Renewable energy sources are currently receiving much attention, both as a means of reducing the dependency of the United States on imported oil and as a long-term substitute for fossil fuels. An important part of any renewable energy strategy is to find suitable transportation fuels to substitute for gasoline and diesel oil. Fuels derived from biomass can potentially meet this need; however, traditional routes to biomass fuels are inefficient, leading to low energy yields per acre and questionable sustainability.
In this paper, we present a systemwide analysis of biomass fuels and their production infrastructure. By analyzing the relative efficiency of different farming, harvesting, and processing approaches, fuel compositions, and engine technologies, we can identify technologies that substantially improve the overall energy efficiency and sustainability of biomass fuels. The analysis helps identify areas where additional research would yield the greatest benefits and set cost targets that must be achieved for biomass fuels to become competitive with conventional energy sources. © 2004 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Environ Prog, 2004