Ethanol from lignocellulosics, U.S. federal energy and agricultural policy, and the diffusion of innovation

Document Type


Publication Date



Lignocellulosic ethanol is a low carbon fuel source with the potential to assist in climate change mitigation. However, as a new technology in the process of moving toward commercial development, it is important to understand obstacles to its development. We focused on the role that policy may be playing in fostering or impeding its development in the U.S. One of the major ways of understanding technological development is the theory of the diffusion of innovation. This theory identifies factors that can impede and facilitate this diffusion. We assessed the degree to which three of the main U.S. federal energy policies aim at addressing three key aspects of innovation diffusion: time; risk; and communication. We determine that these policies focus more on the producer stage of the lignocellulosic ethanol lifecycle than the landowner or consumer stages. In addition, they contain many provisions aimed at overcoming risk- and communication-related impediments to adoption, but fewer aimed at speeding up the process. Finally, they contain at least one provision likely to be a serious impediment to adoption. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Publication Title

Biomass and Bioenergy