Using a series of public meetings to gather information and work sessions in which that information is analyzed, the committee will develop a consensus report that includes the following components:
- A quantitative and qualitative description of biofuels currently produced and projected to be produced and consumed by 2022 in the United States under different policy scenarios, including scenarios with and without current Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and biofuel tax and tariff policies, and considering a range of future fossil energy and biofuel prices, the impact of a carbon price, and advances in technology. The analysis will include a review of estimates of potential biofuel production levels using RFS-compliant feedstocks from U.S. forests and farmland, including the per-unit cost of that production. The study will assess the effects of current and projected levels of biofuel production, and the incremental impact of additional production, on the number of U.S. acres used for crops, forestry, and other uses, and the associated changes in the price of rural and suburban land.
- A review of model results and other estimates of the relative effects of the RFS, biofuel tax and tariff policy, production costs, and other factors, alone and in combination, on biofuel and petroleum refining capacity, and on the types, amounts and prices of biofuel feedstocks, biofuels, and petroleum-based fuels (including finished motor fuels) produced and consumed in the United States.
- An analysis of the effects of current and projected levels of biofuel production, and the incremental impact of additional production, on U.S. exports and imports of grain crops, forest products and fossil fuels, and on the price of domestic animal feedstocks, forest products, and food grains.
- An analysis of the effect of projected biofuel production on federal revenue and spending, through costs or savings to commodity crop payments, biofuel subsidies, and tariff revenue.
- An analysis of the pros and cons of achieving legislated RFS levels, including the impacts of potential shortfalls in feedstock production on the prices of animal feed, food grains, and forest products, and including an examination of the impact of the cellulosic biofuel tax credit established by Sec. 15321 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 on the regional agricultural and silvicultural capabilities of commercially available forest inventories. This analysis will explore policy options to maintain regional agricultural and silvicultural capacity in the long term, given RFS requirements for annual increases in the volume of renewable fuels, and include recommendations for the means by which the federal government could prevent or minimize adverse impacts of the RFS on the price and availability of animal feedstocks, food and forest products, including options available under current law.
- An analysis of barriers to achieving the RFS requirements.
- An analysis of the impact of current and projected future levels of biofuel production and use, and the incremental impact of additional production, on the environment. The analysis will consider impacts due to changes in land use, fertilizer use, runoff, water use and quality, greenhouse-gas and local pollutant emissions from vehicles utilizing biofuels, use of forestland biomass, and other factors relevant to the full lifecycle of biofuel production and use. The analysis will summarize and evaluate various estimates of the indirect effects of biofuel production on changes in land use and the environmental implications of those effects.
- A comparison of corn ethanol versus other biofuels and renewable energy sources for the transportation sector based on life-cycle analyses, considering cost, energy output, and environmental impacts, including greenhouse-gas emissions.
- Recommendations for additional scientific inquiry related to the items above, and specific areas of interest for future research.
As part of its deliberations, the committee will consider the relevant reports of past NRC committees, the work of relevant current committees, and reports of other organizations, and individual researchers. In addition, the committee will consider the relevant experience and reports of various federal government agencies.
To inform its analysis, the study committee will seek the input of feed grain producers; food animal producers; producers of other food products; energy producers (renewable and petroleum-based fuel producers, fuel blenders); forest owners and forest products manufacturers and users; individuals and entities interested in nutrition, or in the relationship of the environment to energy production; producers and users of renewable fuel feedstocks; users of renewable fuels; and experts in agricultural economics from land grant universities.