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Biofuels Initiative

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Biofuels Initiative

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Office of the Biomass Program has implemented the Biofuels Initiative (BFI), with the goal of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil by meeting the following targets:

  • To make cellulosic ethanol (or ethanol from non-grain biomass resources) cost competitive with gasoline by 2012.
  • To replace 30 percent of current levels of gasoline consumption with biofuels by 2030 (or 30×30).

Background and Basis for the BFI

During the 2006 State of the Union Address, the President announced the Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI). The AEI aims to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign sources of energy by addressing two areas: 1) Changing the way we fuel our vehicles, and 2) Changing the way we power our homes and businesses.

The AEI goals that address the way we fuel our vehicles are:

  • Develop advanced battery technologies that allow a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle to have a 40-mile range operating solely by battery charge.
  • Foster the breakthrough technologies needed to make cellulosic ethanol cost competitive with corn-based ethanol by 2012.
  • Accelerate progress towards the President’s goal of enabling large numbers of Americans to choose hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

The Biomass Program adopted the President’s goal to make cellulosic ethanol technologies cost competitive by 2012. To assess the impact it could have in contributing to reducing dependence on foreign sources of energy, it analyzed the biomass resource potential identified in the DOE/USDA Billion Ton Study (PDF 8.5 MB). Based on that analysis, the Biomass Program set a goal to reduce 30 percent of our current transportation fuel usage by 2030. This goal is equivalent to 60 billion gallons of ethanol.

Implementing and Achieving the BFI

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 required the Department of Energy to solicit proposals for the demonstration of commercial scale integrated biorefineries that convert cellulosic biomass resources into fuels, chemicals, and power. These projects will be play a large role in developing and validating the technology required to meet the 2012 goal of making cellulosic ethanol technologies cost competitive.

The Biomass Program has also undergone a number of planning efforts that will help contribute to meeting both the 2012 cost target and the 2030 volumetric target. In August 2006, the Program hosted the “30×30 Workshop”, during which input was collected from industry, academic, and other external stakeholders for the technology, policy, and infrastructure needs required to meet both goals.

In November 2006, the Program hosted the National Biofuels Action (NBA) Plan Workshop, during which representatives from all Federal agencies involved in biomass-related work came together to identify areas of overlap or gaps in their work. The Program is currently working with these agencies to develop the NBA Plan that will outline the strategy for meeting the goals of the BFI. The Interagency Biomass R&D Board will be primarily responsible for implementing the plan.

Many states have begun their own initiatives creating state incentives and actually funding projects. Here is a great example of a State program.

The Tennessee Biofuels Initiative
A Model for Tennessee’s Economic & Environmental Sustainability
Increased energy independence, economic development and environmental sustainability are the goals of a new initiative that is gaining traction across the state.
The Tennessee Biofuels Initiative is a research and business model presented by the University of Tennessee that may position the state as a leader in the nation’s efforts toward reduced dependence on petroleum.
The plan proposes the construction and operation of a pilot biorefinery to demonstrate and refine biofuels production technology as well as to work out issues related to continuous production streams, transportation of feedstocks like switchgrass, and distribution of products. The principal product of the refinery will be Grassoline™ – ethanol derived from cellulosic biomass. With continued improvements in production technology and economics, it is expected that government and private partners would invest in multiple commercial-scale biorefineries across the state.

Potential benefits from commercial implementation of the business model include:

  1. 4,000 new jobs in rural Tennessee counties
  2. $400 million in new state and local taxes annually
  3. Satellite plants creating an additional 3,000 jobs and $1 billion in annual revenue from chemical coproducts useful in other manufacturing processes.
  4. $100 million annually in new farm revenue to about 20,000 of the state’s producers
  5. 1 billion gallons of Grassoline™ annually at a potential wholesale price of $1.20 per
  6. gallon. This level of production would displace approximately 30 percent of Tennessee’s present petroleum-based consumption.

Principal feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol are switchgrass and woody biomass. Economists,
agronomists, and biochemists with the UT Institute of Agriculture and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are leaders in cellulosic production and conversion research, and Tennessee has an ideal climate for production of the feedstock commodities. The state’s extensive transportation system will also contribute to the development of commercial facilities. The Tennessee Biofuels Initiative outlines tremendous economic potential for the state. The vision is a vibrant, sustainable bioeconomy for Tennessee and the nation.


Written by Casey McConnell

February 20, 2008 at 10:06 pm

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