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Wood (also known as woody biomass) is a traditional solid biofuel. It has been used for heating and cooking for thousands of years. With the advent of cellulosic ethanol technologies, wood also has the potential to be an ethanol feedstock. Wood can also be used as a feedstock for biorefineries, which can produce a wide variety of chemicals, fuels and other materials.

Wood is a form of biomass.

Contents

Types of Wood Biofuels

Other products

Events

2012

2011

2010

See the archive of past wood-related events.

News

2012

  • EU carbon target threatened by biomass 'insanity' 2 April 2012 by Arthur Neslen for EurActiv: "The EU's emissions reduction target for 2020 could be facing an unlikely but grave obstacle, according to a growing number of scientists, EU officials and NGOs: the contribution of biomass to the EU's renewable energy objectives for 2020."
    • "On 29 March, a call was launched at the European Parliament for Brussels to reconsider its carbon accounting rules for biomass emissions, and EurActiv has learned that the issue is provoking widespread alarm in policy-making circles."
    • "Around half of the EU's target for providing 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 will be made up by biomass energy from sources such as wood, waste and agricultural crops and residues, according to EU member states' national action plans... Wood makes up the bulk of this target and is counted by the EU as 'carbon neutral', giving it access to subsidies, feed-in tariffs and electricity premiums at national level."
    • "But because there is a time lag between the carbon debt that is created when a tree is cut down, transported and combusted – and the carbon credit that occurs when a new tree has grown to absorb as much carbon as the old one – biomass will increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the interim." [1]
  • Biomass Supply and Carbon Accounting for Southeastern Forests , 14 February 2012 by National Wildlife Federation: "A new study of southeastern forests in the U.S. finds that in the long run, burning wood instead of fossil fuels to make electricity can reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but not soon enough to prevent worsening the conditions leading to global climate change."
    • "...[T]he southeastern United States has seen recent interest in significantly expanding the biomass energy sector, including building new power plants, co-firing with coal power in existing plants, pellet manufacture for export to Europe, and producing cellulosic ethanol. While some look to these developments and see promise, others look with great concern at pressures on the region’s forests, implications for forest health and sustainable wood supply, and impacts on cumulative greenhouse gas emissions...."
    • "...[T]his study seeks to address two key questions relevant to the biomass electric power sector in this region of the country:
      • "How much biomass (primarily wood) is available on a sustainable basis to source the expanding southeastern biomass electric power sector? And, what is the potential of public policy to create demands that exceed sustainable supply levels?
      • "How will the increased use of forest biomass for electric power generation in the Southeast affect atmospheric carbon over time, and how does biomass energy compare to several fossil fuel energy alternatives in terms of cumulative GHG emissions over time?"[2]
    • Download the report: Biomass Supply and Carbon Accounting for Southeastern Forests (PDF file)

