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BioZone BITS: Exploring Tradeoffs in the Use of Biomass for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

July 29 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Increasing concern over fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has led to growing interest in the use of biomass (i.e., plant material and organic waste) for both energy and materials. Around the world, government programs primarily incentivize use of biofuels in the transportation sector. In contrast, few policy drivers exist to encourage the use of biomass for the production of chemicals, an industry which is currently among the largest users of fossil fuel and which is responsible for approximately 7% of global GHG emissions.

To guide efficient resource use, this talk explores certain tradeoffs in the use of biomass for GHG mitigation in a U.S./North American context. In particular, this research addresses key questions, such as:

  • Are greater GHG reductions achieved when using bio-ethanol as a transportation fuel, or as a chemical feedstock?
  • Within the plastics sector, are greater GHG emission reductions achieved by switching to bio-based plastics, or more simply by producing conventional plastics with renewable energy?

This talk will also discuss recent work showing how economic/market response can substantially undermine or reverse the GHG benefits from biofuel policies.

The results of these studies shed light on the uncertainty present in the life-cycle GHG emissions from bio-based products, and make concrete recommendations to set priorities in the use of biomass for GHG mitigation.


Head shot of I. Daniel Posen

I. Daniel Posen

UTTRI associated faculty Professor I. Daniel Posen is an Assistant Professor in Civil & Mineral Engineering at the University of Toronto. He holds a dual PhD in Engineering & Public Policy and Civil & Environmental Engineering (Carnegie Mellon University, 2016), a Master of Science in Economics (London School of Economics, 2012), a Master of Research in Green Chemistry (Imperial College London, 2010) and a BA in Chemistry (Princeton University, 2009).

Dr. Posen’s research uses a mix of technical and economic modeling to supply quantitative, system-level analysis to support of environmental decision making. His expertise spans a range of areas including life cycle assessment and life cycle thinking; setting priorities for greenhouse gas mitigation; evaluating biofuels, bio-based materials & other uses for biomass; electric vehicles and transportation fuels; modeling of fossil fuel and energy markets; public policy & decision support models; and quantifying uncertainty and risk in environmental systems & environmental policy.

Presented by the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry.

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