Tracking sustainability metrics—for bioenergy that does not compromise environmental quality and the availability of food, feed, fiber, and water—has never been easier or more interactive! Due to the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO’s) dedicated work with national labs and other partners to develop the nation’s bioenergy industry, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) has released two interactive, online tools to assess the resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with biofuel production.

The Water Analysis Tool for Energy Resources (WATER) allows users to virtually assess water resource use and water quality across the fuel production stages, a resource that is beneficial for the fuel industry and feedstock producers—providing transparent and consistent analysis to support decision makers—as well as the general public. The tool ultimately provides users with an analysis of water demand and its impact on water availability at the county, state, and regional scale.

The Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model is a platform for evaluating the emissions and primary resource consumption associated with the production and use of transportation fuels. ANL has continued to update and expand the GREET model, since its initial release in 1996. This new integrated design is based on the GREET database layered with algorithms and a graphical interface, making it a powerful and flexible tool.

A fully graphical tool box to perform life-cycle analysis simulations of alternative transportation fuels and vehicle technologies

GREET provides users with a fully graphical tool box to perform life-cycle analysis simulations of alternative transportation fuels and vehicle technologies in a matter of a few clicks. (Photo courtesy of ANL)

Both WATER and GREET can be accessed by the public, free of charge, and their user-friendly platforms make them easily accessible. However, these are just two of many tools that BETO utilizes to inform the development of sustainable sources of renewable energy that displace fossil fuels, enhance energy security, promote environmental benefits, and create economic opportunities across the nation. In addressing environmental, economic, and social sustainability, for instance, researchers at Idaho National Laboratory and Ames Laboratory are developing geographic information systems and analytical tools to identify how much crop residue can be used for energy production while maintaining soil quality.

Furthermore, BETO’s portfolio of sustainability activities identifies processes and practices that can improve the environmental impacts of biofuel development. With this approach, technologies can be optimized for cost, efficiency, and environmental impact by the time they reach commercial scale. For example, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are quantifying emissions, energy consumption, and resource use of biofuel conversion processes in order to improve environmental impacts.

While continued work is needed to realize the full potential of bioenergy—and sustainability will always be a continued goal—DOE and BETO are actively working to assess environmental concerns, maximize benefits, and develop energy options that are renewable and sustainable.