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Forest Sustainability in the Development of Wood Bioenergy in the U.S.

Bioenergy

Forest-based bioenergy is the leading source of renewable energy globally and policy drivers are increasing development of our oldest source of energy--albeit harnessed within the modern energy system. Recent commitments by the European Union have led to a growing industrial wood pellet industry in the southeast U.S. and states are evaluating wood as a strategy under the US EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Still, the appropriateness of forest-bioenergy as a climate change mitigation strategy remains an intensely debated topic. Mixed into the debate over the climate change mitigation benefits of forest bioenergy is the multitude of other values that forests represent, especially the conservation of biodiversity.

The Pinchot Institute has led several projects addressing the sustainability dimensions of forest bioenergy.

Sustainability of Transatlantic Biomass Trade
Europe is expected to import up to 60 million tons of wood pellets annually in the next 20 years, most coming from the U.S. South. To address this growing trade in wood energy, over 60 experts and stakeholders representing conservation organizations, government agencies, universities, and the forest and renewable energy industries in nine different countries gathered in Savannah, Georgia, in October 2013.
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Pellet Production: Pathways to Sustainability
Producers of wood pellets in the United States will need to meet or exceed sustainability standards set by the European Union and individual European countries to protect the health of forests, while accessing expanding export markets. The growing European demand for U.S. wood biomass requires buyers to demonstrate enhanced sustainability of North America's forest resources. 
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Cut log
Wood Bioenergy: A National Dialogue
Starting with the Pocantico scoping workshop hosted by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Pinchot Institute has led a detailed examination of the opportunities and challenges of sustainable wood bioenergy, and developed a comprehensive set of technical papers addressing the intersection between renewable energy and forest management policies. In cooperation with the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, the Pinchot Institute convened a series of regional workshops to explore important differences in sustainable wood bioenergy strategies across the US and Canada. The results of this national dialogue are summarized in the 2010 report shown at the left, and available for download by clicking on the link below.
Timber Harvest
Wood Bioenergy: Biomass Harvesting Standards
Forest type, forest economics, conservation objectives, and biomass supply and availability all vary between regions and states. The Pinchot Institute is working with several state forestry agencies and the USDA Forest Service to develop biomass harvesting guidelines customized to the needs and objectives of individual states.
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