CBES LogoThe Center for BioEnergy Sustainability (CBES) is a leading resource for dealing with the environmental impacts and the ultimate sustainability of biomass production for conversion to biofuels and bio-based products. Its purpose is to use science and analysis to understand the sustainability (environmental, economic, and social) of current and potential future bioenergy production and distribution; to identify approaches to enhance bioenergy sustainability; and to serve as an independent source of the highest quality data and analysis for bioenergy stakeholders and decision makers. It focuses on

  • Bioenergy options from a systems perspective
  • Sustainability as a combination of environmental, economic, and social concerns
  • Appropriate scales for addressing bioenergy sustainability concerns
  • Tradeoffs in implications of land-use and land-management decisions
  • Quantifying environmental, economic, and social implications of bioenergy choices at local, regional, and global scales
  • Lignocellulosic feedstock options and their implications for ecosystem services and social and economic benefits
  • Sustainability metrics

Concerns about the social, economic, and environmental effects are driven by the ambitious U.S. goals to displace large portions of consumed petroleum with biofuels in a relatively short time. However, these concerns are not unique to the United States; similar ones have been raised in other countries that have other goals, potential feedstocks, and cropping and conversion systems. As a result, a worldwide need exists for high-quality data on the impacts and sustainability of biofeedstock production and for comprehensive analyses of the production, use, and sustainability of biofuels. CBES provides those data and analyses.

ORNL researchers have been performing analyses of biofeedstock options and have been researching the development of dedicated bioenergy crops for the past 30 years. That research has

  • Fostered understanding of the systems context in which energy decisions are made
  • Evaluated the feasibility and implications of sustainable bioenergy options through field, laboratory, and model experiments 
  • Tested, calibrated, and determined sensitivities and uncertainties of models and their projections
  • Assessed the data used to characterize bioenergy options
  • Communicated scientific results to decision makers

Researchers at ORNL have world-class facilities, capabilities, and tools for the analysis of the production of biofuels and of transportation systems and fuels, including biofuels. Many seminal contributions by these experts (e.g., the Billion Ton Study) have already undergirded decision making at the national and international levels. Over time, CBES will broaden its local, regional, national and global outreach and serve as a key means for ORNL to share its high-quality data and analysis regarding the sustainability of bioenergy with diverse stakeholders and decision makers.

As a result of its three decades of experience, ORNL has a comprehensive portfolio of research and development in bioenergy. It has more than 80 staff members working on such aspects of bioenergy as systems biology, biochemical engineering, national and global bioenergy analysis, resource economics, logistics modeling, spatial-data analysis and modeling, geospatial science and technology, transportation analysis, and environmental effects. This research portfolio is supported by the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Department of Agriculture.

On the operational level, CBES is a focal point and business-development vehicle for ORNL’s capabilities related to bioenergy sustainability and socioeconomic analyses. As such, it complements the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), also located at ORNL, which focuses on the problem of converting lignocellulosic biomass into reactive intermediaries necessary for the cellulosic biofuel industry. Together, these centers provide a strong integrating mechanism and business-development tool for ORNL's science and technology portfolio in bioenergy. In close collaboration with BESC and the established program offices and line organizations, CBES

  • Promotes, coordinates, and leverages the diverse suite of projects related to bioenergy sustainability across ORNL
  • Sponsors outreach events to inform CBES associates, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the public through symposia and workshops on sustainability issues
  • Develops background materials for stakeholders and the public that summarize the state of bioenergy sustainability understanding
  • Is producing an expert analysis of the state of the art of bioenergy sustainability
  • Takes advantage of the 10,000 acres of switchgrass plantings under the Tennessee Bioenergy Initiative to study the ecology of large-scale biomass production and to address the regional-scale environmental benefits and challenges of cellulosic ethanol production in the southeastern United States

You can contact CBES by writing, calling, or e-mailing
Virginia Dale, Director
Center for BioEnergy Sustainability
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6035
Tel: 865-576-8043
Fax: 865-574-7287

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Southeast United States Bioenergy Meeting April 10-14, 2016 General Information.


A workshop titled Landscape management and design for food, bioenergy and the bioeconomy: methodology and governance aspects” will be held 15 - 16 March 2016 in Chalmers, Gothenburg, Sweden. For more information click here.

For details on many of the important upcoming BETO Activities, following this link.

In Leiden, NL last week, a workshop was held in the Lorentz Center on bridging technological and social innovation for a biobased economy. During this workshop, the "Lorentz BioPanel" was formed with the purpose of helping to overcome social acceptance barriers to a bioeconomy. Click here for more information. For Lorentz Center website click here.

IEA Bioenergy will host a webinar featuring Tat Smith speaking about  “Mobilizing Sustainable Bioenergy Supply Chains,”  an IEA Bioenergy report to which contributions were made by  Keith Kline, Esther Parish and Virginia Dale.  To register for the webinar, send an email here. The full report can be found at This link.

Virginia Dale and Keith Kline attended the DOE Landscape Design Project kick-off meeting being held in Ames, IA. For more info click here.

A new paper by Virginia Dale, Keith Kline, Marilyn Buford, Tim Volk, Tat Smith, and Inge Stupak describes an approach to landscape design that focuses on integrating bioenergy production with other components of environmental, social and economic systems. The paper can be accessed at this location.

Virginia Dale (ORNL), Donna Perla (EPA), and Doug Karlen (USDA) organized two sessions on the bioeconomy for the January 19-21 Conference in Washington, DC, of the National Council on Science and the Environment on the Food-Energy-Water Nexus. See website. The USDA, DOE, and EPA were sponsors for this conference.

Yetta Jager is invited to attend the Mississippi River Basin / Gulf Hypoxia Initiative meeting in Indianapolis on March 1-3. This initiative, led by the USFWS, seeks to provide guidance and also involves developing a decision support modeling framework for farmers.

Virginia Dale is invited to participate in a workshop on “EcoHealth Metrics for the Gulf of Mexico” convened at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi on March 8-11.

Chalmers University invited Keith Kline and Virginia Dale to participate in a workshop on “Landscape management and design for food, bioenergy and the bioeconomy: methodology and governance aspects” in Göteborg, Sweden, on March 15-16. In addition, Virginia will serve as the invited Opponent at Oskar Englund's public defense of his PhD thesis: “On the sustainability of biomass for energy and the governance thereof” at Chalmers University of Technology.

The US Chapter of the International Association of Landscape Ecology (IALE) will have three symposia at it April 4-8 meeting in Asheville, NC, that were organized by ORNL staff as follows:
        •    Reshaping Landscapes: Bioenergy and Biodiversity II – organized by Yetta Jager
        •    Opportunities and Barriers for Sustainable Bioenergy – organized by Keith Kline
        •    Landscapes Designs that Incorporate Sustainable Wood-based Bioenergy: a Focus on the Southeastern United States – organized by Virginia Dale
For more detailed information about speakers and their presentations click here.

Virginia Dale has been invited to give a talk at the Symposium on Watershed Scale Sustainability of Forest-Based Bioenergy Production in the Southeastern United States to be held in Raleigh, NC.   The goal of this symposium is to synthesize results from the Operational Scale Pine/Switchgrass Intercropping Project, initiated by Catchlight Energy, LLC and Weyerhaeuser Company, with additional funding from DOE; and to put the results into a scientific, operations and policy context.

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Please check back for information on the next CBES Forum