Date of Award

5-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Agricultural Economics

Major Professor

Kimberly L. Jensen

Committee Members

Burton C. English, Daniel G. de la Torre Ugarte

Abstract

The increased need for and scarcity of hydrocarbon energy pushes the search and extraction of reserves toward more technically difficult deposits and less efficient forms of hydrocarbon energy. The increased use of hydrocarbons also predicates the increased emission of detrimental chemicals in our surrounding environment. For these reasons, there is a need to find feasible sources of renewable energy that could prove to be more environmentally friendly.

One possible source that meets these criteria is biomass, which in the United States is the largest source of renewable energy as it accounts for over 3 percent of the energy consumed domestically and is currently the only source for liquid renewable transportation fuels. Continued development of biomass as a renewable energy source is being driven in large part by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that mandates that by 2022 at least 36 billion gallons of fuel ethanol be produced, with at least 16 billion gallons being derived from cellulose, hemi-cellulose, or lignin. However, the production of biomass has drawbacks. The market for cellulosic bio-fuel feedstock is still under development, and being an innovative technique, there is a lack of production knowledge on the side of the producer.

Some studies have been conducted that determine farmers’ willingness to produce switchgrass, however, they have been limited in geographic scope and additional research is warranted considering a broader area. Also, there have been production decision tools aimed at bio-mass, but these have either not been aimed at switchgrass specifically or have been missing key costs such as those incurred in storage. The overall objectives of this study are: 1.) to analyze the willingness of producers in the southeastern United States to plant switchgrass as a biofuel feedstock, 2.) to estimate the area of switchgrass they would be willing to plant at different switchgrass prices, 3.) to evaluate the factors that influence a producer’s decision to convert acreage to switchgrass, and 4.) to present a spreadsheet-based decision tool for potential switchgrass producers.

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