Current narrative on biofuels is backed up by a large number of studies published in the scientific literature that address second-generation bioethanol only through a single topic approach, nonetheless in the vast majority of cases transition to this energy carrier is evaluated as a generally ‘promising’ technology. This paper presents a first attempt in proposing an integrated evaluation of the actual benefits expected from bioethanol in the transport sector, by applying the Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM) to the prospective realization of a local system of bio-refinery in Campania Region (Southern Italy). MuSIASEM is a multi-criteria analysis enabling to deal with the complexity of a territorial energy system. Since the unavoidable intrinsic uncertainty, the study does not focus on predictions, but adopts a strategy of Quantitative Story-Telling about some relevant results underlying the limits and critical issues about the energy converter fabric, the economic profitability, environmental constraints and the questionable concept of marginal land. The findings suggest concluding toward falsification of key points in the current narrative: (i) the system is not an efficient solar energy converter; (ii) it fails to realize many of the expectations for a renewable energy carrier producer; (iii) the contribution to decarbonization strategies is not as high as desired and other environmental impacts could not be neglected; (iv) the very large land requirement is hardly compatible with conversion of truly marginal land in Campania region; (v) compared to alternate land uses it does not seem an actually promising strategy to regain value from rural economy.
Fierro, A., Forte, A., Zucaro, A., Micera, R., & Giampietro, M. (2019). Multi-scale integrated assessment of second generation bioethanol for transport sector in the Campania Region. Journal of Cleaner Production, 217, 409–422. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.01.244