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Carbon Accounting and Economic Model Uncertainty of Emissions from Biofuels-Induced Land Use Change

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journal contribution
posted on 03.03.2015, 00:00 authored by Richard J. Plevin, Jayson Beckman, Alla A. Golub, Julie Witcover, Michael O’Hare
Few of the numerous published studies of the emissions from biofuels-induced “indirect” land use change (ILUC) attempt to propagate and quantify uncertainty, and those that have done so have restricted their analysis to a portion of the modeling systems used. In this study, we pair a global, computable general equilibrium model with a model of greenhouse gas emissions from land-use change to quantify the parametric uncertainty in the paired modeling system’s estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from ILUC induced by expanded production of three biofuels. We find that for the three fuel systems examinedUS corn ethanol, Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, and US soybean biodiesel95% of the results occurred within ±20 g CO2e MJ–1 of the mean (coefficient of variation of 20–45%), with economic model parameters related to crop yield and the productivity of newly converted cropland (from forestry and pasture) contributing most of the variance in estimated ILUC emissions intensity. Although the experiments performed here allow us to characterize parametric uncertainty, changes to the model structure have the potential to shift the mean by tens of grams of CO2e per megajoule and further broaden distributions for ILUC emission intensities.