Forbes names top five biomass-producing states

By Suzanne H. Schmidt
Forbes magazine has named North Dakota, Iowa, Mississippi, Georgia and North Carolina as the top five U.S. states for producing biomass feedstocks.

According to the Forbes article, biomass feedstocks include agricultural and forest residues, including yard and wood waste. These feedstocks can be converted into liquid fuels or combusted to produce energy.

Iowa was noted for its proximity to the Corn Belt and therefore its large production of agricultural waste. North Dakota made the list based on its potential for growing unconventional feedstocks, such as switchgrass, hybrid poplar and willow. Georgia and Mississippi both have potential in forestry waste. North Carolina was added to the Forbes list because of its expansive swine population. Swine manure is methane-rich and thus has potential for energy production.

When asked about the Forbes article, John Ferrell, manager of the biomass feedstock platform at the U.S. DOE, said there are many ways to determine feedstock potential, which he has been doing for the DOE. He said ag and forestry waste are the two main feedstocks produced by many U.S. states, so it's difficult to say certain states produce more biomass than others, especially when there is such a variety of feedstocks. Not only is the DOE looking at what kinds of biomass each state has, but also where supply can be expanded. "It's a dynamic thing," he said. "You're looking at the present, and you're looking at the future."

In fact, Ferrell said that more than five states show biomass potential. Biomass can come in many different forms, including municipal solid waste. Because of the variety of biomass feedstocks "from one kind of resource to another, really all states have some levels of biomass," he said.