Jobs, jobs, jobs – from community fuels

January 30, 2012 |

2.4 million man-years of employment – from replacing 10 percent of gasoline consumption with ethanol made from agricultural waste?

That’s the tale of the tape from the  “Moving Towards a Next-generation Ethanol Economy” report.

In New York, the expected release dates for the Obama Administration’s Bioeconomy Blueprint came and went, leaving Novozymes and Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s “Moving Towards a Next-generation Ethanol Economy” report, released this month, as the most intriguing assessment of the job-creating potential of an expanded bioeconomy. In this case of this report, BNEF focused on the potential for ethanol production from agricultural residue.

Novozymes, for its part, created some snappy info graphics to illustrate the findings.

The headline statistic? Based on a scenario in which advanced biofuels, in the form of next-gen ethanol, replaced 10 percent of global gasoline consumption by 2030, Bloomberg New Energy Finance is projecting in its report that 2.4 million man-years of employment would be created, including 684,800 man-years of employment in construction, 251,700 in plant operations, 147,100 in transportation, and 141,600 in biomass collection – not to mention 18,000 man-years for engineers in plant operations and 36,000 man-years for engineers in the plant construction process.

$1 trillion at stake?

Overall, there is $1 trillion in revenue potential between now and 2030.

Of the two scenarios presented in the report, this is the conservative one.In the more aggressive scenario, the report looks at the impact, should 17.5 percent of all agricultural residue be utilized in bioenergy – primarily maize stover, wheat star and sugarcane residues (tops and leaves), and 30 percent of sugarcane bagasse. Under this scenario, 8.15 million man-years of employment would result, and $4.1 trillion in revenue.

Added local impact through community finance

The Digest adds that the impact of such a conversion – which generally would replace imported fuels with local production (imported from other parts of the country, or from international sources) – will be felt far more in the balance of payments and local investment, than solely in direct job creation.

Money deposited in local banks, from fuel sales that would have otherwise been sourced from outside of the community, results in local lending. Bankers lend, generally, to the businesses and people around them.

The impact? The Opportunity Finance Network tells us that that one job is created for every $21,000 in community lending. So, how many jobs does $1 trillion bring? 47.6 million, by the math.

Which raises the question, how many jobs can achieving energy independence bring to a community of, say, 10,000 people? The community would use around 4.7 million gallons of fuel, costing the community around $13 million per year. Moving that production into the community would create 680 jobs through community lending, absorbing around 10 percent of the employment base.

That’s above the average rate of unemployment around the US – and excludes the direct job impact of construction and operation jobs.

An executive summary of the “Moving Towards a Next-generation Ethanol Economy” report is available here.

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