DOE Updates Billion Ton Study

The Department of Energy (DOE) has concluded its Billion Ton Study that was first conducted in 2005. This new version of the report confirms that America has ample biomass resources including grasses, ag wastes, and wood wastes among others to meet America’s national renewable fuel goals. One goal of the study was to assess the amount of biomass available that would not impact U.S. farms and forest products such as food, feed and fiber crops.

“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 U.S. 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 study confirms that there are ample volumes of biomass feedstocks available for conversion into ethanol and other biofuels that would meet the requirements as set forth in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS sets out a goal of producing 21 billion gallons of fuel by 2022 from advanced or cellulosic biofuels – in other words, biofuels produced from non-starch crops. The DOE study states, “This potential resource is more than sufficient to provide feedstock to produce the required 20 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels. The high-yield scenario demonstrates potential at the $60 price that far exceeds the RFS mandate.”

Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council said of the study, “America has both the resources and the know-how to break our addiction to foreign oil. What is lacking is the political will to stand up to oil special interests and level the playing field for all biofuels, including next generation ethanol, to compete. Scores of promising technologies are ready for commercial deployment, but are being held up by an unstable and unpredictable policy climate.”

He concluded, “In order to deploy these technologies to harness the potential of America’s vast biomass resources, and to compete in the global race to produce next generation fuels, consistent and stable policy relating to biofuels is essential. That means continuing investment in new technologies, expanding refueling opportunities for domestically produced, non-petroleum fuels like ethanol, and protecting the integrity and the intent of the RFS.”

4 thoughts on “DOE Updates Billion Ton Study

  1. One has to wonder about this. Consider:

    * In the 16th and 17th centuries England couldn’t run their economy on biomass and their energy needs were very low by today’s standards. They almost denuded their island of trees making charcoal for their rudimentary iron and glass factories and using wood for heat and cooking. It wasn’t until they started burning coal, that their forests returned.

    * The same is true of the Levant. The lands around the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel) were once almost completely forested until people cut them down for firewood. The landscape in the Levant has still largely not recovered and suffers from those centuries of biomass abuse.

    * Much of Spain was also forested, except they cut down their trees making ships of the line for the Spanish Armada.

    Is anyone at the DOE a student of history?

  2. This report seems to be missing the entire field of BIODIESEL/BIOFUELS from MICRO ALGAE. Is there another DOE project considering this path to lipids and fatty acids that does not directly compete for land and food supplies?

  3. The authors of this report do not seem to have figured out that while burning wood for energy instead of coal may reduce coal GHG emission by 11 quadrillion tons of carbon per year (page 111), burning the enough wood to replace the coal-derived electric energy will release between about 15 quadrillion tons of carbon per year or more. Wood-fired generators are much less efficient than coal-fired ones, though the relative efficiencies depend on the design and age.

    The most efficient biomass-fired generators under construction today will release about 2.7 times as much CO2 per unit energy as a modern combined cycle natural gas-fired generator.

    At present, the ocean absorbs about 30% of the CO2 added to the atmosphere by humans each year. The more wood-derived CO2 we inject into the atmosphere, the less fossil fuel-derived CO2 it can remove.

    Where is the discussion of the impact on our GHG emissions of burning all new growth of wood each year? In 2007, that new growth in timberland and in urban sites accounted for 96% of the US atmosphric CO2 removal. Does anyone at DOE or ORNL know anything at all about sinks and sources of green-house gases?