Wood Bioenergy in the US: Recent Analyses Provide Incomplete Story

21 06 2010

Recent analysis and reporting of wood bioenergy markets in the US fail to take into account the prohibitive economics and back-bending logistics required to successfully start, build and operate wood-using bioenergy projects.  First, the Environmental Working Group published a white paper which asserts that “generating 25 percent of U.S. electricity from renewable sources by 2025 would require the equivalent of clear-cutting between 18 million and 30 million acres of forest” (Clearcut Disaster: Carbon Loophole Threatens U.S. Forests).  Second, The New York Times published an article highlighting potential environmental impacts from and skepticism of bioenergy projects in Massachusetts (“Net Benefits of Biomass Power Under Scrutiny June 18, 2010).  While both assessments raise legitimate issues about carbon accounting and policy, neither provides the context required to truly assess the potential, likely and realistic impacts from wood bioenergy markets.

Forisk tracks and assesses all publicly-known and announced wood-using bioenergy projects in the continental US.  As of June 15, 2010, this included 351 projects with potential, incremental wood demand of 104.8 million green tons by the year 2020 (see table below).  Of this demand, our analysis indicates 58.7 million tons (56%) is viable.  The methodology used to evaluate these projects is detailed in a recent posting and white paper published by the National Alliance of Forest Owners.

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