The USDA Forest Service last week released a new report on the effects of the industrial wood pellet industry on southern US forests. Significantly, the Southern Research Station (SRS) study found that European demand for US wood pellets has a positive effect on US forests and forest markets. The study can be found here.
Key findings include:
- Increased demand for wood pellets from the US South, driven primarily by the EU Renewable Energy Directive, will result in increased investments in forestland, which leads to greater forest cover over time.
- Increased demand for wood residues and non-sawtimber feedstock from the wood pellet industry will lead to a greater increase in the number of pine and softwood trees in the US South than would have occurred otherwise.
Commenting on the report, USIPA Executive Director Seth Ginther said, “USDA Forest Service scientists and researchers have recognised that European demand for industrial-grade wood pellets from the southeastern US has a positive effect on US forests and forest markets.
“This study confirms that robust markets equal healthy forests, and that bioenergy is contributing to the strength of the US forest products market and, in turn, US forests.
“The report also reiterates that the US biomass industry uses only low-grade wood fibre and residues to produce wood pellets. The market, alongside forest best management practices and a comprehensive set of regulations and laws, helps to ensure a sustainable product.
“More than 100 leading forestry academics in the US recently sent a letter to Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey outlining these same facts. These principles are supported by US government, scientists, and forest professionals alike.
“The EU has already recognised the important role of biomass in its renewable energy policies and we encourage continued support of the industry to ensure that sustainably-sourced wood pellets from the US remain a low-cost alternative to fossil fuels.”