Responding to a long history of misinformation from media coverage on the use of biomass, a coalition of national forestry organizations recently announced Biomass101.org to serve as a clearinghouse for scientifically sound information on carbon-neutral bioenergy.
The initiative, jointly produced by the American Forest & Paper Association, American Wood Council, Forest Resources Association, and National Alliance of Forest Owners, includes informative blog posts complemented by infographics, videos and other digital media content that corrects false or distorted information.
“With biomass becoming a more prominent part of the national renewable energy discussion, Americans deserve a conversation that is honest, accurate, and reliable,” said Chuck Fuqua, Executive Director for Strategic Communications at the American Forest & Paper Association.
The most recent example of misleading media coverage is a story about biomass in The Washington Post (“How Europe’s climate policies have led to more trees being cut down in the U.S.,” By Joby Warrick, 06/02/15). As the analysis of the story on Biomass101.org points out, the author of this piece perpetuates several fallacies regarding the harvesting of trees for biomass. Namely, that a) it generally takes decades to replace the carbon capturing capacity of biomass material, and b) American foresters cut down everything all at once, and sit back for generations waiting for regrowth.
The reality is that responsible foresters and forest landowners consistently plant, harvest and re-plant trees in a sustainable, working forest, and markets for small diameter trees play a huge roll in that. That’s why the U.S. grows twice as much wood as it harvests, and why tree volume has grown 50 percent in the last 60 years.
According to data from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis program, Georgia commercial timberlands grow 19 million tons more wood each year than is harvested, resulting in growth exceeding removals by 38 percent. In fact, the Georgia Forestry Commission consistently reports that the primary threats to forests in Georgia are urbanization and invasive species, not the biomass market.
The article in The Washington Post claims otherwise. The piece gives credence to an open letter to the EPA written by biomass skeptics, described as “independent” and “non-profit,” but makes no mention of the 100 forest science experts representing 80 universities across the U.S. who weighed the best peer-reviewed science and affirmed the carbon benefits of biomass.
In addition, so-called biomass experts quoted in the article claim, “In Georgia, where most of the trees for wood pellets are grown on pine plantations, natural forests are rapidly disappearing as landowners see new opportunities to make money.” However, according to David Dickinson, forest inventory analysis coordinator with the Georgia Forestry Commission, the data is inaccurate at best.
“Pine plantation acreage has slowed its increase to almost nil in the last five years, and natural pine acreage has been level for the last decade,” Dickinson said. “Lowland hardwood acreage has increased steadily in acreage since the 1970s, so that doesn’t seem to have ever been a significant source of conversion to pine plantations.”
For more information on the campaign and its efforts, visit www.biomass101.org. The Georgia Forestry Association will continue to monitor and report on this issue as it progresses.
About the Biomass101.org Coalition
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance a sustainable U.S. pulp, paper, packaging, and wood products manufacturing industry through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. AF&PA member companies make products essential for everyday life from renewable and recyclable resources and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative – Better Practices, Better Planet 2020. The forest products industry accounts for approximately 4 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures over $200 billion in products annually, and employs approximately 900,000 men and women. The industry meets a payroll of approximately $50 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 47 states.
The American Wood Council (AWC) is the voice of North American wood products manufacturing, representing over 75 percent of an industry that provides approximately 400,000 men and women with family-wage jobs. AWC members make products that are essential to everyday life from a renewable resource that absorbs and sequesters carbon. Staff experts develop state-of-the-art engineering data, technology, and standards for wood products to assure their safe and efficient design, as well as provide information on wood design, green building, and environmental regulations. AWC also advocates for balanced government policies that affect wood products.
Forest Resources Association Inc.
The Forest Resources Association Inc. is the only nonprofit trade association representing wood supply chain interests at the national level, advocating public policies and operational improvements that promote the safe, efficient, and sustainable harvest of forest products and their transport from woods to mill. FRA members are wood consumers, wood suppliers, timberland owners and managers, and businesses providing products and services to forest resource-based industries.
National Alliance of Forest Owners
NAFO is an organization of private forest owners committed to advancing national policies that promote the economic and environmental benefits of privately-owned forests. NAFO membership encompasses more than 80 million acres of private forestland in 47 states. Working forests in the U.S. support 2.4 million jobs.