To help avoid unintended impacts to society, the economy or the environment, University of Washington’sIvan Eastin will lead the life cycle assessment of the fuel being produced and research effects on communities.

Producing ethanol from food crops has led to controversies in recent years about whether energy derived from converting these crops into ethanol exceeded the fossil-fuel energy required to produce and deliver them. In addition, diverting crops for fuel has helped drive up food prices in many developing countries, resulting in food insecurity for the poor, said Eastin, a UW professor of forest resources.

Some of these problems could be avoided by performing life cycle assessment that accounts for all the inputs and outputs that are generated during each stage of a product’s manufacture and usage. Eastin’s team will consider the economic and environmental trade-offs associated with using a combination of various feedstrocks, conversion tehcnoloiges, distribution methods, by-products and end-of-life technology pathways.

Developing a “social license” for the new industry to operate in the region means involving citizens and other stakeholders in considering how their communities might be affected, he said. The team, working with researchers from WSU and other institutions, will engage local stakeholders in discussing he potential impacts of using forest residuals to produce bio-jet fuel. The input received will help influence the final design of the project.

“Understanding the consequences of this technology is necessary before the region starts using forest biomass widely for jet fuel,” Eastin says.