Sustainable transportation biofuels may require considerable changes in land use to meet mandated targets. Understanding the possible impact of different policies on land use and greenhouse gas emissions has typically proceeded by exploring either ecosystem or economic modelling. Here we integrate such models to assess the potential for the US Renewable Fuel Standard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector through the use of cellulosic biofuels. We find that 2022 US emissions are decreased by 7.0 ± 2.5% largely through gasoline displacement and soil carbon storage by perennial grasses. If the Renewable Fuel Standard is accompanied by a cellulosic biofuel tax credit, these emissions could be reduced by 12.3 ± 3.4%. Our integrated approach indicates that transitioning to cellulosic biofuels can meet a 32-billion-gallon Renewable Fuel Standard target with negligible effects on food crop production, while reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. However, emissions savings are lower than previous estimates that did not account for economic constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15005
JournalNature Energy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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