Key issues in estimating energy and greenhouse gas savings of biofuels: challenges and perspectives

Document Type : Review Paper


1 School of Environment and Sustainable Development, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar-382030, Gujarat, India.

2 Solid Waste Research Group, Center of Excellence in Environmental Studies (CEES), King Abdul Aziz University, P.O Box: 80216, Jeddah 21589, Saudi Arabia.

3 Government of India, Ministry of Science and Technology, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Technology Bhawan, New Mehrauli Road, New Delhi- 110016 India.

4 Separation and Conversion Technologies, VITO-Flemish Institute for Technological Research, Boeretang 200, 2400 Mol, Belgium.


The increasing demand for biofuels has encouraged the researchers and policy makers worldwide to find sustainable biofuel production systems in accordance with the regional conditions and needs. The sustainability of a biofuel production system includes energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) saving along with environmental and social acceptability. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an internationally recognized tool for determining the sustainability of biofuels. LCA includes goal and scope, life cycle inventory, life cycle impact assessment, and interpretation as major steps. LCA results vary significantly, if there are any variations in performing these steps. For instance, biofuel producing feedstocks have different environmental values that lead to different GHG emission savings and energy balances. Similarly, land-use and land-use changes may overestimate biofuel sustainability. This study aims to examine various biofuel production systems for their GHG savings and energy balances, relative to conventional fossil fuels with an ambition to address the challenges and to offer future directions for LCA based biofuel studies. Environmental and social acceptability of biofuel production is the key factor in developing biofuel support policies. Higher GHG emission saving and energy balance of biofuel can be achieved, if biomass yield is high, and ecologically sustainable biomass or non-food biomass is converted into biofuel and used efficiently.

Graphical Abstract

Key issues in estimating energy and greenhouse gas savings of biofuels: challenges and perspectives


  • Land-use and land-use changes may overestimate the biofuel sustainability.

  • Environmental and social acceptability is essential in making biofuel-support policies.

  • Different biomass result in different energy balances and GHG savings of biofuels.

  • Sustainable biomass or non-food biomass can increase biofuel sustainability ranking.


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