Bioenergy Feedstocks

AuthorBlake Hudson and Uma Outka
Page 648 Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States
I. Introduction
is chapter considers how the cultivation of bioen-
ergy feedstocks c an advance the goal of deep decarbon-
ization in the United States as envisioned by the Deep
Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) report for
the United States and by the Obama Administ ration in
the United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decar-
bonization (MC S)1 (developed in support of the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).
Bioenergy feedstocks—in particular feedstock selection,
cultivation, and associated land use change—make up
the initial stage of bioenergy’s carbon cycle, and directly
aect whether and how well bioenergy ca n serve climate
mitigation goals. Bioenergy feedstocks relate closely to
1. T W H, U S M-C S  D
D (2016) [hereinafter M-C R], avail-
able atles/focus/long-term_strategies/application/pdf/
topics covered in Chapter 26 (Production and Delivery
of Low-Carbon Gaseous Fuels), Chapter 27 (Production
and Delivery of Biofuels), Chapter 30 (Agriculture), and
Chapter 31 (Forestry). e goal of this chapter is to eval-
uate: (1) the degree to which existing U.S. legal regimes
relevant to bioenergy feedstocks align with deep decar-
bonization scenarios, and (2) potential reforms to ensure
that bioenergy feedstocks a re developed in ways consis-
tent with deep decarbonization objectives. roughout
the chapter we engage the ndings of recent studies
that project how decarbonization can be achieved in the
United States. We primarily focus on the DDPP,2 but
also highlig ht scenarios presented in the Obama Admin-
is tr atio n’s MCS report.
2. J H. W  ., P  D D  
U S, U.S. 2050 R, V 1: T R (Deep
Decarbonization Pathways Project & Energy and Environmental Economics,
Inc., 2015), available at
pdf [hereinafter DDPP T R].
Chapter 25
Bioenergy Feedstocks
by Blake Hudson and Uma Outka
Renewable bioenergy oers an alternative to fossil fuels for transportation and electric power, the two highest
greenhouse gas-emitting sectors in the United States. Bioenergy feedstocks are cultivated crops, agricultural and
forest residues, algae, sewage and livestock manures, and other organic materials. Feedstock selection and cul-
tivation begins the bioenergy supply chain, followed by handling, processing and distribution, and, eventually,
end use conversion, producing fuels to power motor vehicles and generate electricity. To achieve deep decar-
bonization across the U.S. economy, reducing carbon emissions at every stage of the bioenergy supply chain is
paramount. As this chapter explains, there are at least four primar y pathways for legal reform of the bioenergy
feedstocks sector: land use prescriptions that preserve and expand carbon sinks and that ensure feedstocks are
cultivated consistent with decarbonization objectives; subsidy programs that create value in land’s carbon sink
potential and shape cultivation techniques consistent with decarbonization objectives; renewable energy man-
dates that stipulate credit for feedstocks on certication of approved cultivation methods and land use change
criteria; and direct regulation of bioenergy end uses conditioned on feedstock cultivation processes. Although
nationwide policy approaches would be most eective on the 2050 time horizon, policies along these pathways
may be pursued independently at the federal, state, and local levels, and in some instances via private environ-
mental governance mechanisms. Accordingly, the goal of deep decarbonization warrants legal innovation and
reform wherever politically feasible.
Page 649
e chapter is organized into three pa rts. Section II
explains the signic ance of bioenergy feedstock s for decar-
bonization goals. It highlig hts legal and policy consider-
ations that aect feedstock selection and cultivation and
identies four areas in which lega l reform could reduce
energy-sector emissions associated with bioenergy feed-
stocks: (1) land use prescriptions, (2) subsidy programs,
(3)renewable energy mandates, and (4) direct regulation
of bioenergy end uses.
