Due to depletion in oil resources, as well as environmental concerns related to the use of fossil fuels, the option of using biomass as feedstock for fuels and products instead is receiving increasing attention and different types of biomass are being investigated in terms of their performance as feedstock. Miscanthus has been chosen as feedstock in this study, as current studies suggest that it has a promising potential, being advantageous in several environmental impact categories. However many current studies do not include assessment in impacts such as soil organic carbon change, biodiversity and the effect of albedo change on global warming impacts, when miscanthus production takes over from a former land use. The aim of this study is to assess those impacts of miscanthus production, when changing from a former land use of either forest or fallow land in Wisconsin, US. Results from this study show that there are large differences between impacts in the two land use change scenarios, using former forest land or former fallow land for miscanthus production. It is shown how the albedo impact has greater impact on global warming potential over time than the change in carbon balance below and above ground in those scenarios. For biodiversity, it is indicated that when using former forest land for miscanthus production the biodiversity decreases, but when using former fallow land it might increase. However results vary greatly and are highly dependent on assessment method. The results also reveal potential tradeoffs between the different impact categories, as well as illustrate the relevance of those issues when considering environmental impacts of land use change and thus the importance of including them in life cycle assessment.
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7th International Society for Industrial Ecology Biennial Conference, 2013