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An Agent-Based Modeling Approach for Determining Corn Stover Removal Rate and Transboundary Effects

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Bioenergy production involves different agents with potentially different objectives, and an agent’s decision often has transboundary impacts on other agents along the bioenergy value chain. Understanding and estimating the transboundary impacts is essential to portraying the interactions among the different agents and in the search for the optimal configuration of the bioenergy value chain. We develop an agent-based model to mimic the decision making by feedstock producers and feedstock-to-biofuel conversion plant operators and propose multipliers (i.e., ratios of economic values accruing to different segments and associated agents in the value chain) for assessing the transboundary impacts. Our approach is generic and thus applicable to a variety of bioenergy production systems at different sites and geographic scales. We apply it to the case of producing ethanol using corn stover in Iowa, USA. The results from the case study indicate that stover removal rate is site specific and varies considerably with soil type, as well as other factors, such as stover price and harvesting cost. In addition, ethanol production using corn stover in the study region would have strong positive ripple effects, with the values of multipliers varying with greenhouse gas price and national energy security premium. The relatively high multiplier values suggest that a large portion of the value associated with corn stover ethanol production would accrue to the downstream end of the value chain instead of stover producers.

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This study was financially supported in part by IEA Bioenergy Task 43, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Energy, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, and the University of Toronto.

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Correspondence to Jianbang Gan.

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Gan, J., Langeveld, J.W.A. & Smith, C.T. An Agent-Based Modeling Approach for Determining Corn Stover Removal Rate and Transboundary Effects. Environmental Management 53, 333–342 (2014).

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