DOE evaluated a range of reasonable alternatives. Each alternative considered a range of plant characteristics and engineered modifications when analyzing the potential environmental impacts at the ecoregion level. The plant characteristics considered are, but not limited to, potential for existing compatible relatives in the region, means of pollination, level of domestication, weediness and competitiveness, toxicity, alternative commercial uses, nativity and range, persistence in the environment, agricultural planting cycles and inputs (water, fertilizers, pesticides), and fire hazard potential.

DOE is considered the following implementation alternatives:

  • Development-scale Confined Field Trials (up to 5 acres): These small-sized field trials are the first step in testing whether an engineered plant will grow under agricultural conditions.
  • Pilot-scale Confined Field Trials (up to 250 acres): Pilot-scale field trials would begin to experiment with the engineered plant in a larger sized area. Pilot-scale field trials could involve multiple growers at multiple smaller non-contiguous locations.
  • Demonstration-scale Confined Field Trials (up to 15,000 acres): Demonstration-scale field trials test whether crops are commercially viable. This is the estimated acreage of EHECs necessary to demonstrate a hypothetical, small-scale, commercial ethanol plant. These field trials could involve multiple growers at multiple smaller non-contiguous locations.
  • No Action Alternative: Under this alternative, DOE would not provide financial assistance for the development and implementation of EHEC programs. Although some private-sector field trials involving EHECs might be undertaken under permits issued by APHIS, for purposes of the no-action analysis DOE assumes that development of EHECs would occur slowly or in an uncoordinated fashion, and that wide-scale commercial deployment would not occur.