The current methodological approach for developing sustainable biofuel processes and supply chains is flawed. Life cycle principles are often retrospectively incorporated in the design phase resulting in incremental environmental improvement rather than selection of fuel pathways that minimize environmental impacts across the life cycle. Further, designing sustainable biofuel supply chains requires joint consideration of economic, environmental, and social factors that span multiple spatial and temporal scales. However, traditional life cycle assessment (LCA) ignores economic aspects and the role of ecological goods and services in supply chains, and hence is limited in its ability for guiding decision-making among alternatives—often resulting in sub-optimal solutions. Simultaneously incorporating economic and environment objectives in the design and optimization of emerging biofuel supply chains requires a radical new paradigm. This work discusses key research opportunities and challenges in the design of emerging biofuel supply chains and provides a high-level overview of the current “state of the art” in environmental sustainability assessment of biofuel production. Additionally, a bibliometric analysis of over 20,000 biofuel research articles from 2000-to-present is performed to identify active topical areas of research in the biofuel literature, quantify the relative strength of connections between various biofuels research domains, and determine any potential research gaps.
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