Livermore, California – Large-scale biofuel production could sustainably replace nearly a third of gasoline use by 2030, according to an in-depth study by Sandia National Laboratories and General Motors. The fuel would use plant and forestry waste, and dedicated energy crops.
The goal of the 90-Billion Gallon Biofuel Deployment Study, conducted over nine months, was to assess whether and how a large volume of cellulosic biofuel could be sustainably produced, assuming technical and scientific process continues at expected rates.
Researchers assessed the feasibility, implications, limitations and enablers of annually producing 90 billion gallons of ethanol, sufficient to replace more than 60 billion of the estimated 180 billion gallons of gasoline expected to be used annualy by 2030. Ninety billion gallons a year exceeds the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal for ethanol production established in 2006.
The study assumes 75 billion gallons would be ethanol from non-food cellulosic feedstocks, and 15 billion gallons from corn-based ethanol. The study examined four sources of biofuels: agricultural residue, such as corn stover and wheat straw; forest residue; dedicated energy crops, including switchgrass; and short-rotation woody crops, such as willow and poplar trees.
The reseachers determiend that 21 billion gallons could be produced per year by 2022 without displacing current crops. The Renewable Fuels Standard, part of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, calls for ramping up biofuels production to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022.