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$140/bbl for biomass-to-liquid fuels produced by thermochemical conversion. Cellulosic ethanol produced by biochemical conversion costs $115/bbl of gasoline equivalent. The costs of coal-and-biomass-to-liquid fuels with CCS and cellulosic ethanol become more attractive if the price includes a CO2 price of $50 per metric ton.

Realizing the potential production of each of these fuels will require the permitting and construction of tens to hundreds of conversion plants with the associated transportation and delivery infrastructure. Given the magnitude of U.S. petroleum consumption and its expected growth, a business-as-usual approach for deploying these technologies will be insufficient to significantly reduce oil consumption. The development and demonstration of technology, construction of plant, and implementation of infrastructure require 10–20 years. In addition, investments in alternative fuels must be protected against fluctuations in crude oil prices.

Because geologic CO2 storage is key to several of these technologies, commercial demonstrations of coal-to-liquid and coal-and-biomass-to-liquid fuel technologies integrated with CCS need to proceed immediately if the United States is to deploy commercial plants by 2020. Moreover, detailed scenarios for biofuel and coal-to-liquid fuel market-penetration rates must be developed to ensure the full utilization of feedstock. In addition, current government and industry programs must be evaluated to determine whether emerging conversion technologies are capable of reducing U.S. oil consumption and CO2 emissions over the next decade.

Other Transportation Fuels

Technologies for producing transportation fuels from natural gas have been deployed or will be ready for deployment by 2020. But only if large supplies of natural gas are available at acceptable costs will the United States be likely to use natural gas as a feedstock for transportation fuel.

Hydrogen has considerable potential, as discussed in previous National Research Council reports.17 Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles could yield large and sustained reductions in U.S. oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, but it will take several decades to realize these potential long-term benefits.


See, for example, National Research Council, Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies: A Focus on Hydrogen, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2008.

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