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The Future of Wood Bioenergy

Pinchot focus areas:

Climate & Energy
The US South Regional Meeting Summary
2009 Regional Meeting: The US South
Held at the North Carolina State University Arboretum in Raleigh, North Carolina from August 26-27, the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and the Heinz Center convened a regional workshop to identify common goals and objectives for environmentally sustainable development of a wood biofuels/bioenergy industry in the US South. This meeting comes at a time when our nation is beginning a very significant shift in how we generate and use energy, potentially accompanied by a very significant shift in how we manage and use our forest resources. A lower-carbon energy future is an imperative, given the realities of climate change. It also has the potential for significant economic benefits, with more energy dollars used locally on a variety of renewables, including bioenergy. At the same time, generation of significant amounts of energy will require large amounts of biomass, and significant capital investment in plant and equipment with very long operating lives.  Legitimate concerns have been voiced about the effects of this transition on the environment, other industries, and communities.

This presents a crucial challenge – how to move quickly and effectively to secure the advantages of renewable energy use, while simultaneously foreseeing (and if possible avoiding) potentially negative consequences. As conveners of this meeting, and of the larger dialogue process of which it is a part, the Pinchot Institute and the Heinz Center approached this question from a neutral standpoint, and managed discussions at the meeting to provide a fair hearing for all points  made by numerous forestry and energy experts and stakeholders.

Panel and Presentations

Introduction. Ensuring Sustainability in the Development of Wood-based Bioenergy in the US South, V. Alaric Sample, Pinchot Institute for Conservation, and Robin O’Malley, H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment [Download .pdf]

Panel 1: Providing reliable estimates of sustainable biomass supply. What are the recent developments in methodologies for producing consistent, reliable estimates of how much woody biomass can be sustainable supplied (nationally, regionally, locally) as a basis for siting new or expanded bioenergy/biofuels capacity?  What longer-term opportunities are there to increase inventory and net growth over current levels?


Panel 2: Facilitating effective utilization of biomass supply information.  How can information best be presented to facilitate its incorporation into decisions by local governments and industry?  When and in what form is the information needed?  What do energy industry and government planners need to know to be informed users of forestry information?

  • Ron Barmore, Range Fuels
  • Marvin Burchfield, Decker Energy International [Download .pdf]
  • Matt Langholtz, Bio-Resource Management Inc. [Download .pdf]
  • Sonya Negley, Florida's Great Northwest [Download .pdf]
  • Bill Early, Hertford County North Carolina Economic Development Department [Download .pdf]

Panel 3: Options for build-out of a sustainable wood bioenergy/biofuels industry in the South.  What is the range of near-term options for developing the wood bioenergy/biofuels industry, and what factors determine the choice of type of facility?  What factors should be considered in matching the choice of facility to local circumstances, in terms of community economic development goals and sustainable management of forest resources?  How can a regional bioenergy strategy maximize the contribution of woody biomass to achieving renewable energy goals, while minimizing the additional demands on forest resources?


Panel 4.  Forest management and biomass harvesting guidelines.  How is forest management expected to evolve to accommodate long-term increased use of wood for energy?  Are biomass harvesting and/or procurement guidelines needed, and if so how should they be developed?  What is the potential role for certification and other nongovernmental sustainability programs?

  • Burl Carraway, Southern Group of State Foresters/Texas Forest Service [Download .pdf]
  • Mike Harris, Georgia Department of Natural Resources [Download .pdf]
  • Ben Larson, Union of Concerned Scientists [Download .pdf]
  • Eric Vance, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement [Download .pdf]

Next steps.  The development of a regional wood bioenergy strategy is an ongoing process in the South, involving a broad diversity of stakeholders.  How can the information developed in this workshop best contribute to this regional dialogue, particularly in terms of ensuring the long-term sustainability of wood bioenergy facilities as they are developed in the South?  What is needed to ensure that emerging national policies on renewable energy are flexible enough to support state-level policies and programs that are best suited to the unique circumstances in the South?

Additional Documents:
  • Ensuring Forest Sustainability in the Development of Wood Biofuels and Bioenergy: Regional Strategy for the US South Agenda [Download .pdf]
  • Participant List [Download .pdf]
  • More Energy from Wood: What are the Prospects?, Abigail R. Kimbell, Thomas Maness, and Hutch Brown [Download .pdf]
  • Forest-based biomass supply curves for the U.S., (DRAFT) [Download .pdf]
  • The South's Outlook for Sustainable Forest Bioenergy and Biofuels Production [Download .pdf]
  • State Woody Biomass Utilization Policies in the Southern States [Download .pdf]

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