Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Community Development and Applied Economics
Concerns about Vermont‘s dairy farm viability, greenhouse gas emissions, and reliance on fossil fuels have prompted growing interest in the production of biodiesel and oilseed meal from Vermont-grown oilseed crops. The idea is that Vermont farmers could grow and harvest oilseed crops; the seed or beans could be pressed into vegetable oil and oilseed meal; and the oil could be processed into biodiesel, thereby producing both liquid biofuel and protein meal for livestock from Vermont crops. Results from this study indicate that oil, meal, and biodiesel production from sunflowers grown in Vermont is technically feasible, and may be economically feasible at both the farm and commercial scales, depending on scale and market conditions. Farmers, entrepreneurs, and policymakers are intrigued by the potential to decrease Vermont‘s dependency on imported fuels and feed, reduce farms‘ production costs, realize local economic benefits from import substitution, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the promise of ―Vermont-made‖ biodiesel and oilseed meal, however, it remains largely an unproven concept. Production of oilseed crops is relatively rare in Vermont, especially in quantities sufficient for biodiesel or livestock meal production. The equipment, capital, acreage, and expertise needed to successfully grow, harvest, and process these crops have not been identified, and the economic feasibility, optimal scale, and environmental and macroeconomic impacts of these new enterprises in Vermont is unknown. This study investigates the technical and economic feasibility of producing biodiesel and livestock feed from Vermont oilseeds at a farm scale and a commercial scale. Technical feasibility at the farm scale is assessed using data from two Vermont farms. Enterprise budgets are used to assess the economic feasibility and profitability of the crop, oil and meal, and biodiesel enterprises individually and as a whole under two sets of market conditions. Economic feasibility and environmental and economic impacts of a commercial-scale biodiesel facility in Vermont are assessed using a simulation model. None of the farm-scale enterprises were profitable as budgeted in this analysis, although the commercial-scale plant was more profitable as crude oil prices rose. The most promising enterprise at the farm scale appears to be oil and meal production. This study prompts additional questions regarding the extent to which Vermont crop production should shift to include oilseeds for biodiesel production, the net energy return to the farm, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from on-farm production.
Stebbins, Emily, "Technical and Economic Feasibility of Biodiesel Production in Vermont: Evidence from a Farm-Scale Study and a Commercial-Scale Simulation Analysis" (2009). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 221.