For the United States is to meet its Renewable Fuels Standards mandate to produce 36 billion gallons of renewable transportation fuel by 2022, it will require about 27 million acres (6.5 percent) of cropland. That’s according to a recent USDA report.
The acreage estimate assumes 15 billion gallons of fuel is produced via corn ethanol -- the maximum allowed under the standards. Last year, the United States produced 10.75 billion gallons of ethanol, and is expected to produce about 12 billion this year.
USDA’s estimate also assumes the United States would produce 13.4 billion gallons of biofuels from dedicated energy crops, including perennial grasses, energy cane and biomass sorghum. It further assumes that 0.5 billion gallons will come from oilseeds including soybeans and canola. The acreage estimate does not include the assumed 4.3 billion gallons of biofuel produced from crop residues including corn stover and straw or the 2.8 billion gallons assumed from woody biomass from logging practices.
USDA predicted that 527 new bio-refineries would need to be built to meet the 36-billion-gallon mandate for 2022. That assumes an average bio-refinery capacity of 40 million gallons annually. The total construction price tag would be $168 billion.