imgBioenergyIcon Bioenergy

Discourage or encourage the use of trees, forest waste, and agricultural crops to create energy. Bioenergy is energy produced from the burning, or combustion, of living organic material such as wood, algae, or agricultural crops. There are a variety of bioenergy sources, some of which can be sustainable and others which can be worse than burning coal.


  • Government incentives and/or targets to convert land into growing biofuel feedstocks and drive bioenergy development.

  • Research, development, and investment into new technologies that can produce new forms of biofuels, and vehicles and industry that can use or support these biofuels.

Big Message

  • Bioenergy is not a high leverage response to climate change – while it uses a renewable resource, it still emits large amounts of carbon dioxide and faces supply constraints with scale up.

Key Dynamics

  • As bioenergy is subsidized or taxed, notice that the temperature changes very little. Changes in bioenergy shift the amount of other energy sources, which can mean things like more coal if bioenergy is taxed or less renewables if bioenergy is subsidized.

  • Bioenergy is only zero-carbon if the feedstock is regrown to account for the carbon emitted. In some areas, trees are being used for bioenergy, which will take decades to regrow to make up for the carbon released when burned.

Potential Co-Benefits of Discouraging Bioenergy

  • Crops and arable land are freed for other uses, such as food production when bioenergy is discouraged.

  • Leaving sources of biomass, like forests, intact enables biodiversity to be preserved.

  • A reduction in biomass burning can improve indoor and outdoor air quality from reduced soot and particulates.

  • Bioenergy can accelerate deforestation through dependence on wood for fuels or through the expansion of bioenergy crops, particularly in the tropics. Less deforestation has many benefits including additional carbon sequestration.

Equity Considerations

  • Land used for bioenergy crops can reduce land availability for food production and compromise food security.

  • Farmer livelihoods can be severely impacted by shifting agriculture markets, so steps should be taken to help workers and farmers transition to shifting crop demands.

Slider Settings

The following table highlights the numerical ranges for the labelled input levels of the Bioenergy slider. Each of the energy supply sliders is set to reflect a similar percentage cost increase or decrease for each input level.

highly taxed


status quo


highly subsidized

Change in price per barrel of oil equivalent (boe)

+$30 to +$15

+$15 to +$5

+$5 to -$5

-$5 to -$15

-$15 to -$30

Cost increase or decrease

+60% to +30%

+30% to +10%

+10% to -10%

-10% to -30%

-30% to -60%

Model Structure

  • This sector tracks several stages of bioenergy installations, or energy supply capacity including: capacity under development, under construction, and actually producing energy, as well as the delays between each stage.

  • Future modeling in this sector will add more refinement to the ways the bioenergy supply is characterized and include stronger links to the amount of available land.

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