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167271-1 Report Abstract

A Scoping Study of the Impacts of Bioenergy and Alternative Fuels on the Southwest Region’s Economy and Transportation Infrastructure

Leigh B. Boske and James T. Woodward, University of Texas at Austin, May 2008, 101 pp. (167271-1)

This scoping study inventories renewable energy alternatives and assesses their impact on the Southwest region’s transportation sector. Biofuel transportation requirements and domestic/international supply chains are illustrated.  A variety of potential solutions are described, including technologies currently commercially available and those still in a research phase.  However, biofuels constitute the focus of this research given the current level of development and potential to impact the Southwest in the near term.  Ethanol is the biofuel most widely marketed at the present time and therefore commands the bulk of this narrative.

The world’s primary producers of ethanol are Brazil and the United States.  These two nations employ different methods to manufacture the fuel from separate crops.  Brazil utilizes sugarcane whereas the United States employs corn.  A four parameter comparison focusing on the energy budget, carbon emissions reduction, land use, and production costs of each biofuel type strongly suggests Brazil’s fuel is superior to the American derivative.  Case studies illustrate how ethanol would reach Texas markets depending on whether the biofuel originated in American corn fields or the Brazilian cerrado.

Additional discussion cites Texas’ limited ability to grow existing commercial biofuels locally.  However, the Southwest region holds greater promise as a producer of next-generation alternatives still undergoing laboratory evaluation.

Keywords: Bioenergy, Alternative Fuels, Economic Impacts, Transport of Alternative Fuels, Transportation Infrastructure

ENTIRE REPORT (Adobe Acrobat File – 2.3 MB)