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Global Sustainable Bioenergy Project Launched
July 3, 2009

Tom RichardScientists from around the world - including Tom Richard , Director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment - have joined forces to seek resolution of issues related to sustainable production of energy from biomass.  In response to the substantial confusion and uncertainty about whether the world should look to bioenergy (biofuels, heat, and electricity) to play a prominent role in the future, a three-stage project has been initiated entitled Global Sustainable Bioenergy: Feasibility and Implementation Paths (

The first stage of the project will consist of meetings held at five locations around the world beginning in November, 2009 in Malaysia, followed by meetings in the first half of 2010 in the Netherlands, South Africa, Brazil, and the U.S.  The second stage will address the question:  Is it physically possible to meet a substantial fraction of future world mobility and/or electricity demand from plant sources while our global society also meets other important needs, including feeding humanity, habitat preservation, and maintaining environmental quality?  The third stage will address implementation paths including technical, social, economic, political and ethical issues, aiming to develop policies and strategies for a responsible transition to a sustainable, world-wide bio-based society.

The GSB project is led by a three person steering committee of Nathanael Greene of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Tom Richard of Pennsylvania State University, and Lee Lynd of the Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College and Mascoma Corporation.   The five stage 1 meetings will be overseen by an 11-person organizing committee with broad representation from academic, environmental advocacy, and research institutions around the world.

In a commentary appearing recently in Issues in Science and Technology (, GSB steering committee chair Lynd comments on behalf of the stage 1 organizing committee: "While there is a natural reluctance to consider change, we must do so since humanity cannot expect to achieve a sustainable and secure future by continuing the practices that have resulted in the unsustainable  and insecure present."  The commentary continues "Most analyses involving biofuels ... have been undertaken within a largely business-as-usual context.   In particular, none have explored  in any detail on a global scale what could be achieved via complementary changes fostering graceful  coexistence of food and biofuel production."

Richard, whose research includes analysis of sustainability criteria in agricultural ecosystems, indicates “There are tremendous opportunities to integrate biomass production with food crops and forest management to enhance both economic and environmental outcomes.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay Commission have championed the production of next-generation cellulosic biofuel crops as a way to improve soil and water quality and enhance rural development.  Penn State has been playing a leading role in analyzing that potential in our region, and with this new project we look forward to addressing the challenges and opportunities for bioenergy production in a global context.”

Project website:


Tom Richard, Penn State Institutes of Energy and Environment, Pennsylvania State University, 814 863 0291 (office)

Additional contacts:

Lee Lynd, Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth,,
603 646 2231 (office); 617 697 7372 (cell)

Nathanael Greene, NRDC,, 212-727-4482 (office); 212 254 0160

Contact information for the stage 1 organizing committee members at:

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