A resilience perspective on biofuel production

Authors

  • Dongyan Mu,

    1. School of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana USA
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  • Thomas P Seager,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 875306, Tempe, Arizona 85287-9309 USA
    • School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 875306, Tempe, Arizona 85287-9309 USA.
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  • P Suresh C Rao,

    1. School of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana USA
    2. Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana USA
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  • Jeryang Park,

    1. School of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana USA
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  • Fu Zhao

    1. Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana USA
    2. School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana USA
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Abstract

The recent investment boom and collapse of the corn ethanol industry calls into question the long-term sustainability of traditional approaches to biofuel technologies. Compared with petroleum-based transportation fuels, biofuel production systems are more closely connected to complex and variable natural systems. Especially as biofeedstock production itself becomes more independent of fossil fuel–based supports, stochasticity will become an increasingly important, inherent feature of biofuel feedstock production systems. Accordingly, a fundamental change in design philosophy is necessary to ensure the long-term viability of the biofuels industry. To respond effectively to unexpected disruptions, the new approach will require systems to be designed for resilience (indicated by diversity, efficiency, cohesion, and adaptability) rather than more narrowly defined measures of efficiency. This paper addresses important concepts in the design of coupled engineering-ecological systems (resistance, resilience, adaptability, and transformability) and examines biofuel conversion technologies from a resilience perspective. Conversion technologies that can accommodate multiple feedstocks and final products are suggested to enhance the diversity and flexibility of the entire industry. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2011;7:348–359. © 2011 SETAC

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