Section III considers in greater depth the role of bio-
energy in the United States’ transportation and electricity
sectors, and situates bioenergy feedstocks within the land
use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) framework
for assessing U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from
those sectors, as utiliz ed by the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change. It then compares how
bioenergy may contribute to decarbonization goals in the
United States under alternative scenarios presented by the
Section IV outlines legal a nd policy issues pertaining to
feedstock selection and cultivation for bioenergy feedstock s,
as well as legal pat hways for achieving deep decarboniza-
tion in the sector. Legal and policy is sues include potential
challenges posed by federalism and the need to reconcile
competing land uses. e section then elaborates on the
four legal approaches identied in Section II to showcase
the potential for legal reform along each pathway. In these
ways, this section complements the pathways articu lated
for the end uses of bioenergy addressed in other chapters.
Pathway #1—prescriptive land use/resource management
regulation—considers approaches relevant to both private
and federal land. Pathway #2 considers reform to subsi-
dies and other land use incentives relevant to bioenergy
feedstoc ks. Pathway #3—renewable energy mandates—
identies possible reforms to the federal Renewable Fuel
Standard (RFS) and state renewable portfolio standards
(RPS) that would better support low-carbon feedstock s.
Finally, Pathway #4 identies how direct regulation of
feedstock products, via standa rds and certication, could
be used to inuence feedstock cultivation practices.
II. The Role of Bioenergy in Deep
Bioenergy represents a pathway to carbon reduction in the
energy sector by replacing primary fossil fuel resources
with renewable, mostly plant-based fuel sources. is sec-
tion provides an overview of bioenergy feedstocks a nd the
legal and policy context that sh apes their selection, cultiva-
tion, and eective contribution to decarbonization goals.
A. Bioenergy Feedstocks
Bioenergy refers to energy produced from biomass. Bio-
mass is typica lly characterized as organic matter burned to
produce heat energy or processed into gas or liquid fuel.3
Today, however, biomass may also be converted to energy
through thermochem ical (thermal ga sication), biochemi-
cal (anaerobic digestion, fermentation), or chemical pro-
cesses (chemical agents that create liquid fuels).4 Bioenergy
feedstocks are the various forms of biomass—including
wood-based energy crops, timber and agricultural waste,
algae, oil seed crops, and other organic material—that
make up the “essential rst link in the biomass-to-bioen-
ergy supply chain.”5 Noncultivated biomass, like sewage,
municipal solid waste, and livestock manures, may also
be used as a bioenergy feedstock.6 Some feedstocks are
used to generate electric power and generate heat; others
are processed and rened into liquid or gaseous f uels (see
Chapters 26 and 27). Accordingly, biomass production is
relevant to the two highest GHG-emitting sectors in the
United States: electricity and transportation.7
While other chapters focus on later stage s of the bioen-
ergy supply chain—rening, processing, and combustion
of biofuels, production of electric power from biomass—
this chapter focuses on importa nt land use issues related to
growing and collecting feed stocks and their implications
for bioenergy’s role in decarbonization. In this context,
decarbonization results from ensu ring that, at a minimum,
land use for feedstock production results in no net release
3. See U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Bioenergy—Full Text Glossary, http:// (last visited Dec. 18,
4. Wisconsin Grasslands Bioenergy Network, Bioenergy Conversion Technologies,
(last visited Dec. 18, 2017).
5. DOE, Biomass Feedstocks,
feedstocks (last visited Dec. 18, 2017). Industrial and municipal solid waste
is sometimes included in this category as well. See DOE, Feedstock Supply, (last visited Dec. 18,
6. See DOE, Feedstock Supply, supra note 5. See also M H. L 
., DOE, 2016 B-T R: A D R
  T B, V 1: E A  F-
 xvii (2016), available atles/2016/12/
7. DDPP T R, supra note 2, at 8; J H. W  .,
P  D D   U S, U.S. 2050
R, V 2: P I  D D 
 U S (Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project & Energy
and Environmental Economics, Inc., 2015), available at http://usddpp.
org/downloads/2015-report-on-policy-implications.pdf [hereinafter DDPP
P R].

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