An Investigation of the Complex Interrelated Issues Associated with Generating Automotive Fuels From Lignocellulosic Biomass

Sustainable Futures Institute
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931

Phone: 906.487.3612
Fax: 906.487.2943
e-mail: sfi@mtu.edu

High school students learn about GIS mapping as part of a Biofuels Field Trip.
(Photo: Jill Jensen)


















































About the Project:
Renewable Energy From Forest Resources
Ann Maclean, PhD;
Professor, Geographic Information Systems/Remote Sensing;
School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Continued use of non-renewable fossil fuels for transportation is unsustainable.  Despite threats of global warming and high fuel prices, the transportation sector’s energy supply remains undiversified and 97% dependent on petroleum products, mostly from foreign sources.  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.  This project uses quantitative 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.

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.  This team investigates the technological, ecological, social, economic, and political issues associated with lignocellulosic-based ethanol production.  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 participate in all aspects of the research.  Innovative informal and K-12 science education activities target diverse audiences ranging from adult learners to elementary students.

Participating Faculty and Graduate Students:

Joan Chadde 
K-12 Education & Outreach Program Coordinator - Western and Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education

  • Research Interests: Torch Lake Superfund Site remediation monitoring program,
    Family science nights, After-school science classes, Forest field trips, U.P. stream monitoring network, Frog deformity surveys, Lake Superior Youth Symposium,
    Ship-based education on Lake Superior, Teacher Professional Development on:
    Ecology of the Great Lakes; Forest Resources and Environmental Science;
    Watershed Investigations; Stream Monitoring; Community Land Use

jchadde@mtu.edu [e-mail]   ||   Academic Web Page

Ann L. Maclean 
Professor of Remote Sensing/GIS, School of Forest Resources and
Environmental Science

  • Research Interests: GIS, Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis,
    Land Use Planning

amaclean@mtu.edu [e-mail]   ||   Academic Web Page

David J. Flaspohler 
Professor - School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

  • Research Interests: Conservation biology, Avian ecology and reproduction, Cascading effects of deer overbrowse, Island ecology

djflaspo@mtu.edu [e-mail]   ||   Academic Web Page

Kathleen E. Halvorsen
Professor of Natural Resource Policy - Social Sciences
  • Research Interests: Identification of barriers and opportunities related to
    implementation of woody bioenergy, understanding relationships to water
    resources in the U.S. and Mexico.

kehalvor@mtu.edu [e-mail]   ||   Academic Web Page

Tim Jenkins
Ph.D Student - Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics 
tljenkin@mtu.edu [e-mail]   ||   Student Web Pag3

Amber Roth
PhD Student - School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
amroth@mtu.edu [e-mail]   ||   Student Web Page

David R. Shonnard 
Professor of Chemical Engineering; Director, Sustainable Futures Institute,
2007 Fellow of SFI

  • Research Interests: environmentally-conscious chemical process design,
    life-cycle assessment, environmental transport processes, bioengineering, and
    cellulosic ethanol.

drshonna@mtu.edu [e-mail]   ||   Academic Web Page

Barry D. Solomon 
Professor of Geography and Environmental Policy, Deptartment of Social Sciences

  • Research Interests: Energy and Environmental Policy Analysis, Emissions Trading, Ecological Economics

bdsolomo@mtu.edu [e-mail]   ||   Academic Web Page

Chris Webster  
Associate Professor, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

  • Gap dynamics and disturbance ecology; Invasion biology of exotic species; Landscape ecology; Plant community response to herbivory; Restoration silviculture;
    Wildlife habitat relationships

cwebster@mtu.edu [e-mail]   ||   Academic Web Page


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