Report Forecasts Potential for U.S. Bioeconomy

"2016 Billion-Ton Report" concludes the U.S. has the potential to sustainably produce at least 1 billion dry tons of nonfood biomass resources annually by 2040.

Within 25 years, the United States could produce enough biomass, including renewable aquatic- and terrestrial-biomass resources that could be used for energy and to develop products for economic, environmental, social, and national-security benefits, to support a bioeconomy.

"2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy, Volume I," jointly released by the U.S. Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), concludes the United States has the potential to sustainably produce at least 1 billion dry tons of nonfood biomass resources annually by 2040.

These renewable resources include agricultural, forestry, and algal biomass, as well as waste. They encompass the current and future potential of biomass, from currently available logging and crop residues to future available algae and dedicated energy crops—all useable for the production of biofuel, biopower, and bioproducts.

The report findings show that under a base-case scenario, the United States could increase its use of dry-biomass resources from a current 400 million tons to 1.57 billion tons under a high-yield scenario.

Increasing production and use of biofuel, biopower, and bioproducts would substantially decrease greenhouse-gas emissions in the utility and transportation sectors and reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil as the domestic bioeconomy grows.

The analysis was led by ORNL with contributions from 65 experts from federal agencies (such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Administration), national laboratories (including Idaho National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), universities (including the University of Tennessee, North Carolina State University, South Dakota State University, and Oregon State University), and private companies (including Energetics Inc. and Allegheny Science and Technology).

The report includes novel assessments of potential biomass supplies from algae, new energy crops (miscanthus, energy cane, eucalyptus), and municipal solid waste. The report also considers how the cost of pre-processing and transporting biomass to a biorefinery may impact feedstock availability.

Interactive tools available through the Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework (KDF) allow users to visualize biomass-availability scenarios and tailor the data by factors such as geographic area, biomass source, and price. Each diagram and map in the report is available in an interactive interface on the Bioenergy KDF.

Volume II of the report, set for release later this year, will consist of a collection of analyses on the potential environmental-sustainability effects of a subset of agricultural- and forestry-biomass-production scenarios presented in Volume I. Volume II also will discuss algae-sustainability, land-use, and land-management changes and strategies to enhance environmental sustainability.

To read "2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy, Volume I," click here.

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