Industrial Wood Pellet Industry is Sustainable and Carbon Neutral
Wood resources for bioenergy, specifically industrial wood pellets, are carbon neutral. When used for energy, the release of carbon into the atmosphere never exceeds the amount of carbon that was absorbed during the life of the tree. In fact, trees in their growth phase absorb carbon at a faster rate than older, mature trees and this is particularly true for forests in the Southeastern U.S., where the climate is warm and conducive to faster growth. The U.S. Southeast is actually home to some of the most robust forests in the world, where many species naturally propagate multiple tree saplings for every one tree harvested, which means more carbon sequestration overall.
Well-managed forests that provide raw materials for the industrial pellet industry and other forest products continue to have positive growth-to-drain ratios (greater than one) where forest growth exceeds harvests and carbon absorption rates increase year after year. The practice of sustainable rotational harvesting means that there will be a continuous cycle of new growth in the forest.Moreover, trees in their growth phase absorb carbon at a faster rate than older, mature trees. Accordingly, the practice of sustainable rotational harvesting means that there will be a continuous cycle of new growth of the forest.
Managed forests have trees of various ages and species, sequester more carbon than older growth stands, and continually accumulate carbon and maintain stable carbon stocks. Indeed, the regular removal of woody biomass maintains and improves a forest’s health. It improves wildlife habitat and biodiversity; it gives forest stands the light needed to not only survive, but thrive.
The majority of forestland in the Southeast U.S. is owned by small forest owners, who have owned their land for generations and live on the revenue it generates. Strong timber markets ensure that these land owners will maintain their forests as forests and not sell or convert. If forest landowners see new markets (e.g. bioenergy from industrial wood pellets) for the trees they are growing, they will respond by growing more.
Finally, the wood pellet industry is one of the few growing industries in today’s challenged economy. It provides direct manufacturing jobs and indirect supply chain jobs in rural areas, an economic channel for forest/land owners, and wood pellet export is helping to rebalance the U.S. trade deficit. The industry model is founded on sound, sustainable forestry practices, without which the industry could not and would not succeed or survive.
Author: M. Seth Ginther
U.S. Industrial Pellet Association