Potential Socioeconomic and Environmental Effects of an Expanding U.S. Bioeconomy: An Assessment of Near-Commercial Cellulosic Biofuel Pathways

Patrick Lamers, Andre Avelino, Yimin Zhang, Eric Tan, Ben Young, Jorge Vendries, Helena Chum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus Citations

Abstract

This paper showcases the suitability of an environmentally extended input-output framework to provide macroeconomic analyses of an expanding bioeconomy to allow for adequate evaluation of its benefits and trade-offs. It also exemplifies the framework's applicability to provide early design stage evaluations of emerging technologies expected to contribute to a future bioeconomy. Here, it is used to compare the current United States (U.S.) bioeconomy to a hypothetical future containing additional cellulosic ethanol produced from two near-commercial pathways. We find that the substitution of gasoline with cellulosic ethanol is expected to yield socioeconomic net benefits, including job growth and value added, and a net reduction in global warming potential and nonrenewable energy use. The substitution fares comparable to or worse than that for other environmental impact categories including human toxicity and eutrophication potentials. We recommend that further technology advancement and commercialization efforts focus on reducing these unintended consequences through improved system design and innovation. The framework is seen as complementary to process-based technoeconomic and life cycle assessments as it utilizes related data to describe specific supply chains while providing analyses of individual products and portfolios thereof at an industrial scale and in the context of the U.S. economy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5496-5505
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume55
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 20 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-78273

Keywords

  • biobased fuels and materials
  • circular carbon economy
  • input-output analysis
  • life cycle assessment
  • United States

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