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The Bioenergy working group of the Leopoldina prepared the statement “Bioenergy – Chances and Limits” that focuses on the opportunities and limits of bioenergy. The statement addresses questions such as whether biomass energy is ecologically and socially justifiable and sustainable. In June 2011 the group submitted a statement to the German Minister of Education and Research, Dr Annette Schavan, entitled “Energy and research policy recommendations following the events in Fukushima”. The Leopoldina previously worked in cooperation with acatech and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities on a “Concept for an Integrated Energy Research Program for Germany”.

Bioenergy is energy taken from plant matter. The biomass that comes from this plant matter can either be combusted for immediate use as energy or it can be converted into ethanol, biodiesel, biogas, hydrogen or syngas. Such conversions involve biological, chemical or mechanical processes that use up part of the energy that was originally available in the biomass. Bioenergy is renewable, at least in principle. And it is usually considered to be carbon-neutral, since the net production of biomass via photosynthesis theoretically requires the same amount of carbon dioxide as that which is released when the biomass is used for energy.

The Leopoldina’s statement on the opportunities and limits of bioenergy was born out of a biofuels and bioconversion workshop that took place at the Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg in Greifswald from 14 to 16 October 2010. The international workshop focused on the following questions:

  • Does it make good economic sense to use bioenergy on a grand scale, as Germany is planning to do?
  • Is it ecologically and socially justifiable?
  • Is it sustainable?
  • Are the answers to these questions different for first and second-generation biofuels?
  • How does the situation in Germany compare with the situation in other countries?
  • Can photosynthesis compete with photovoltaics?
  • What role can biocatalysts play in energy generation processes and how can they be used as a model for chemical catalysts?


  • National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina

Spokespersons of the Working Group

  • Prof. Dr. Bärbel Friedrich ML
    Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schink ML
    University of Konstanz
  • Prof. Dr. Rudolf K. Thauer ML
    Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg

Members of the Working Group

  • Dr. Vincent Artero
    Institute de Recherches en Technologies es Sciences pour le Vivant, Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble (France)
  • Prof. Fraser A. Armstrong FRS
    Department of Inorganic Chemistry, University of Oxford (Great Britain)
  • Prof. Dr. Holger Dau
    Fachbereich Physik, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Peter Dürre
    Institut für Mikrobiologie und Biotechnologie, Universität Ulm
  • Prof. Dr. Bärbel Friedrich ML
    Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Helmut Haberl
    Institute of Social Ecology, University of Klagenfurt
  • Dr. Thomas Happe
    Lehrstuhl Biochemie der Pflanzen, AG Photobiotechnologie, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
  • Prof. Dr. Gerd Kohlhepp
    Geografisches Institut, Eberhard Karls-Universität Tübingen
  • Prof. Dr. Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus ML
    Fakultät für Chemie, Universität Bielefeld
  • Prof. Dr. Christian Körner ML
    Institut für Botanik, Universität Basel (Schweiz)
  • Dr. Philipp Kurz
    Institut für Anorganische Chemie, Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel
  • Christian Lauk
    Institut für Soziale Ökologie (SEC), Universität Klagenfurt
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lubitz
    Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Energiekonversion, Mühlheim a.d. Ruhr
  • Prof. Dr. Matthias Rögner
    Lehrstuhl für Biochemie der Pflanzen, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
  • Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schink ML
    Lehrstuhl für mikrobielle Ökologie, Universität Konstanz
  • Dr. Ulrike Schmid-Staiger
    Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB, Stuttgart
  • Prof. Dr. Ernst-Detlef Schulze ML
    Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie, Jena
  • PD Dr. Thomas Senn
    Institut für Lebensmittelwissenschaft und Biotechnologie, Universität Hohenheim
  • Prof. Dr. Victor Smetacek
    Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Bremerhaven
  • Prof. Dr. Rudolf K. Thauer ML
    Max-Planck-Institut für Terrestrische Mikrobiologie, Marburg
  • Dr. Peter Weiland
    Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, Braunschweig
  • Dr. Karen Wilson
    Cardiff School of Chemistry, Cardiff University (Great Britain)


ML = Member of the Leopoldina



Leopoldina Discussion "Bioenergie: Möglichkeiten und Grenzen", 12 September 2012, Berlin

Wahnsinn Bio-Energie? Der Kampf um Tank und Teller. Radio broadcast discussion with Prof. Bernhard Schink ML, WDR 5 Funkhausgespräche, 6 September 2012



Dr. Christian Anton

Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 861
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 839
E-Mail christian.anton @leopoldina.org



Dr. Henning Steinicke

Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 864
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 839
E-Mail henning.steinicke @leopoldina.org