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BE/MUSES: Renewable Energy from Forest Resources: An Investigation into the Viability of Large-Scale Production of Sustainable Transportation Fuels From Lignocellulosic Biomass

0524872 Maclean This objective of this Biocomplexity in the Environment / Materials Use: Science, Engineering, and Society project is to investigate the technological, ecological, social, economic, and political issues associated with lignocellulosic-based ethanol production to determine viability as an alternative biofuel. The research project will use rigorous quantitative modeling approaches to study the multiple, interrelated, complex, and often conflicting issues associated with the development of a lignocellulosic biofuel industry in the Upper Great Lakes region. U.S. energy policy should be and is committed to reducing and replacing foreign sources of petroleum with viable domestic alternatives. Ethanol made from lignocellulosic sources could provide unique environmental, economic, and strategic benefits. Lignocellulose ethanol emits virtually no net greenhouse gases, and it is a renewable resource that regenerates without replanting. <br/><br/>This project, under the auspices of MTU's Sustainable Futures Institute, joins an interdisciplinary research team from MTU with expertise in ecological economics, natural resource sociology, spatial statistics, geographic information systems, conservation biology, forest and landscape ecology, silviculture, chemical engineering, and mechanical-industrial engineering. Project outcomes include (1) a feasibility assessment of the viability of a lignocellulosic biofuel industry in the study region, and (2) the development and application of quantitatively based decision support tools that will advance biocomplexity studies and have potential broader applicability for emerging biofuel industries. Undergraduate and graduate students will participate in all aspects of the research. Innovative informal and K-12 science education activities will target diverse audiences ranging from adult learners to Native American elementary students. The expected societal impact of this research is significant, given that the continued use of non-renewable fossil fuels for transportation is unsustainable in the long-term, and this biofuel may provide one alternative to effectively diversify the energy supply of the future.

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