This paper addresses the potential to define and quantify wood resources for energy generation that (1) exist independently of and in excess of those required as raw materials to manufacture forest products in the US and (2) can be harvested without jeopardizing the long term sustainability of US forests. Key findings include:
Stable, overall wood demand outlook for the US forest industry: through 2020, grade logs required by hardwood and softwood lumber mills are expected to increase and stabilize, while pulpwood volumes required by paper and paperboard manufacturers are expected to remain flat and decrease. Increasing demand from OSB manufacturers partly offsets reduced pulpwood demand. In total, the US forest products industry, which consumed 522 million green tons in 2005, is returning to trend and expected to consume 516 million greens tons in 2015 and 534 million green tons in 2020 (figure below).
Available forest and woody residues exist for emerging bioenergy projects. 50 million dry tons of forest and wood-related supplies are estimated to be readily available for bioenergy users (table below). Logging residues represent the single largest source (57%). Mill residues are the smallest source (3%).
Maximum available supplies total 88 million dry tons at $80 per ton.
Does not include 5 million dry tons of unused pulpwood-sized materials available at $25 - $60 per dry ton.
Biomass incentive programs have unintended consequences: a summary analysis of BCAP in the US highlights three issues. First, large portions of qualifying materials have existing markets, resulting from definitional ambiguities. Second, wood markets are interrelated, as proposed qualifying materials cannot be produced independently of traditional forest raw materials. Third, subsidies could cause wood suppliers and land owners to shift and divert wood flows in efforts to qualify for subsidies. Ironically, these efforts could result in higher overall raw material prices and would defeat the intended purpose of BCAP.
Recommendation – incent reforestation: for policy efforts seeking to increase forest inventories and biomass supplies, we recommend simple, direct targeting and incenting of landowners to reforest. The success of previous federal programs such as CRP and the challenges of programs such as BCAP, emphasize the importance of targeting funds at that point in the forest supply chain that can most likely benefit all potential wood consumers.
Recommendation – finance logging equipment: to materially shift the forest residuals supply curve and access volumes that may require cost supports, we recommend direct loans to forest logging contractors to invest in additional equipment needed to harvest and collect forest residues. The equipment could include larger chippers to handle growing stock residuals or additional skidders to aggregate additional harvest residuals at the landing. We estimate that, starting at the “readily available” levels, 29% more logging residues could be collected with marginal, incremental support of $4-$7 per dry ton.
Recommendation – subsidize fuel treatments from public lands: the Billion Ton Study includes volumes from fuel treatments to reduce fire hazards as potential sources of biomass for energy uses. This study specifies research that highlights the operational challenges and costs associated with producing this material and did not include it as an available supply. However, targeting these materials for subsidies provide a potentially potent application of limited resources. Fuel treatments on public lands would simultaneously increase biomass volumes for bioenergy, directly reduce the threat of unexpected fires, and access trees dying from other factors such as beetle infestations.