Greater Transportation Energy and GHG Offsets from Bioelectricity Than Ethanol

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Science  22 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5930, pp. 1055-1057
DOI: 10.1126/science.1168885

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The quantity of land available to grow biofuel crops without affecting food prices or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land conversion is limited. Therefore, bioenergy should maximize land-use efficiency when addressing transportation and climate change goals. Biomass could power either internal combustion or electric vehicles, but the relative land-use efficiency of these two energy pathways is not well quantified. Here, we show that bioelectricity outperforms ethanol across a range of feedstocks, conversion technologies, and vehicle classes. Bioelectricity produces an average of 81% more transportation kilometers and 108% more emissions offsets per unit area of cropland than does cellulosic ethanol. These results suggest that alternative bioenergy pathways have large differences in how efficiently they use the available land to achieve transportation and climate goals.

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