Carbon

Congress has spoken:
Biomass is carbon neutral

In May 2017, Congress took decisive action to recognize biomass as a carbon neutral, renewable resource and an important part of the U.S. energy portfolio. Biomass energy markets strengthen the economic viability of privately owned forests.

The inclusion of this language in the 2017 omnibus appropriations bill is a recognition by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that forest bioenergy is a carbon-neutral, renewable energy source. In the provision, Congress also directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Energy to establish clear and simple policies for the utilization of forest biomass.

In 2016, the same language was passed unanimously on the Senate floor as part of the Senate energy bill.


Now federal agencies must implement the law

The carbon released from renewable biomass energy production is part of the natural forest carbon cycle, moving carbon out of the atmosphere as trees grow, returning some of the carbon to the atmosphere as they are harvested for use or die, and removing that carbon again as they are replanted or regenerate naturally to start the process over again. As long as overall forest carbon is stable or increasing, the use of biomass energy will not increase carbon in the atmosphere. Nationally, private forest owners are growing 40% more wood than they remove.

Climate science clearly and consistently documents the carbon benefits of forest biomass energy and recognizes the long-term natural carbon cycle of forests. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for example, points to sustainable forest management as playing a critical role in mitigating the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, a position strongly supported by scientists across the country.

The U.S. Forest Inventory Analysis (FIA) Program, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, provides a reliable, credible and regular assessment of U.S. forests. This established system continues to be the best way to assess the health of our forests and to measure carbon stored within them.

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one – rather than using complex modeling and assumptions to try to see into the future, federal agencies must rely on FIA and other established science to measure what is actually happening to carbon in the forest.


Why it matters for private forest owners

Current policy uncertainty is jeopardizing existing investments in renewable biomass and discouraging new investment to build or upgrade facilities and expand the market for biomass. A clear policy will help state and local governments and the marketplace achieve important renewable energy and carbon objectives.

As private forest owners continue to invest in their forests, they continue to face uncertainty about future markets for their wood. While biomass is a lower end market, it nonetheless provides critical value to forest owners. Following through to fix this mistake will resolve this uncertainty.

Research shows that strong markets for lumber and wood products, like biomass, actually increase tree populations.

According to the USDA, from 1953 to 2011, in a time of expanding population and increasing demand for homes, paper products and energy, the total volume of trees grown in the U.S. increased by 50%.

A recent analysis from Forest2Market shows that increased demand for forest products – lumber, paper, packaging, and biomass – has led to greater forest productivity and a significant increase in the amount of forest inventory storing carbon.


Read More From NAFO

Statement: Forest Owners Thank Congress, Applaud Bipartisan Support for Carbon Neutrality of Biomass

A Renewable Resource: Wood is the ultimate natural resource

Clean Air: Trees are nature’s own solution to carbon

Clean Water: Trees are nature’s water filters

What Others are Saying

Learn more about feedstocks via AF&PA.

Learn more about using harvesting residues for electricity generation via the Biomass Power Association.

See why the International Energy Agency (IEA) supports bioenergy.

See why scientists across the country emphasize science fundamentals when it comes to carbon accounting.