Wood products manufacturers use biomass from manufacturing and sustainable forestry operations to produce energy, providing significant carbon-reducing benefits to the environment. In fact, on average, 78 percent of the energy from AWC member facilities is generated from carbon-neutral biomass.
As forests grow, carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere via photosynthesis. The absorbed CO2 is converted into organic carbon, stored in woody biomass, and oxygen is returned to the atmosphere. Trees release their stored carbon as CO2 when they die, decay or are combusted, completing the carbon cycle. As noted, carbon in biomass returns to the atmosphere regardless of whether it is burned for energy, allowed to biodegrade naturally or lost in a forest fire. The forest products industry facilitates the flow of CO2 in and out of forests through both biomass combustion and long-term carbon sequestration in products. Overall, the flow of forest CO2 is carbon positive when forests are sustainably managed, and the forest-to-products system remains a net sink of CO2 from the atmosphere.
The greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits of energy from biomass harvested from sustainably managed forests has been recognized repeatedly by an abundance of studies, agencies, institutions, legislation and rules around the world, including guidance from the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the reporting protocols of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. As governments continue to implement incentives and mandates to increase the use of renewable fuels, concerns arise over the potential depletion of forest carbon stocks that may upset the carbon balance. Increasing demand must be coupled with increased and sustainably-managed supply.
The broad forest products industry is the largest producer and user of bioenergy of any industrial sector and has long-standing operations in the United States. The creation and use of biomass energy in wood products mills is integral and incidental to the manufacture of products such as lumber, panels, and engineered wood products. Wood products mills convert biomass residuals to energy while manufacturing carbon-sequestering biobased products that are useful to society. The forest products industry has created a highly efficient, market-based system of managed forest use with significant carbon benefits including:
- providing biomass power by utilizing forest and mill residuals;
- reducing the industry’s and our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and reducing GHG emissions while simultaneously meeting society’s needs for forest products;
- reducing potential GHG emissions that otherwise would result from residual disposal (e.g., methane from decomposition);
- reducing GHG emissions through replacement of alternative fossil-fuel produced products that have significantly higher GHG emissions;
- efficiently using biomass residuals through combined heat and power systems to assure forest biomass resources minimize total forest system GHG emissions; and
- balancing forest supply and demand through market-based systems for biomass due to forest planting and re-growth, as evidenced by net increases in forest carbon stocks over most of the last 50 years.
These carbon benefits can be perpetuated as forests remain abundant and well managed, with forest use and growth balancing supply and demand.
Forest Sector and Forest Products Industry leaders – from landowners to manufacturers – have come together to identify opportunities and solutions for our forest carbon future.
The Forest Policy Forum is focused on maintaining and growing productive and managed forests in the United States, with the goal of ensuring that federal and state public policies and voluntary customer initiatives recognize the carbon benefits of forests and a full range of forest products.
There are important legal, regulatory, and voluntary market initiatives that will continue to focus on reducing the carbon footprint of products and practices. Because the forest and forest products sector has inherent carbon advantages, as noted above, we are actively engaged in shaping these policies to further lower our carbon footprint in ways that fairly represent – and enhance – our sector’s inherent advantages with regard to demonstrated carbon benefits.
The Forest Policy Forum - A Forest Carbon Future