Study confirms biogenic emissions result in no net carbon release
A new study with multiple co-authors, including researchers from the U.S. Forest Service, found that energy produced from forest biomass merely returns recently absorbed carbon to the atmosphere, and essentially results in no net release of carbon, provided overall forest inventories are stable or increasing.
The report, “Managing Forests Because Carbon Matters: Integrating Energy, Products, and Land Management Policy,” summarizes the most recent science regarding forests and carbon accounting, biomass use and forest carbon offsets. The authors, researchers from the U.S. Forest Service as well as several universities, natural resource and environmental organizations, hope their findings will lead to better policies, based on their findings.
"This work should help policymakers reconsider the critical impact forests have on our daily lives and the potential they have to solve problems that confront our nation," said Bob Malmsheimer, lead author of the report and a professor at State University of New York (Syracuse) College of Environmental Science and Forestry. "We believe our science-based findings should lead toward positive reforms that encourage investment in this vital renewable resource."
Those findings also include: sustainably managed forests can provide carbon storage and substitution advantages while delivering a wide range of environmental and social benefits that include biomass resources and jobs; forest products used in place of energy-intensive materials such as concrete, metals and plastics reduce carbon emissions and provide biomass residuals that can be substituted for fossil fuels to produce energy; and forest biomass-based energy uses far less of the carbon stored in the Earth than fossil fuels do, thereby reducing the flow of fossil-fuel based carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
"Perhaps this report will inspire fresh efforts to find management strategies that folks can agree on," said Jeremy Fried, co-author and Forest Service scientist. "The forest inventory and analysis data collected by the Forest Service on all forested lands in the U.S. provided the data necessary to explore how forests can be managed to provide climate benefits. Full life-cycle analyses of U.S. forests show that the best opportunity for these forests to provide even more climate benefits requires a combination of factors. Those factors are: sustainably managed forests, a healthy market for long-lived forest products, and renewable energy generated from forest and mill residues."