Economic comparison of ethanol production technologies
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Ethanol is a clean, renewable fuel that can be produced from biomass resources in nearly every region of the United States. In the US, the vast majority of ethanol demand is being met by producing ethanol from corn, a practice that relies heavily on subsidies to compete economically with gasoline production and could divert food supplies in the future. The continued growth of the ethanol industry will depend on the development of new processes that convert cellulosic biomass from non-food crops and waste materials into ethanol. The purpose of this research is to compare the economics of producing ethanol using conventional methods from corn to the production of ethanol from cellulosic biomass feedstocks. Economic modeling (linear programming) techniques are employed to forecast the emergence of new ethanol production technologies, and to analyze the sensitivity of the emerging cellulosic ethanol industry to certain key variables such as energy prices, estimates of social costs, and capital costs.