Abstract for: System Dynamics of the Competition of Municipal Solid Waste to Landfill, Electricity, and Liquid Fuel in California

Increasing concern regarding the cost, security, and environmental impact of fossil fuel energy use is driving research and investment towards developing the most strategic methods of converting biomass resources into energy. Analyses to date have examined theoretical limitations of biomass-to-energy through resource availability assessments, but have not thoroughly challenged competing tradeoffs of biomass conversion into liquid fuel versus electricity. Existing studies have focused on energy crops and cellulosic residues for biomass-to-energy inputs, however the conversion of these biomass resources is often less energetically efficient compared to fossil energy sources. Waste streams are beginning to be recognized as valuable biomass to energy resources. Municipal solid waste (MSW) is a low-cost waste biomass resource with a well-defined supply infrastructure and does not compete for land area or food supply, making it a potentially attractive renewable feedstock for energy conversion. The Waste Biomass to Energy Pathway model (WBEM) described here demonstrates a system dynamics approach to analyze the impact of converting MSW biomass to either bioelectricity or liquid fuel. The WBEM incorporates macro-scale feedback from supply chain costs, energy sector impacts, and greenhouse gas (GHG) production within the competing pathways of MSW to 1) landfill, 2) electricity, and 3) liquid fuel within California.