In the Face of Uncertainty

This issue of Bioenergy Connection, our fourth, marks a changing of the guard.

After serving as a contributing editor since the magazine’s inception, I am excited and honored to step into the role of executive editor. We bid a fond farewell to veteran editor Marie Felde, who is off on new adventures, including a book project. We are also fortunate to welcome our new editor, Diana Hembree, a journalist with training in biology who has specialized in health and science editing at Time Inc., the Center for Investigative Reporting, Hippocrates, HealthDay, and other news outlets. Chris Somerville, the magazine’s founder, continues his involvement as publisher.

We are publishing in interesting times. As work began on the current issue, northeastern Brazil was in its 19th month of drought, most of the United States was experiencing the worst drought in 25 years, and 2012 was the hottest year on record. As if that weren’t enough, Hurricane Sandy flooded the New York and New Jersey coastline. With price tags of $50 billion to $100 billion dollars each, the extreme events of 2012 recharged interest in climate change and strategies to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

There is also renewed caution about the path forward, especially in these politically and economically challenging times. The last half of 2012 saw political attacks on two key policies affecting bioenergy, the Renewable Fuel Standard and the Farm Bill. The refusal of the EPA to grant a waiver of the Renewable Fuel Standard in late 2012 was highly controversial, reopening the long debate about food, feed, and fuel production and the role of next-generation biofuels. So far, the economics have vindicated the EPA decision, but the discussion is far from over.

This issue of Bioenergy Connection takes a look at the crucial role of climate and water in the production of biofuels. Our series “Lessons from the Drought” explores the water-energy connection, and the article “Tough Characters” profiles next-generation bioenergy feedstocks that can grow in semi-arid environments, tolerate drought, or survive floods. In “Doing More with Less,” we learn how companies are working to maximize water resources and respond to resource uncertainty. We also examine changing views about biofuels in Europe and profile researchers who are developing novel technologies for advanced biofuels. Finally, we begin a two-part briefing insert on life-cycle assessment of biofuel production.

We hope you enjoy this issue of Bioenergy Connection. As we strive to improve the magazine, we look forward to your feedback and suggestions about new issues, science and technologies, and remarkable people to profile. Please feel free to write us with suggestions at


Heather Youngs, Ph.D.
Executive Editor, Bioenergy Connection
Senior Analysis Fellow
Energy Biosciences Institute
UC Berkeley


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