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Economic Impacts

Money May Not Grow on Trees, but Bioenergy Does

In order to have a viable commercial biofuels industry, the economics of producing hardwood biofuels must be feasible for both the grower and the biorefinery. To demonstrate the economics and lay the groundwork for a biofuels industry in the Northwest, the Sustainability Team is developing an integrated biomass-to-biofuel system model. The model estimates poplar growth for poplar-specific parameters including irrigation and climatic inputs.

As part of the system model, the bioenergy crop adoption model (BCAM) provides information on the crops and potential crop shifting, locations where poplar production is likely to be profitable, and the amount of land used for growing poplar. The BCAM model also considers how farm economics are impacted when poplar energy crops are grown.

The system model uses the geospatial bioenergy system model (GBSM) to recommend biorefinery locations. Biorefineries will likely be located in areas where large areas of poplar have been planted and where the economics are most competitive. Site-specific costs for land, rail access, and air pollution control are also factored in to find optimum locations for biorefineries.

Employment and other economic impacts of biorefinery operations are estimated using input-output techniques and data on the economic structure of local economies in potential locations.

The Sustainability Team is also developing online tools to investigate the economics of converting poplar into biofuels to aid in understanding and visualizing the results of the system model.

Cartoon of a gas pump and a dollar sign on an arrow pointing up.
Economic analysis will determine if biofuels can complete with fossil fuels.

Bioenergy Crop Adoption Model (BCAM)
The model produces spatially resolved bioenergy crop production maps for a range of feedstock prices.

Geospatial Biorefinery Siting Model (GBSM)
The model indicates best location and size of biorefineries at a range of fuel prices.