DOE releases new study highlighting opportunities for growth in bioenergy resources

Source: US Department of Energy

The US Department of Energy has released a report – 2011 US Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry – detailing US biomass feedstock potential nationwide. The report examines the nation’s capacity to produce a billion dry tons of biomass resources annually for energy uses without impacting other vital US farm and forest products, such as food, feed, and fiber crops. The study provides industry, policymakers, and the agricultural community with county-level data and includes analyses of current US feedstock capacity and the potential for growth in crops and agricultural products for clean energy applications. The biomass resources identified in the report could be used to produce clean, renewable biofuels, biopower, or bioproducts. For example, with continued developments in biorefinery capacity and technology, the feedstock resources identified could produce about 85 billion gallons of biofuels – enough to replace approximately 30 percent of the nation’s current petroleum consumption. This data will be used by both the public and private sector to grow the bioenergy industry and help achieve President Obama’s goals of dramatically expanding renewable energy resources and developing alternative fuels for America’s transportation sector.

“Developing the next generation of American biofuels and bioenergy will help diversify our energy portfolio, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and produce new clean energy jobs,” said US Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “This study identifies resources here at home that can help grow America’s bioenergy industry and support new economic opportunities for rural America.”

The report supports the conclusion of the original 2005 Billion-Ton Study with added in-depth production and costs analyses and sustainability studies. The 2011 report uses more rigorous models and data analysis to test the feasibility of increasing biomass production to help meet the nation’s renewable energy needs. The new report also conducts in-depth analyses of land-use changes and competition among food, feed, and energy crops.

The report’s findings demonstrate that increases in biomass-derived energy sources can be produced in a sustainable manner through the use of widely-accepted conservation practices, such as no-till farming and crop rotation. In fact, in some cases increased production may contribute to environmental improvements. For example, removing tree portions that are unfit for market in the forest industry can reduce forest fire risk, and planting energy crops on marginal lands can reduce soil erosion. The baseline scenario in the newly released report shows that biomass resources could be increased from a current 473 million dry tons annually to nearly 1.1 billion dry tons by 2030, under a conservative set of assumptions about future increases in crop yield.

The 2011 Billion-Ton Update was produced in collaboration with the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge and Idaho National Laboratories, the US Department of Agriculture, The University of Tennessee, and other university and industry representatives 

Read the full report here: 2011 US Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry

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