Document Type



In recent years, biofuel markets have begun a resurgence. At one time, biofuels were the only way humanity obtained useful energy, but they were almost totally displaced by fossil fuels during the last century. Now, due to a range of drivers, they have begun a small but seemingly solid comeback. This Article reviews the remaining barriers to full commercial success for biofuels in the United States with an emphasis on transportation fuels. While recent success has been impressive, markets for transportation biofuels are hardly “self-sustaining” in the purest sense of the concept. The author does not seek to disparage the opportunity for development of biofuel markets or for more significant penetration of biofuels into the overall transportation marketplace. Rather, the goal of this Article is to set the agenda for work remaining to be done. Additionally, this Article does not seek to conduct an evaluative comparison between emerging biofuel and fossil fuel markets and industries because they are so different that any such comparative rating would be both fruitless and misleading.

This Article starts by framing the elements, reminding the reader of the broad range of feedstocks, conversion technologies, fuels, and uses that make up the biofuel industry. A brief review of the drivers for biofuels follows. From there, the author describes nine distinct categories of market barriers facing biofuels. In conclusion, these barriers are mapped to a typical value-chain model to illustrate the breadth of the barriers across the potential biofuels enterprise. The Article then closes by offering a few closing ideas as food for further thought on the relationships between the key benefits of developing and using biofuels and the ultimate challenges that face market growth.