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."