One billion (dry) tons of biomass — any organic matter available on a recurring basis, including flowers — could replace 30% of the petroleum used in the U.S. for transportation. So says a feasibility study by the Departments of Energy and Agriculture. Biomass already supplies 3% of the nation's energy, surpassing hydropower as the largest domestic source of renewable energy.

The report notes that forest and farm land could produce 1.3 billion tons (dry) of biomass annually, a sixfold increase over the amount of biomass grown today. This additional material could come from relatively modest changes in land use and forestry practices. It would not affect food, feed, or export demands, says the report. It would also cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 10% and improve rural economies.

The report goes on to say that U.S. ethanol production, currently at 3.4 billion gallons annually, would climb to 80 billion gallons annually under its scenario. The scenario has biomass going from 0.5% of consumption in 2001 to 4% in 2010, 10% by 2020, and 20% by 2030. At the same time, industrial use of biomass would grow 2% per year and use by electric utilities would double every decade through 2030. The complete report is online at http://feedstockreview.ornl.gov/pdf/billion_ton_vision.pdf