Energy 101: Feedstocks for Biofuels and More

You are here

Energy 101: Feedstocks for Biofuels and More
See how organic materials like corn stover, wheat straw, and woody plants are being used to create homegrown biofuels in the United States—all while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and creating jobs in rural America.

Text Version

Below is the text version for the Energy 101: Feedstocks for Biofuels and More video.

The words "Energy 101: Feedstocks for Biofuels and More" appear onscreen, followed by video of oil wells and oil tankers. Shots of various modes of transportation, including cars and planes.

Nearly a billion dollars a day. That's how much we spend on oil imports in the U.S. — oil that powers our nation's transportation systems and industries.

Shots of crops being harvested and processed. The words "Biofuels — Made from biomass" appear onscreen along with several vials of different biomass feedstocks, including corn fibers, peanut shells, and switchgrass.

But here's something to think about: a strong biofuels industry could meet much of our demand. Biofuels are made from organic materials, or "biomass," grown in our own fields and forests. A booming biofuels industry would also keep a lot of the money we spend on imported oil in the country. Plus, it would reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs in rural America.

Shots of fuel pumps and samples of biobased products. The words "Biofuels can replace or supplement products made from crude oil" appear onscreen, followed by an image of a gas pump.

In fact, we can use homegrown biomass to replace or supplement almost every product that comes from a typical barrel of crude oil. These are things like: gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other consumer products, like plastics.

Shots of oil tankers and barrels followed by a forest.

Much of our imported oil could be replaced with sustainable, renewable biofuels and bioproducts made in the U.S.A.

Image of a report titled "U.S. Billion-Ton Update." The words "U.S. potential by 2030 ≈ 85 billion gallons per year; About 1/3 U/S/ oil used" appear onscreen.

Check this out. This is the Billion-Ton Update study by the U.S. Department of Energy. This study found that potential biomass resources could produce about 85 billion gallons of biofuels a year. That's about a third of the oil we use.

Shots of biomass harvester in action. The words "Energy crops — Non-food plants" appear onscreen.

OK. So what kinds of plant materials — or feedstocks — can be converted to fuels, and where will they come from? America is already using biomass that comes from agriculture and forest operations across the country. These are "non-food" plants grown specifically for energy. American farms all across the U.S. can produce a wide variety of energy crops. These are plants that are grown because of their high energy content — crops like switchgrass, or fast-growing hybrid poplar trees.

Shots of farmland. The words "Energy crops can be grown on marginal agricultural land" appear onscreen.

And energy crops can also be grown on marginal, degraded, or underused agricultural land, helping farms expand and become more productive.

Shots of biomass being harvested on a farm. The words "Agricultural waste used for biofuels" appear onscreen.

Agricultural waste can even be converted into biofuels.

Shots of corn stover and wheat straw harvesting.

Look at this. Farmers can gather and sell corn stalks and wheat straw to be converted to biofuels, making their lands even more profitable. This is non-edible plant material left over from crop harvests that's been collected from farmland instead of going to waste.

So how do you take plants and make them into fuels and other products?

Shots of raw materials and biomass processing machinery.

No matter what kind of plant you start with, the first steps are to break them down. The U.S. Department of Energy, partnering with private industry, is making these steps a lot more efficient and affordable. Together, they're developing new machinery and processes specific to the various biomass crops.

Shots of biomass harvester and other equipment in action.

This equipment is harvesting — bailing, grinding, and condensing — these raw plants into energy-ready materials. Materials like these energy-dense pellets, ready for the biorefinery.

Shots of biorefineries.

From there, energy-ready biomass feedstocks are transported to one of many biorefineries sprouting up in communities across the country. Here, they can be further broken down, converted into biofuels, and made ready for use.

A worker holds up a container of biofuel. Montage of biomass harvesting and refinery.

Homegrown biomass feedstocks: creating jobs in rural America; generating clean, renewable fuels; and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

POINT (-88.4509873 33.8499292)