2023 Billion-Ton Report: an Assessment of U.S. Renewable Carbon Resource

Apr 2024

The 2023 Billion-Ton Report (BT23) is the 4th in a series of national biomass resource assessments supported by US DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). The report provides a detailed assessment of current and potential biomass production capacity in the United States at defined price points and under conditions that protect food production and environmental integrity. Good practices are needed to ensure biomass production has positive environmental outcomes.

Each Billion-Ton report represents an advancement in the understanding of biomass resources in terms of production capacity, spatial distribution, and economic accessibility. While the reports have consistently found that the United States could sustainably produce about 1 billion tons of biomass per year under some scenarios, that was not a goal or target; it was merely one outcome of analyses based on available data.

The following online companion materials are available:

Key outcomes of the report:

  • The United States can produce from 1.1 to 1.5 billion tons of biomass annually in a future mature market—with potential to provide renewable liquid fuels for hard-to-electrify sectors while meeting demands for food and environmental services.
  • Today, bioenergy provides about 5% of U.S. energy in the form of liquid fuels, power, and heat, with a current biomass use of 340 million tons per year. Bioenergy resources are largely concentrated in the corn belt, Southeast timberlands, and metropolitan areas: corn to ethanol: ~150 million tons per year; wood to power: ~140 million tons per year; landfill gas and other wastes: ~40 million tons per year.
  • Currently available but unused biomass can add around 350 million more tons per year, nearly doubling bioenergy resources currently used today. Underused biomass resources include unused wastes (~217 million tons potential for bioenergy), residues from logging operations (~40 million tons potential), and agricultural residues like corn stover (~175 million tons potential).
  • Under mature-market conditions, the United States has the potential to add over 400 million tons of biomass resources per year, bringing the total available biomass to more than 1 billion tons annually. The largest source of biomass in the future is purpose-grown energy crops with a potential to provide 300–600 million tons of biomass per year. These energy crops can be produced outside prime cropland while meeting projected demands for food, feed, and fiber. Integrated landscape management is a strategy to grow energy crops in areas where they provide the greatest economic and environmental advantages.
  • Beyond the terrestrial biomass estimates in BT23, the following resources could potentially expand that supply: microalgae, macroalgae and point-source waste carbon dioxide (CO2) from power plants, cement plants, and other point-source industries.
  • Overall, there is a potential to triple bioenergy production to cover ~15% of future US energy needs.

Figure: Biomass resources in the mature-market medium scenario, totaling 1.2 billion dry short tons per year