Our forests are the most renewable and sustainable resource we have. And the products derived from them are made from some of the most recyclable and reusable materials on the planet.
We are a consortium of organizations whose members represent every facet of the forest products industry: from owners of forests both large and small, to wood suppliers, to major manufacturers of wood, pulp, and paper goods you use every day. We are the trees that line a country road, the touch of a good book, the anticipation of opening a package, the warmth of the walls of your home, and the satisfying crack of a baseball bat. Together, we support millions of American jobs and billions in economic benefit.
Because we work with such a vital and life-sustaining resource, we have a special responsibility to be good forest stewards, and we take it seriously. That’s why we lead the world in the innovative use of biomass, both to manufacture products and as a source of bioenergy. Today biomass provides as much as two-thirds of all the energy that powers forest products facilities.
The best part? Because we’re tapping into the greenhouse gas-capturing power of the full carbon cycle, the process is carbon-neutral. That means that biomass energy doesn’t add new CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. When it’s done sustainably – the way we are doing it today – as much or more carbon is stored by the trees we’re growing as is released by the energy we’re producing.
The carbon neutrality of biomass harvested from sustainably-managed forests has been recognized repeatedly by an abundance of studies, agencies, institutions, legislation, and rules around the world. But it would be easy to miss this story from reading news coverage of the issue. Working in concert with a handful of activist groups with their own agendas, even leading news outlets often get the science and the policy behind biomass wrong. To read some of the press—informed by one-sided sourcing, cherry-picked statistics, and wild-eyed, far-fetched assumptions—you’d think that the future of biomass energy is a bleak and treeless world from a science fiction novel. But the truth is that the people using carbon-neutral biomass energy are America’s greatest forest stewards, who together are growing twice as much wood as they are harvesting, according to the US Forestry Service. Here in the real world, America’s forests are constantly growing, in large part thanks to the hard work of our community.
We’ve started Biomass101 because we can’t sit idly by and watch the debate distorted by activists who, while they may have good intentions, are misguided and misinformed. That’s a part of responsible stewardship too—making sure people know the truth about the hands-on work we are doing each day. So we intend to monitor the coverage closely, and hold the press accountable when they get it wrong. As the leading coalition of people who care for and depend upon our forests, we offer a unique, first-hand perspective on these issues. And so we have a responsibility to add our voice to this conversation. Balanced coverage ought to mean scrutiny on the assumptions and motives of biomass critics, too. If they are pushing unrealistic, impractical, and harmful policies, then the press ought to be pointing that out.
The public deserves a fair, objective, and balanced conversation on carbon neutral biomass, one based on sound science, smart public policy, and common sense. Here are some of the core principles we intend to make sure are part of that conversation:
· The benefits of biomass are best understood by looking at the full carbon cycle. That’s because carbon flows in and out of forests in a continuous cycle of release and sequestration. Carbon is held in trees or wood products and then gets released by combustion or by biodegrading, whether or not it is actually used to produce energy.
· The carbon benefits of biomass are well established and accepted in science.
· Biomass energy should be considered carbon neutral as long as forest carbon stocks are stable or rising.
· Forest carbon stocks should be measured on a broad geographic scale using a historical baseline over an appropriate period of time.
· Markets for biomass and other forest products stimulate forestland ownership, enabling landowners to maintain healthy forests that capture carbon.
· Renewable bioenergy from forests is part of the U.S. and global energy solution.
Educated guesses and willfully blinkered arguments that ignore the full carbon cycle do a disservice to a critical public discourse. Let’s have an honest discussion about carbon-neutral biomass, a dialogue that features openness, integrity, and accountability.