A recent study, resulting in a new f3 report, indicates that there is a dominant focus on GHG (greenhouse gas) related impacts at the expense of other impact categories in environmental systems analyses (ESA) of Swedish biofuel.

This study set out to investigate whether or not there is a dominant focus on GHG related impacts by reviewing ESAs of biofuel production and consumption systems undertaken by Swedish researchers between 2000 and 2015.The results indicate that there is a clear focus on GHG emission related impacts, with 59 of the 63 studies analyzing GHG emissions. Of these, 25 limited their goal to the assessment of GHG emissions. However, this did not inhibit other impact categories from being investigated, as demonstrated by the fact that 25 studies intended to address the general environmental impacts of either biofuel production and/or consumption and addressed on average 4.5 impact categories.  Eight of the studies intended to specifically focus on impacts other than GHG emissions or energy use (such as land use change, toxicity and water use). This indicates that whilst there is clearly a dominant focus on GHG emissions, this focus has not inhibited other impact categories from being investigated in the environmental assessment of biofuels.

These results are consistent with international research on the environmental assessment of biofuels, which is characterized by a dominant focus on GHG emissions and energy use, followed by the inclusion of impact categories such as AP and EP. Very few studies investigated biodiversity, toxicity and water use of biofuel production and consumption systems.

The narrow focus in environmental impact categories is discussed in terms of study dependent variables (i.e., goal of the study, methods, and data uncertainty and availability) and the influence of the dominant science-policy framework in Sweden. Whilst biofuel production is inextricably linked to climate policy, one should not forget that the broader context of the Swedish environmental objectives should also be taken into consideration when developing biofuel production systems in Sweden.

Read the report: Carbon Vision? A Review of biofuel environmental systems analyses research in Sweden