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Opportunity for Profitable Investments in Cellulosic Biofuels

  • Babcock, Bruce A.
  • Marette, Stephan
  • Treguer, David

Research efforts to allow large-scale conversion of cellulose into biofuels are being undertaken in the US and EU. These efforts are designed to increase logistic and conversion efficiencies, enhancing the economic competitiveness of cellulosic biofuels. However, not enough attention has been paid to the future market conditions for cellulosic biofuels, which will determine whether the necessary private investment will be available to allow a cellulosic biofuels industry to emerge. We examine the future market for cellulosic biofuels, differentiating between cellulosic ethanol and ‘drop-in’ cellulosic biofuels that can be transported with petroleum fuels and have equivalent energy values. We show that emergence of a cellulosic ethanol industry is unlikely without costly government subsidies, in part because of strong competition from conventional ethanol and limits on ethanol blending. If production costs of drop-in cellulosic biofuels fall enough to become competitive, then their expansion will not necessarily cause feedstock prices to rise. As long as local supplies of feedstocks that have no or low-valued alternative uses exist, then expansion will not cause prices to rise significantly. If cellulosic feedstocks come from dedicated biomass crops, then the supply curves will have a steeper slope because of competition for land.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 34900.

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Date of creation: 08 Feb 2012
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Publication status: Published in Energy Policy, February 2011, vol. 39 no. 2, pp. 714-719
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:34900
Contact details of provider: Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.edu
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  1. Amani Elobeid & Simla Tokgoz & Dermot J. Hayes & Bruce A. Babcock & Chad E. Hart, 2006. "Long-Run Impact of Corn-Based Ethanol on the Grain, Oilseed, and Livestock Sectors: A Preliminary Assessment, The," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 06-bp49, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.
  2. Petrolia, Daniel R., 2006. "The Economics of Harvesting and Transporting Corn Stover for Conversion to Fuel Ethanol: A Case Study for Minnesota," Staff Papers 14213, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
  3. Uwe Schneider & Bruce McCarl, 2003. "Economic Potential of Biomass Based Fuels for Greenhouse Gas Emission Mitigation," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 24(4), pages 291-312, April.
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