Main content area

Maintaining environmental quality while expanding biomass production: Sub-regional U.S. policy simulations

Egbendewe-Mondzozo, Aklesso, Swinton, Scott M., Izaurralde, R. César, Manowitz, David H., Zhang, Xuesong
Energy Policy 2013 v.57 pp. 518-531
bioeconomics, bioenergy, biomass production, carbon markets, climate, crop residues, crop yield, cropping systems, economic costs, energy crops, environmental impact, environmental indicators, environmental policy, environmental quality, farmers, fertilizers, greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater, models, no-tillage, prices, soil, soil erosion, weather, United States
This paper evaluates environmental policy effects on ligno-cellulosic biomass production and environmental outcomes using an integrated bioeconomic optimization model. The environmental policy integrated climate (EPIC) model is used to simulate crop yields and environmental indicators in current and future potential bioenergy cropping systems based on weather, topographic and soil data. The crop yield and environmental outcome parameters from EPIC are combined with biomass transport costs and economic parameters in a representative farmer profit-maximizing mathematical optimization model. The model is used to predict the impact of alternative policies on biomass production and environmental outcomes. We find that without environmental policy, rising biomass prices initially trigger production of annual crop residues, resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, and nutrient losses to surface and ground water. At higher biomass prices, perennial bioenergy crops replace annual crop residues as biomass sources, resulting in lower environmental impacts. Simulations of three environmental policies namely a carbon price, a no-till area subsidy, and a fertilizer tax reveal that only the carbon price policy systematically mitigates environmental impacts. The fertilizer tax is ineffectual and too costly to farmers. The no-till subsidy is effective only at low biomass prices and is too costly to government.