National Academy of Sciences Report: America's Energy Future: Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass

Michael Ramage, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company (retired);
James Sweeney, Stanford University

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:30 PM | McCaw Hall, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center | Free and Open to All

National Academy of Sciences Report: America's Energy Future: Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass

The volatility of oil prices, the large proportion of oil importation, and the massive contribution of greenhouse gases from the transportation sector motivates the United States to seek domestic sources of alternative transportation fuels with lower greenhouse emissions. The abundance of coal and biomass in the United States makes them attractive candidates to provide alternatives to petroleum-based liquid fuels. However, there are important questions about the economic viability, carbon impact, and technology status of these options.

The National Research Council report Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass: Technological Status, Costs, and Environmental Impacts provides a snapshot of the potential costs of liquid fuels from biomass by biochemical conversion and from biomass and coal by thermochemical conversion. The report concluded that alternative liquid transportation fuels from coal and biomass have the potential to play an important role in helping the United States address issues of energy security, supply diversification, and greenhouse-gas impacts. The various options have different greenhouse gas impacts, and the choices will most likely depend on U.S. carbon policy. Cellulosic ethanol, coal-to-liquid fuels, and coal and biomass to liquid fuels can be available commercially in the 2020 time frame if large-scale demonstrations of the conversion technologies are pursued aggressively in the next few years.


Michael Ramage, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company (retired)

James Sweeny, Stanford University


Michael P. Ramage is retired Executive Vice President, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. Previously he was Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, and Director of Mobil Oil Corporation. Dr. Ramage held a number of positions at Mobil including Research Associate, Manager of Process Research and Development, General Manager of Exploration and Producing Research and Technical Service, Vice President of Engineering, and President of Mobil Technology Company. He has broad experience in many aspects of the petroleum and chemical industries. Dr. Ramage has served on a number of university visiting committees and was a member of the Government University Industrial Research Roundtable. He was a Director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He is a member of several professional organizations, and the Energy Advisory Board of Purdue University. Dr. Ramage chaired the National Research Council reports “The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs” and “Resource Requirements for a Hydrogen Economy”. Dr. Ramage is a member of Secretary of Energy Chu’s Hydrogen Technical Advisory Council. He is currently chairing the NRC committee on “Alternative Liquid Transportation Fuels”. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and has served on the NAE BOD. Dr. Ramage has B.S., M.S., Ph.D., and HDR degrees in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University.

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