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U.S. Biomass Doesn’t Destroy Forest Resources

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The Washington Post, Washington, D.C, USA, responded this past week to a now controversial "Burning Down the Forests?" article it recently published, describing increased North American and U.S. timber production/use, which included negative comments and assumptions about the use of domestically sourced biomass for energy. 

In response, the Post issued an editorial written by Bob Cleaves, CEO of the Biomass Power Association, an advocate for environmentally sound, but productive and serious use of domestic (U.S.) biomass power and fuel sourcing.

Cleaves stated that biomass power in the U.S. and developed countries uses residues and byproducts. "Period." There is no market to sell "timber for fuel." Loggers separate and sell their harvested fiber for the highest possible value for use in construction, furniture, or pulp and paper. Otherwise, there would be pricing issues with these valuable forest resources, none of which are now designed to go to waste, which should be considered a great development and leap forward for the domestic forest industries.
The low-value tops, limbs and thinnings are what is being sold to biomass power producers for a fraction of the other parts’ value. If there isn’t a biomass facility nearby, those materials are usually sent to landfills or burned openly, which does release excess carbon and particulate matter into the atmosphere.
There is near-universal agreement on the carbon benefits of biomass power from sustainably sourced forest waste. The scientists whose letter to the U.S. EPA was mentioned in the original article did endorse biomass from waste and residues as "truly low in carbon." 

But missing from this discussion is the acknowledgment that this is exactly what the U.S. biomass power industry is doing. It’s too easy to imply a looming forest crisis that doesn’t exist. The EPA made the correct decision to describe biomass from residues as a renewable, carbon-neutral energy source. Biomass is and will continue to be a crucial element to mitigate climate change according to Cleaves.

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