A joint study by the US Departments of Agriculture and Energy (USDA and DOE) has concluded that the land resources of the US could produce a sustainable supply of biomass sufficient to displace 30% or more of the country’s present petroleum consumption.
The study found that just forestland and agricultural land alone have a potential for 1.3 billion dry tons of biomass feedstock per year: 368 million dry tons from forestlands, 998 million dry tons from agriculture. This is not an upper limit.
According to the report, transportation fuels from biomass could increase from 0.5% of US transportation fuel consumption in 2001 to 4% in 2010, 10% in 2020, and 20% in 2030.
Producing one billion tons or more of feedstock annually will require technologies that can increase the utilization of currently available and underutilized feedstocks, such as agricultural residues and forest residues. It will require the development of perennial crops as an energy resource on a relatively large scale. It will require changes in agricultural and silvicultural crop management systems. Production yields from these systems will need to be increased and costs lowered. Changes in the way biomass feedstocks are collected or harvested, stored and transported, and pre-processed will also have to be made. Accomplishing these changes will obviously require investments and policy initiatives as well as the coordinated involvement of numerous stakeholder groups to gain broad pubic acceptance.
The report does not address the technologies (such as greatly enhanced mechanisms for the production of cellulosic ethanol) required to be able to process all that biomass into petroleum replacement products such as fuel.