Bio-Benefits Basics

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Bioenergy can contribute to a more secure, sustainable, and economically-sound future by providing domestic clean energy sources, reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, generating U.S. jobs, and revitalizing rural America. A growing array of bioenergy technologies will become cost-competitive and be deployed throughout the nation, enabling the United States to emerge as the global leader in the clean energy economy. 

Biomass and U.S. Energy Security

The U.S. economy is heavily dependent on oil imports—containing 5% of the world's population, our nation consumes about 25% of the world's oil production. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that in 2014, about 46% of the crude oil processed in U.S. refineries was imported, and, in total, 27 percent of all petroleum products consumed in the United States were imported from foreign sources.1 Furthermore, projections show the price of oil will remain strong as demand for oil continues to increase across growing world economies. This dependence on foreign oil has left us vulnerable to disruptions in oil supplies due to natural disasters, political disruptions, and price volatility. In addition, our reliance on foreign oil contributes significantly to our trade deficit. 

One way to diversify our energy supply and to build economic security is to increase our consumption of domestically-produced renewable energy sources, such as biomass-derived transportation fuels. Biofuels play an important role in this portfolio as near-term substitutes for petroleum-based liquid transportation fuels. In 2015, production of 14.7 billion gallons of ethanol means that the United States needed to import 527 million fewer barrels of crude oil to produce gasoline. In 2015, the ethanol industry put nearly $24 billion into the pockets of Americans and contributed an estimated $4.8 billion in tax revenue to the Federal Treasury.2 And, with an evolving biofuels market, a much greater percentage of our nation's fuel needs can be met with fuels derived from domestically-produced, renewable biomass resources.

Bioenergy Industry Creates Green Jobs

Biofuel, bioproduct, and biopower production can create new domestic business and job opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing, and other key service sectors. Biobased activities in the current economy are estimated to have directly generated more than $48 billion in revenue and 285,000 jobs. Estimates show that continuing to develop biomass resources could expand direct revenue by a factor of 5 to contribute nearly $259 billion and 1.1 million jobs to the U.S. economy by 2030.3 

Biomass and the Environment

When managed well, biomass resources can also provide important land, habitat, and soil benefits. For example, some plants grown for bioenergy (like native prairie grasses) can be grown on soils that have poor fertility and cannot be used for farming. They also have the potential to improve soil health, provide habitats for wildlife, and help prevent pollution from entering nearby waterways. 

The release of harmful air pollutants from vehicle tailpipes can also be reduced by substituting biofuels for nonrenewable fuels. Producing energy from residues in forests, mills, and landfills avoids the release of methane into the atmosphere from the decomposition of unused wood and agricultural wastes. 

[1] “Frequently Asked Questions: How Much Oil Consumed by the United States Comes from Foreign Sources?” U.S. Energy Information Administration, last updated October 13, 2016, http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=32&t=6.
[2] J. M. Urbanchuk, Contribution of the Ethanol Industry to the Economy of the United States in 2015, prepared for the Renewable Fuels Association (Doylestown, PA: ABF Economics, February 5, 2016), http://www.ethanolrfa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Ethanol-Economic-Im...
[3] J. N. Rogers, B. Stokes, J. Dunn, H. Cai, M. Wu, Z. Haq, H. and Baumes, “An Assessment of the Potential Products and Economic and Environmental Impacts Resulting from a Billion Ton Bioeconomy,” Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biorefining 11, no. 1 (2017): 110–128, doi:10.1002/bbb.1728.