Woody Biomass: Scale and Sustainability

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 15 May 2008 14:00:00 GMT

Woody biomass refers to wood, branches, and other organic matter from trees and shrubs that can be used as a renewable substitute for fossil fuels in the production of both energy and products. Woody biomass can be an important component in a national renewable electricity standard (RES), a renewable energy feed-in tariff or any other efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to learn about the direct linkage between scale and sustainability inherent in the biomass technologies. A good understanding of this relationship is essential for the development of biomass applications that are economically and environmentally sustainable. Compared to fossil fuel deposits, forests are incredibly dynamic systems. They develop within relatively short time periods (tens to thousands of years) and are subject to sudden and unpredictable disturbances from fires, windstorms, and pest infestations. Forests are also complex systems, created and maintained in a state of flux by the innumerable interactions of biota, soils, topography, hydrology, climate, and human communities; but when forest ecosystems are perceived as static pools of market commodities, the door is opened to unsustainable exploitation. Excessive harvesting and bad management practices result in reduced ecosystem services, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and other environmental impacts. They also result in the “boom-and-bust” cycles that have traditionally characterized many timber markets, leading to economic stagnation and reduced quality-of-life in many rural, forest-dependent communities.

Sustainable, appropriately-scaled biomass applications, on the other hand, can reverse this trend, providing forest communities with stable jobs, a local source of renewable energy, and full participation in the stewardship of diverse forest ecosystems. There is a wide array of biomass technologies available across a large range of scales, including thermal applications (wood pellets, “combined heat and power” or CHP), electric generation (steam boilers, gasification, co-firing), liquid transportation fuels (cellulosic ethanol, methanol, renewable diesel), and biobased co-products. Determining what is appropriate in a given location is not a small task. It requires a comprehensive evaluation of many resources in addition to the forest itself, such as infrastructure, available labor, and market demand for energy and products. In addition to these quantifiable resources, local culture and public values will also help determine what is appropriate, as well as the management constraints necessary to ensure biodiverse landscapes, ecological functioning, clean water, recreational opportunities, and the other values and environmental services that society demands. These are the topics that will be addressed at the briefing.

Speakers for this event include:

  • Mark Spurr, Legislative Director, International District Energy Association
  • Charlie Niebling, Director of Public Affairs, New England Wood Pellet LLC
  • Christopher Recchia, Executive Director, Biomass Energy Resource Center
  • Lowell Rasmussen, Master of Planning, University of Minnesota Morris
  • Marvin Burchfield, Vice President, Decker Energy International, Inc.

This briefing is open to the public and no reservations are required. Please feel free to forward this notice. For more information, contact Jetta Wong at 202-662-1885 (jwong@eesi.org) or Jesse Caputo at 202-662-1882 (jcaputo@eesi.org)

The Effects of Climate Change on Forest Resources

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 11 Feb 2008 19:00:00 GMT

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to learn about the likely effects that global climate change will have on the structure, function, and ecological dynamics of forest ecosystems in the United States. As Congress discusses climate change policies and legislation, it is important to develop a better understanding of these impacts.

  • Dr. Anthony C. Janetos, Director, The Joint Global Change Research Institute
  • Dr. Allen M. Solomon, National Program Leader for Global Change Research, U.S. Forest Service
  • Dr. Anthony L. Westerling, Assistant Professor, Sierra Nevada Research Institute, UC Merced

Changes in average annual temperature, precipitation, length and timing of the growing seasons, and other climate-related factors can result in a number of both short- and long-term changes to forests, including altered growth rates, changes in stand structure and dynamics, and shifts in geographic distribution of both individual tree species and forest types. In addition to these direct effects, climate change has the potential to indirectly change the structure and dynamics of the entire forest ecosystem by affecting insect infestations, wildfire patterns, and other key processes and components of forested landscapes. In 2005, mortality due to mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) alone affected over 3 million acres, and this number is rapidly increasing over a significant portion of the intermountain West. Recent studies have tied both increases in catastrophic wildfires and the rapid expansion of bark beetle infestations to climate change. These changes will have dramatic and far-reaching effects on biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, water management, and recreation and tourism, as well as the multi-billion dollar forest products industry in the United States.

This briefing is part of an EESI initiative focusing on sustainable forest bioenergy. To adequately assess the role that forests can play in addressing climate change, it is critical that we first have a firm understanding of the effects that climate change will have on forests. Biomass assessments and carbon sequestration formulae that pre-suppose static forest dynamics and processes will inevitably result in unreliable conclusions. As one of the key elements of the global carbon cycle, it is essential that the dynamic interaction between forests and climate must be taken into account when discussing bioenergy, carbon sequestration, afforestation or other forest-based solutions to climate change.

This briefing is open to the public and no reservations are required. For more information, contact Jetta Wong at 202-662-1885 (jwong@eesi.org) or Jesse Caputo at 202-662-1882 (jcaputo@eesi.org)

Opportunities for Bioenergy Production in Every State

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 31 Oct 2007 18:30:00 GMT

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to learn about the extensive biomass resources that are available in every state and region of the country to be tapped for sustainable production of electric power and heat. In 2005, bioenergy was the largest component of renewable electricity production in the nation, comprising 56 percent of all renewable electricity and 1.3 percent of total electricity. This percentage can be increased significantly since each state has important biomass resources that can be utilized sustainably to produce clean, renewable, domestic energy right now. Despite the skepticism of its opponents, bioenergy has the potential to sustainably reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost rural economies, provide jobs, revitalize rural communities, support farming, and implement sustainable forest stewardship.

Speakers for this event include:
  • Larry Biles, Executive Director, Southern Forest Research Partnership
  • Robert H. Davis, President, Forest Energy Corporation/Member, Future Forest, LLC.
  • Dr. David Bransby, Professor of Energy Crops and Bioenergy, Auburn University
  • Robert E. Cleaves, President, Cleaves and Company/Member, USA Biomass Power Producers Alliance

Assessments have determined that it would be possible to sustainably harvest at least 350 million dry tons of forest biomass, logging debris, and secondary wood residues per year. Additionally, as much as 1 billion dry tons of biomass from agricultural resources, including crop residues, dedicated energy crops, and animal manure could be made available for energy production. Although these resources vary from state to state, no state or region is without a sustainable biomass resource. Energy can be produced from, among other things, the thinnings and low-quality trees harvested as part of fuel reduction and wildfire treatments in the extensive western region, dedicated crops and agricultural residues from the enormous farmland base of the central states, and logging residues and wood waste from the managed forests and forest products industries of the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest. Other sources of useable biomass include clean urban wood waste, livestock manure, food industry residues, and, in some cases, municipal waste. In addition to heat and power, estimates indicate that up to 30 percent of liquid transportation fuels can be produced from the biomass resource.

This briefing will address a number of regionally appropriate technologies and feedstocks, as well as economic considerations. Topics considered will be heat and electric power production, the biorefinery model for production of cellulosic biofuels, integrated production, biomass co-firing, wood pellet technologies, high-efficiency combustion, supply-chains, infrastructure, biomass assessment, and the creation of jobs through emerging industries.

This briefing is open to the public and no reservations are required. For more information, contact Jetta Wong at 202-662-1885 (jwong@eesi.org) or Jesse Caputo at 202-662-1882 (jcaputo@eesi.org)