Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Louis J. Gross

Committee Members

Virginia H. Dale, Suzanne M. Lenhart, Vasileios Maroulas


Bioenergy is renewable energy made of materials derived from biological, non-fossil sources. In addition to the benefits of utilizing an energy source that is renewable, bioenergy is being researched for its potential positive impact on climate change mitigation, job creation, and regional energy security. It has also been studied to investigate possible challenges related to indirect and direct land-use change and food security. Bioenergy sustainability assessment provides a method to identify, quantify, and interpret indicators, or metrics, of bioenergy sustainability in order to study trade-offs between environmental, social, and economic aspects of bioenergy production and use. Assessment is crucial to inform policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders as they make decisions to support the development of a sustainable bioeconomy in the United States and globally. It is the purpose of this dissertation to identify and derive mathematical techniques that aid in the development of the Bioenergy Sustainability Target Assessment Resource (Bio-STAR). Guiding principles for Bio-STAR include (i) adaptability for assessing diverse bioenergy production pathways, (ii) exibility to support a range of analyses that researchers and policymakers may seek to undertake, and (iii) mathematical robustness with respect to the operations utilized. Key components of sustainability assessment are defined and presented in the first chapter. Of the key components, Normalization and Aggregation represent areas in which the mathematical processes utilized are critical to assessment outcomes. As such, mathematical theory is developed for Normalization and Aggregation in sustainability assessment and presented in the second and third chapters, respectively. This theory is applied in the fourth chapter to inform the development of protocols for the Bioenergy Sustainability Target Assessment Resource. Bioenergy is seen as component of a sustainable energy future in the United States. Bioenergy is unique among renewable energy sources in that it can be produced in a variety of ways. Bio-STAR is a tool that will enable policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders to explore these many bioenergy options from a sustainability viewpoint and make decisions that will guide the U.S. and the world towards a sustainable energy future.

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