Successful development of an industry to supply alternative liquid transportation fuels faces some technological and sociological challenges. These challenges are not trivial, but they can be successfully overcome.

Challenge 1
  • Developing a systems approach through which farmers, biomass integrators, and those operating biofuel-conversion facilities can develop a well-organized and sustainable cellulosic-ethanol industry that will address multiple environmental concerns (for example, biofuel production; soil, water and air quality; carbon sequestration; wildlife habitat; rural development; and rural infrastructure) without creating unintended consequences through piecemeal development efforts.

  • Determining the full greenhouse gas life-cycle signatures of various biofuel crops.

  • Certifying the greenhouse gas benefits for different potential biofuel scenarios.

In other words, failure to link the critical environmental, economic, and social needs and address them as an integrated system could reduce the availability of biomass for conversion to levels significantly below the 550 million tons technically deployable in 2020.

Challenge 2

For the thermochemical conversion of coal, or of combined coal and biomass, to have any significant impact on reducing U.S. reliance on crude oil and on reducing CO2 emissions over the next 20–30 years, CCS will have to be shown to be safe as well as economically and politically viable. The technological viability of CO2 capture is already proven, although commercial-scale demonstration plants are now needed to quantify and improve costs and performance. Additional programs will be required to help resolve storage and regulatory issues associated with geologic CO2 storage approaching a scale of gigatonnes per year. In the analyses presented in this study, the viability of CCS was assumed to have been demonstrated by 2015 so that integrated coal-to-liquid fuel plants could start up by 2020. This assumption is ambitious and will require focused and aggressive government

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