The Updated Billion-Ton Resource Assessment: A New Publication

A resource assessment published in 2005, commonly referred to as the Billion-Ton Study (BTS), estimated “potential” biomass within the contiguous United States based on numerous assumptions about current and future inventory, production capacity, and technology; the main conclusion of the study was that U.S. agriculture and forest resources have the capability to sustainably produce one billion dry tons of biomass annually.

The Updated Billion-Ton Resource Assessment by Supervisory Research Forester Ken Skog and Mathematical Statistician Patricia Lebow appears in a recent Science Online article.

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The 2011 Billion-Ton Update (BT2) improves on the 2005 BTS in several ways, including a more comprehensive and rigorous model of environmental sustainability. The POLYSYS model is used to estimate supply curves for energy crops, and most resources are estimated at the county level. Further, the update emphasizes the 2012–2030 time period coincident with implementation of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and U.S. Department of Energy initiatives, rather than on updating the 2050 projection results in the original study.

The 2011 BT2 shows that large quantities of biomass are available while meeting food, livestock feed, industrial, and export demands. The BT2 is consistent with the 2005 BTS in terms of magnitude of the resource potential. Total available resources increase over time as yields increase.

Generally, the scenario assumptions in the updated assessment are much more plausible to show a “billion ton“ resource, which would be sufficient to displace 30% or more of the country’s present petroleum consumption and provide more than enough biomass to meet the 2022 requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Key Points

  • The updated resource assessment more plausibly shows that large quantities of biomass are available.
  • This “billion ton“ resource is sufficient to displace 30% or more of the country’s present petroleum consumption and provide more than enough biomass to meet the 2022 requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
  • Cooperators include FPL; Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee; WrightLink Consulting, Ten Mile, Tennessee; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee; and CNJV, Golden, Colorado.