The subject of biomass-derived fuels is attracting the interest of agribusiness, forest products businesses and investors in Oregon and Washington, particularly in light of the recent growth experienced by the biofuels industry in the Midwest. Policymakers in both Oregon and Washington are seeking to advance the development of a biofuels industry in their states, desiring benefits that include reduced consumption of fossil fuels, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and creation of new economic opportunity in rural areas. However, there is increasing recognition that these Northwestern states face a different set of opportunities and challenges than other regions, and there is a growing sense that different approaches may be required to create an environmentally and economically sustainable biofuels industry that contributes significantly to the region’s energy supply.
The purpose of this report is to assemble the information needed to estimate the significance of the opportunity for producing biofuels in the region as well as the associated challenges. The report reviews the current state of the industry, the biomass resources that are available within current production practices, and the biofuels production technology that is available within the marketplace. The report then seeks to identify the areas in which alternative approaches or strategies, or technological advances, might offer an opportunity to expand the Northwest biofuels industry beyond its current state.
The report draws heavily upon a number of other reports that have explored the regional biomass and biofuels opportunity, including excellent studies by Washington State University, Oregon State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that examined the potential biomass resource in the region. The information provided by this prior research is integrated with new data compiled or developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to provide a complete and balanced characterization of the region’s assets, opportunities and challenges. This characterization is not meant to suggest a particular answer or approach. Rather, it is intended to provide a body of knowledge from which the business community, policymakers and research institutions can base their respective efforts to foster an economically and environmentally sustainable biofuels industry that serves the needs and interests of Oregon and Washington.
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