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.&'
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