Forest Products Society journal publishes special biofuels issue
Biofuels made from high-yield, short rotation woody crops or from forest residuals and thinnings that are currently left unused have substantial potential to reduce CO2 emissions as well as to contribute to energy independence. A series of articles published as a special issue on biofuels by the Forest Products Journal (Issue 62(4)) highlights the relative impact of 15 different uses of biofuels on reducing CO2 emissions and increasing energy independence. While the authors do not identify a universal best use of biofuels, the articles identify many opportunities to affect positive change in addressing both the climatic and economic impacts of our dependence on fossil fuels.
According to Patrice Tardif, President of the Forest Products Society, “The papers published in this issue bring together a comprehensive body of knowledge on the life cycle analysis of biofuels from woody biomass feedstocks that need to be a part of the reference library of every bioenergy researcher.”
This publication integrates findings across many previous reports generated by CORRIM (the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials, a non-profit comprised of 17 research institutions). The biofuel life cycle research now reported in the Forest Products Journal was funded with grants from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy. This research combined with the previously published research on wood product substitution provides a more complete hierarchy of the efficiency in using wood to reduce emissions from fossil fuels.
The authors draw attention to the controversial claim that leaving forest carbon in the forest is better than using the wood for biofuels or products. Although not harvesting can provide a one-time increase in forest carbon until the carrying capacity of the land is reached, there is no additional contribution of forest carbon to reducing CO2 emissions. However, managing forests for sustainably means new growth across the forest removes CO2 from the atmosphere at the same rate that the carbon in the wood is removed from the forest. While the forest carbon remains in a steady state, when the harvested wood is used to displace fossil intensive products and fuels there is a sustainable reduction in fossil CO2 in the atmosphere, year after year.
Selected manuscripts from this issue are available for free download from the Forest Products Society website.