Roadmap offers strategy to increase forestlands' bioenergy role

By Lisa Gibson | July 20, 2011

A National Wood-To-Energy Roadmap, released recently by renewable energy organization 25x’25, makes clear the benefits and necessity of utilizing available biomass in forestlands to achieve national renewable goals, including the organization’s own goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.

The report concluded that the focused use of woody biomass could increase the nation’s forest land base, as well as improve the environmental services that land provides. The roadmap offers a series of recommendations for policy makers and stakeholders to sustainably enhance the role of U.S. forestlands in meeting energy needs, saying U.S. energy policies, such as renewable portfolio standards, and national security concerns demand sustainable creation of a path toward domestic production of energy. Those recommendations include: setting realistic renewable energy goals with properly designed and scaled mandates and incentives; treating all biomass energy facilities the same, regardless of age; increasing domestic supplies of wood; and keeping “forests as forests,” adding, “Investment in forestlands has lagged for more than a decade as traditional mar­kets have disappeared or been captured by imported wood products.”

A key recommendation of the study is to eliminate controversy that exists over the definition of “biomass” in recent policy measures. "We should, as a nation, assure ourselves that our resource use is sustainable, that we are fully accounting scientifically for the carbon footprint of wood energy, and thus allow for a simplified definition of what wood qualifies to be counted in various programs,” it states.

The study was conducted by a working group of landowners, professional forestry organizations, environmental organizations, traditional forest industries, renewable energy industries and academia. It includes a wood demand and supply analysis, as well as a carbon and climate change discussion.

“This landmark study exhaustively explores the many factors involved in biomass energy production—and concludes, as we are well aware, that biomass, when done right, is crucial to our nation’s renewable energy future,” said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. “I am not aware of any other study on biomass that includes input from such a diverse range of interests.”

Even the U.S. EPA commended the findings of the study, also commenting on the diverse group of experts. The 25x’25 partners will move forward by sharing the roadmap with policy makers and stakeholders.

"Our forests and the woody biomass they produce can be sustainable for energy and traditional forest products, as well as a myriad of other public uses and benefits," said Bill Carlson, chairman of the report’s working group. "The use of wood for energy, far from decimating our nation's public and private forestlands, should be considered an opportunity to enhance and expand both the extent and productive capacity of those forestlands."



4 Responses

  1. Joe



    Denny, amazingly, or not, some of the opposition to biomass comes from people heavily invested in fossil fuels:

  2. Robbo Holleran



    Here in the northeast, we are primarily managing native species, with processes that maintain the native species mix of the forest. Occassionally we are converting mature plantations back to native species with natural regeneration. So the plantation argument is not applicable everywhere. But biommas harvesting is a great tool for improving species composition and overall quality. Many areas (Vermont and Mass.) are far from pulp markets, so biomass is a reasonable alternative market for the low quality wood that need to be removed for proper thinning and regeneration harvests. Cuitting the best and leaving the rest is not sustainable. Biomass is.

  3. kparcell



    It's a mistake to dodge the issue of definitions of sustainable use of biomass. I am 100% behind the development of managing forest for biomass. This the future I want and that I believe the planet needs. But the fight within the biomass industry over the definition seems to be crippling progress because those who look to recycle waste with no interest in true sustainability are invested in confusing the issues, and sadly succeeding. We need a simple 1-to-1 definition that public and policy makers can embrace: for every ton of biomass used to produce energy, a ton is grown in a managed forest. We also need a 20-to-1 definition: For every ton used, 20 tons are protected in managed forests.

  4. Denny Haldeman



    One need only look at the performance of the pulp and paper industry in the past few decades to see the future of what the biomass industry will do to forests. Plantations are not forests. The P&P industry has converted 10s of millions of acres of native forest in the South to pine farms. Those pine farms are being harvested at rates far exceeding the soil's ability to recover nutrients from the biomass above. Consequently, fertilization with natural gas based chemical fertilizers has increased over 800% in the past decade. Lawsuits have been file over fertilizer drift and human health assaults. The monocultures are also subject to high risk from pestilence, disease and drought stresses. Pine farms sequester only half the soil carbon that native forests have historically done. Forest have been absorbing over 30% of our anthropogenic Co2 emissions. To burn them now, both releases the forests' carbon, but oxydizes forest soils, releasing a carbon bomb that will take decades or centuries to recover from, it at all. Those wishing to invest in these schemes need to know in advance, that opposition is growing as knowledge is growing about the detrimental effects of deforestation and the attendant air pollution problems. The American Lung Association, AMA and a number of Physician groups are opposing forest furnaces. Increasingly, these proposals will face a well organized and effective opposition, lawsuits, and be forced to retro-fit to meet clean air standards and GHG emissions standards. You are facing opposition that will stop at nothing less then shutting the biomass burner industry down for good. Just so you know before throwing money at the wrong "solutions".


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