on lands with high ecological value and limiting the amount of residue removal from agriculture and forest land. However, there were some important environmental implications of biomass production and land-management changes that remained unaddressed in these scenarios.

To address this critical knowledge gap, volume 2 uses environmental models to investigate changes in greenhouse gas emissions, soil organic carbon, water quality and quantity, air emissions, and biodiversity for particular 2017 and 2040 biomass-production scenarios. In addition, volume 2 discusses the land use and land management implications of the scenarios, potential environmental effects of algae production, and strategies to enhance environmental outcomes.

Each chapter analyzes an environmental effect in depth and discusses specific research needs that emerged from their respective studies. Volume 2 suggests strategies to address challenges and puts forward recommendations for how to improve similar analyses in the future, including modeling improvements and data needs.  

Volume 2 advances the discussion and understanding of environmental effects that could result from significant increases in U.S. biomass production—which, in turn, can accelerate progress toward a sustainable bioeconomy by identifying actions and research that could enhance environmental benefits.

The report is a collaboration among many national laboratories, contributors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, and BETO. In addition, the report includes authors from academia and industry. External reviewers spanned government, academia, industry, and non-governmental organizations. As such, the report benefitted from a robust and diverse array of authors and reviewers.

Volume 2 will soon be incorporated into BETO’s interactive Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework (KDF). The Bioenergy KDF is an online collaboration toolkit and public data resource that provides access to the latest bioenergy research. Data from the report’s rigorous studies will be available to the public, providing an extensive online resource to enable additional analyses and visualization of the results, inform future research and development, and facilitate efforts to augment environmental benefits and minimize challenges associated with a growing bioeconomy.