U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Published in Bioresource Technology, 2009, 1-30, August 6, 2009


This paper addresses a national interest in investigating the potential of displacing a large fraction of U.S. gasoline use by 2030 with ethanol. This study assesses the feasibility, implications, limitations, and enablers of producing 90 billion gallons ethanol per year by 2030. We developed a dynamic supply chain model, the Biofuels Deployment Model (BDM), and conducted sensitivity analyses to determine the parameters that most affect the feasibility, cost-competitiveness, and greenhouse gas impact of large-scale ethanol production. Though we found no theoretical barriers to achieving the stated goal, we identified a number of practical obstacles that need to be addressed. In particular, investment in cellulosic ethanol production needs long-term protection against oil and feedstock price volatility. Capital costs are significant, and investment risk needs to be managed. Technology improvements, particularly in cellulosic conversion yields, are critical and must be sustained over a number of years. Finally, large-scale development of energy crops is necessary.