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, over 75 percent of the energy from AWC member facilities is generated from carbon-neutral biomass. Congress has passed legislation to provide regulatory certainty regarding the carbon neutrality of forest-derived biomass, and in April 2018, EPA issued a policy to treat biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the combustion of forest biomass at stationary sources as carbon neutral.
As forests grow, carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere via photosynthesis and converted into organic carbon that is absorbed by trees that store it as wood (biomass). Trees then return oxygen to the atmosphere. Stored carbon is released from trees as a number of compounds, including that same CO2, when they die, decay or are combusted, completing the carbon cycle. As noted, carbon in biomass returns to the atmosphere in some form regardless of whether it is burned for energy, allowed to biodegrade naturally or lost in a forest fire.
The greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits of 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.
In 2010, for the first time, EPA announced it would regulate biogenic emissions under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review program. EPA issued a rule to defer the regulations for three years (which expired in July 2014) and proposed an Accounting Framework for Biogenic CO2 Emissions From Stationary Sources
(Accounting Framework), which recognized the GHG reduction benefits of energy produced from forest product mill residuals and byproducts.
In November 2014, EPA issued its revised draft Accounting Framework, along with 14 technical appendices and a related policy memorandum to EPA’s regional offices. In the memorandum, EPA made a preliminary finding that the use of certain forest-derived industrial byproducts and waste-derived feedstocks for energy were carbon neutral. EPA charged its Science Advisory Board on biogenic carbon emissions with reviewing the Framework, but the Board has not yet issued a final report, there is no deadline for doing so and it is unclear whether the Board even will continue its review.
The broad forest products industry is the largest producer and user of bioenergy (energy from biomass) 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 to the manufacture of everyday products such as lumber, wood panels and engineered wood products. These mills convert biomass residuals to energy while manufacturing carbon-sequestering biobased products that are useful to society. Carbon benefits from the forest products industry include:
- 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 harmful GHG emissions that otherwise would result from residual disposal (e.g., methane from decomposition); and
- reducing GHG emissions through replacement of alternative fossil-fuel-produced products that have significantly higher GHG emissions.
These carbon benefits are perpetuated as forests remain abundant and well managed.
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