Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the release of the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) 2023 Billion-Ton Report (BT23). This is the fourth in a series of assessments of potential biomass resources available in the United States. BT23 provides estimates of biomass resource potential in response to market demand scenarios. According to the DOE, BT23 finds that one billion tons of biomass could satisfy over 100 percent of the projected demand for airplane fuel in the country. This would allow for the United States to fully decarbonize the aviation industry with sustainable aviation fuel. 

BT23 Highlights

Currently, the United States uses about 342 million tons of biomass to meet roughly five percent of America’s annual energy demand. This includes the use of corn grain for ethanol and wood or wood waste for heat and power. However, the United States is able to triple the production of its biomass. This would result in producing an estimated 60 billion gallons of low greenhouse gas liquid fuels. All this while still meeting the projected demand for food, feed, fiber, conventional forest products, and exports. Additionally, currently available but unused biomass resources can add around 350 million tons of additional biomass per year above current uses. This would effectively double the available U.S. bioeconomy, allowing for excess use to oversatisfy the demand. Furthermore, biomass resources, like energy crops, in a future mature market can provide over 400 million tons of biomass per year. Further technological innovations could lead to evolving and emerging resources that represent additional biomass potential. Finally, the analysis ensures sustainable outcomes by accounting for potential risks to soil, air and water quality. It also accounts for potential risks to water availability, and the imperative to protect America’s forests and biodiversity.

Resources Analyzed

The DOE notes that BT23 analyzes the biomass production capacity of approximately 60 resources. Several of which, the DOE says, have never before been the subject of a DOE Billion-Ton assessment. These include the following: winter oilseed crops, trees and brush harvested from forests to prevent wildfires. Additionally, macroalgae such as seaweed cultivated in ocean farms, and carbon dioxide from industrial plants. BT23 finds that the wide dispersion and variety of these resources will extend the benefits of expanded biomass production.

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