Ethanol Production from Lignocellulosic Biomass: Overview, Chapter 1

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The United States and much of the world are faced with complex economic and environmental issues associated with energy use that must be addressed if we are to maintain and improve our lifestyles. Our economy depends on low-cost energy. The largest single portion (about 40%) of the energy used in this country is derived from petroleum, more than half of which is imported [1]. Because much of thisoil is produced in unstable regions of the world, our high dependence on outside sources of oil resulted in severe price shocks and shortages that caused considerable damage to the economy during the 1970s. As a result, the United States and many other countries sought to develop new sources of energy that would reduce oil imports and improve their strategic and economic strength. However,interest (and funding) for such work waned when oil prices dropped, and few petroleum substitutes have advanced to commercial use. In the interim, imports have now mounted again to the point that dependence on OPEC oil is reaching levels witnessed during previous disruptions, and some sources are beginning to predict a recurrence of past economic events that could again severely disrupt oureconomy. As pressing as these economic issues could become in the near future, we are also faced with potentially even greater environmental consequences if we do not change our energy use patterns. Thirty-nine cities in the United States reached excessively high levels of carbon monoxide (CO), and nine exceeded tolerable concentrations of ozone in the air [2]. Looming in the background inmounting concern about the buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which could trap the heat that usually radiates from the earth, and cause global climate change [3]. Although there is some uncertainty in such predictions, consensus is building that global climate change is beginning, and if these predictions prove true, the consequences of theresulting climatic changes will be substantial, widely felt, and difficult (perhaps impossible) to reverse if we continue on our current paty [4,5,6]. The economic and social effects of global climate change would likely pale anything that has occurred in recent times.
    Original languageAmerican English
    Title of host publicationHandbook on Bioethanol: Production and Utilization
    EditorsC. E. Wyman
    StatePublished - 1996

    NREL Publication Number

    • NREL/CH-420-7151


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