WC-14 Innovation in Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy

Development of a vibrant bioeconomy provides a rational, trans-disciplinary approach for addressing the 21st Century Food, Water, and Energy Nexus by focusing on identifying, producing, recycling, converting, and using renewable aquatic and terrestrial biomass resources to produce biofuels, biochemicals, biopower, and a multitude of other bioproducts in an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable manner. World Café presentations will provide an overview of the vast amounts of ongoing public and private sector research and development of opportunities that are being conducted to ensure the water-food-energy nexus is making progress toward sustainability without producing unanticipated consequences. The focus would include agriculture potential to produce food, fiber and fuel and reduce wastes by an integrated approach.


  • Donna Perla, Senior Advisor, US Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Virginia Dale, Director, Center for BioEnergy Sustainability, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Douglas Karlen, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture


  • Sorrel Brown, Program Evaluator, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension & Outreach, Iowa State University
  • Kevin Comer, Associate Principal, Antares Group Inc.
  • Nora Haider, Extension Coordinator, Washington State University
  • May Wu, Environmental Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory

Donna Perla has 32 years of experience at the EPA including sustainable development of biomass & waste-to-energy systems in the Office of Research & Development (ORD), where she led ORD’s sustainable biofuels research strategy and co-led an EPA-wide Biofuels Strategy. As Division Director of EPA’s Project XL Program, she led regulatory flexibility and innovation for energy, water, and agricultural systems. She has worked closely with USDA & DOE as USDA’s Senior Advisor for Bioenergy in the Chief Scientist’s Office and as USDA Acting Director of the Financial Assistance Program Division in the Natural Resource Conservation Service. For the past ten years, she has represented the EPA on the interagency Biomass R&D Board and currently works with the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee in the EPA Administrator’s Office with the Agricultural Counselor. (202-564-0184; donnaperla52@gmail.com)

Dr. Virginia Dale is Director of the Center for Bioenergy Sustainability at Oak Ridge National Lab. Her primary research interests are environmental decision making, land-use change, landscape ecology, sustainable agriculture, and bioenergy systems. Virginia has authored 10 books and more than 235 articles and served on national scientific advisory boards for five agencies of the United States. She has a B.A. and M.S. in math from the University of Tennessee and a PhD in mathematical ecology from the University of Washington. Her presentation builds from a workshop sponsored by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on “Biofuels and food security interactions” that defined key issues and underscored the importance of clear definitions consistent terminology, and context-specific solutions. (865-576-8043; dalevh@ornl.gov)

Dr. Douglas L. Karlen uses soil quality assessment to quantify the effects of landscape position, tillage, crop rotation, and nutrient, manure, and crop residue removal on the sustainability of the food-energy-water nexus. He is a native of Wisconsin and has his BS, MS and PhD degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Michigan State University, and Kansas State University, respectively. Doug is author or co-author of 218 refereed journal articles; a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, and the Soil and Water Conservation Society; and a 2015 recipient of the Hugh Hammond Bennett award for national and international leadership in natural resources conservation. (515-294-3336; Doug.Karlen@ars.usda.gov)

Sorrel Brown supervises students in early field experiences and internships in the Ag Education & Studies Dept. In Extension, focus is evaluation of statewide programs in Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension, as well as annual reporting to NIFA. Served as Extension crop specialist 8 years, working with producers, agribusinesses and Extension staff to conduct research and demonstrations in crop systems, develop educational programs in crop production, and crop troubleshooting. Also managed the Pesticide and the Environment Program which oversaw pesticide applicator training. Served as State Liaison to the National Pesticide Impact Assessment Program. (515-294-8802, sorrel@iastate.edu)

Kevin Comer is a mechanical engineer and associate principal of the Antares Group with 15 years of professional engineering experience. Mr. Comer has eight years of experience in industrial/commercial energy efficiency analyses and techniques. While working with the Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center program (formerly the Energy Analysis and Diagnostic Center program), he was the lead engineer on over 50 industrial audits, which resulted in energy conservation, waste minimization, and productivity improvements for the host manufacturers. He is also one of the ANTARES solar application staff and has been part of the photovoltaic design team. His experience includes specialized formal training in PV applications analysis and design.

Nora Haider is an Extension Coordinator at Washington State University working on the Advanced Hardwood Biofuels (AHB) Northwest project. Nora is contributing to the development of bioenergy outreach material and is implementing key project activities to inform and educate stakeholders. Nora is focusing outreach efforts to municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities across the Pacific Northwest as potential early adopters of hybrid poplar trees grow as a bioenergy feedstock. She holds a degree in Planning and Environmental Policy from Western Washington University, where she studied land use planning, environmental science, and environmental policy. (425-741-9962; nora.haider@wsu.edu)

Dr. May Wu is an environmental scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. As a Principal Investigator of a DOE-supported multi-year biofuel water sustainability analysis project, she is the principal author of a spatial-explicit online tool, Water Analysis Tool for Energy Resources (WATER), which provides the county-level water footprint of biofuels in the United States. Dr. Wu’s research interests include water consumption, water footprint, and water quality in the production of bioenergy. She is leading efforts in watershed modeling and analysis for biofuel feedstock production in tributaries of the Mississippi river basin and in the assessment of fresh and alternative water resource use in biofuel produced from various feedstocks via biochemical and thermochemical conversion processes. Her recent work examines the impact and adaptation of climate change on biofuels. (630-252-6658; mwu@anl.gov)


  • Virginia Dale, Director, Center for BioEnergy Sustainability, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Douglas Karlen, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Donna Perla, Senior Adviser, United States Environmental Protection Agency

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