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Research Highlight

Reconciling food security and bioenergy: priorities for action

Reconciling food security and bioenergy: priorities for action
The nexus of resource management, bioenergy sustainability, and food security. Key aspects of the six two-way interactions frame the nexus at the center.

The top downloaded article in 2016 in the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy was co-authored by Environmental Science Division members Keith Kline and Virginia Dale.  The article titled “Reconciling food security and bioenergy: priorities for action” shows how biofuels can significantly enhance food security and provides examples of past synergies.  The publication is the product of several years collaboration with over 30 scientists from around the world.  

Why is this important?

Several industries, NGOs, and other organizations consider land-use change (LCU) to be the most challenging barrier to acceptance of an expanding bio-economy. Based on recent analyses, ORNL is collaborating with researchers from around the globe to identify ways to improve the assumptions and approaches used by LUC models to estimate the social and environmental effects of bioenergy (e.g., on food security, forests, water, and biodiversity). 


This research and the paper ( were supported by the Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and addresses key barriers identified in BETO's Multi-Year Program Plan. Kline serves as the PI for a project which aims to "transform the LUC-bioenergy debate from its focus on concerns, to one targeting opportunities to improve land management for food and energy security and other social and environmental benefits." This complements a project led by Dale to advance a common definition of "sustainability" to assess environmental and socioeconomic costs and benefits, and to quantify opportunities, risks and tradeoffs associated with bioenergy production. Also of note: the paper was featured in over 60 media outlets in 19 nations across four continents within the first 2 weeks of its release in June 2016. 

This article received 6,857 downloads in six months - the Journal GCB-Bioenergy holds an impact factor of 8.44

doi: 10.111/gcbb.12366