DOE Billion Ton Study Update Shows Biomass Still Sufficient to Meet Goals

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, August 15 ‑ The DOE last week released an update to its 2005 Billion Ton Study that says biomass feedstock under baseline assumptions remain sufficient to meet near- and long-term bioenergy goals, including the production of 85 billion gallons of biofuel annually, enough to displace a third of the nation's transportation fuel demand. In fact, the update says, under a high-yield scenario, more ambitious goals may be feasible. Unlike the 2005 version, the update takes into consideration environmental sustainability and identifies the likely costs to access the biomass resources.

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The update's baseline assumptions continue the USDA 10-year forecast for the major food and forage crops, and extend the forecast an additional 10 years to 2030. Taking into account the current combined resources from forests and agricultural lands, the baseline estimates about 473 million dry tons at a farm or forest roadside price of $60 per dry ton or less. About 45 percent is currently used and the remainder is potential additional biomass. By 2030, the researchers say, the estimated resource increases to nearly 1.1 billion dry tons, of which about 30 percent would be projected as already-used biomass and 70 percent as potentially additional biomass.

The DOE concedes the 2005 Billion Ton Study was limited to a strategic analysis to determine if U.S. agriculture and forest resources had the capability to produce at least one billion dry tons of biomass annually in a sustainable manner ‑ enough to produce biofuels to meet more than one-third of the current demand for transportation fuels. The department says that to ensure reasonable confidence in the study results, researchers used relatively conservative assumptions. Under that scenario six years ago, all identified biomass in the agriculture and forestry sectors was designated as potentially available, with no regard for price restrictions, even though some potential feedstock would more than likely be too expensive to be economically available.

The update, the department says, is a more comprehensive resource assessment that addresses a number of the 2005 study's shortcomings by providing price and available quantities (for example, supply curves) for the individual feedstocks; and a more rigorous treatment and modeling of resource sustainability. The update also adds a spatial, county-by-county inventory of primary feedstocks.

For more information on the U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry, and to access the update, click HERE.

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