The Union of Concerned Scientists, in a 12-page report, finds that non-food crops, farm residues and waste products could become a major source of renewable energy.
"We see major potential for clean power and fuel from these renewable resources," Jeremy Martin, report author, said in a statement. "But it is important to focus on the right kinds of resources and the scale at which they can be utilized that balances energy and environmental needs."
The report said 680 million tons of biomass could be available for energy use every year by 2030. The UCS said that could be burned to generate about 20 percent of the electricity demand in the United States.
A U.N. report last year warned that energy demand from countries with growing economies, coupled with extreme weather events like the Horn of Africa drought, is complicating food security. The increased use of biofuels could strain agriculture systems normally used for food.
UCS said its study limits the use of agricultural residues.
"The scale of the biomass resources available to us in this country shows that we can produce biofuels in a way that doesn't pit the fuel we put in our cars against the food we consume," said Martin.