Described is a method to make liquid chemicals. The method includes deconstructing cellulose to yield a product mixture comprising levulinic acid and formic acid, converting the levulinic acid to .gamma.-valerolactone, and converting the .gamma.-valerolactone to pentanoic acid. Alternatively, the .gamma.-valerolactone can be converted to a mixture of n-butenes. The pentanoic acid can be decarboxylated yield 1-butene or ketonized to yield 5-nonanone. The 5-nonanone can be hydrodeoxygenated to yield nonane, or 5-nonanone can be reduced to yield 5-nonanol. The 5-nonanol can be dehydrated to yield nonene, which can be dimerized to yield a mixture of C.sub.9 and C.sub.18 olefins, which can be hydrogenated to yield a mixture of alkanes.