2011

  • Are Biofuels the Best Use of Our Limited Land Resources?, 21 December 2011 by OilPrice.com: "About seven million tonnes of grain corn was grown in Ontario in 2011, and by year’s end roughly 30 per cent of that is expected to go toward ethanol fuel production."
    • "Let’s focus instead on the use of corn as part of a greenhouse-gas reduction strategy that returns more economic value per harvested bushel. Through this lens, is biofuel production the best use of a renewable but also land-limited resource?"
    • "Corn, after all, doesn’t have to be made into ethanol and burned in the gas tanks of our cars to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It can also be used to make a variety of 'green' chemicals that form the basis of a wide variety of products currently made from petroleum-based chemicals."
    • "This isn’t just about corn; it’s also about how we choose to use agricultural residues, municipal organic waste, wood waste, algae biomass, and non-food crops."
    • "Does it make sense to just burn this material for energy, or convert it into fuel so it can be burned? Or, should we be doing a better job of targeting niche markets with high-value 'green' products that are just as effective at reducing our dependence on fossil fuels?"[3]
  • Biomass for fuel could damage furniture industry, 17 December 2011 by Green Building Press: "Concerns have been expressed about the effect that government directives which encourage the burning of wood are likely to have on British manufacturing. Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) and the British Furniture Confederation (BFC) held a meeting at the House of Lords this week to launch a report commissioned by FIRA."
    • "The organisation's document focuses on the Renewables Obligation Woody Biomass Subsidy and the detrimental effect it is having on the British furniture industry...."
    • "The document outlines a series of recommendations on how the Government can ensure that manufacturers are allowed to continue business without facing the difficulty of coping with rising prices from the woody biomass subsidy distortion...."
    • "With increased costs for furniture production, it follows that furniture product prices for the consumer will also increase. This is especially poignant as the subsidy paid for burning renewable fuel is paid by consumers through their electricity bill. This means consumers are paying for a renewable energy form which distorts the market perversely against them as both a consumer and also to British manufacturing."
    • "Over its life time, burning woody biomass also emits significantly greater CO2 than wood panel manufacturing. The report suggests that the biomass subsidy should not encourage the burning of virgin wood, which could be used productively through its lifecycle, before being burnt for fuel. It suggests that furniture at the end of its lifecycle is burnt for fuel, rather than placed in landfill."
    • "In addition, the report discusses how biomass stations relying on wood imports from abroad are a threat to the world’s forests and may even increase climate-change emissions."[4]
  • The Death of Range Fuels Shouldn't Doom All Biofuels, 15 December 2011 by Technology Review: "This month, Range Fuels, one of the first companies in a wave of startups that promised cheap biofuels made from sources such as wood chips rather than corn, shut its doors for good and was forced to auction off its assets."
    • "The company failed for many reasons, but the biggest seems to be that its technology proved too expensive, something that experts say shouldn't be a surprise, since it was similar to other technologies with well-known problems...."
    • "Range Fuels, which had planned to turn wood chips into ethanol, received substantial attention in 2006, after President Bush declared in his State of the Union Address that the United States was 'addicted to oil' and pointed to 'cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switchgrass.'"
    • "By the following year, Range Fuels had received a $76 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and had broken ground on a commercial-scale plant in Soperton, Georgia. That plant was designed to produce 20 million gallons of fuel a year at first, and eventually 100 million gallons...."
    • "The Range Fuels plant produced some methanol in 2010, but it operated at a loss, and it was shut down in 2011...."
    • By early 2011, even Vinod Khosla, the prominent investor who provided seed funding for Range Fuels and who had written enthusiastically about the company during its early days, was criticizing the company's basic technology. 'In our view, the traditional path of chemical catalysis of syngas to fuels (be it ethanol or Fischer-Tropsch synthesis) appears economically challenging,' he wrote in January. 'Technologies like Range that started with chemical catalysts will need to switch over to these newer fermentation techniques.'"[5]
  • Congress ‘lost faith’ in advanced bioenergy, key lawmaker says, 6 December 2011 by Des Moines Register: "Programs the Obama administration has been pushing to promote next-generation biofuels are likely to have little funding in the next farm bill, according to the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson."
    • "He said that the failure of Congress to pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions killed off support for agricultural energy programs."
    • "The failure of projects like the Range Fuels biofuels project in Georgia didn’t help either."
    • "Peterson also faulted environmentalists for opposing corn ethanol while promoting advanced biofuels made from non-food feedstocks such as cornfield residue, perennial grasses, or the wood chips from which Range Fuels was going to make fuel."
    • "A farm bill that the congressional agriculture committees drafted this fall would bar the Agriculture Department from providing subsidies for ethanol industry infrastructure. The bill would allow continued subsidies for farmers who provide corn cobs and other feedstocks to biofuel plants but there is no funding earmarked for the payments."[6]
  • Advanced biofuels could meet almost half of UK green transport needs, 18 November 2011 by Greenwise: "A new generation of biofuels could meet almost half of Britain’s renewable transport needs, but without them the UK will miss its 2020 target, a new Government-commissioned report warns."
    • "The study, by the National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC), suggests second-generation biofuels, such as that derived from household rubbish, could meet up to 4.3 per cent of the UK’s renewable transport fuel target by 2020 – almost half of the 10 per cent target the UK must meet under the European Union Renewable Energy Directive."
    • "Vegetable oils currently provide most of the UK’s renewable fuel, but due to limited availability and competing demands for sustainable vegetable oils, the NNFCC says conventional biofuels are likely to produce only up to 6.6 per cent of the energy needed in road and rail transport by 2020."
    • "The NNFCC report predicts that for advanced biofuels to meet the 4.3 per cent of the UK’s renewable transport needs will require around one million tonnes of woody biomass, two million tonnes of wheat (butanol) and 4.4 million tonnes of household, commercial and industrial wastes."[7]
  • Doubts cast on biofuels' air quality claims, 15 November 2011 by EurActiv: "When the European Commission began pressing for a dramatic expansion in the use of biofuels in transport and energy several years ago, it was seen as a win-win situation: a way to help farmers, create energy security, cut greenhouse emissions and improve air quality. But even that last claim is no longer taken for granted."
    • "A report prepared earlier this year for Britain’s Environment Department showed mixed benefits on air quality of biodiesel and bioethanol."
    • "Separate research shows that biofuel production – such as land clearing, cultivation, fertiliser use and shipping – may negate any advantages that biofuels for transport use have in cutting smog and greenhouse gases."
    • "Their findings show that palm oil – a leading source for biodiesel – is as carbon intensive as petrol, with a 60% increase in land use emissions resulting from cultivation of tropical forest."
    • "Palm oil cultivation also has other consequences in countries like Indonesia, which ranks 20th in forest loss and 21st in urban pollution levels in the UN’s 2011 Human Development Index of 187 nations."
    • "Health experts are raising alarms about the impact that bio-energy has on air quality, particularly in Northern and Central Europe where the popularity of wood and timber products for home heating is soaring."[8]
  • Researchers discover new process for biofuel, 25 October 2011 by R&D Mag: "A University of Maine engineer and his research team have, however, discovered a revolutionary new chemical process can transform forest residues, along with other materials such as municipal solid waste, grasses, and construction wastes, into a hydrocarbon fuel oil."
    • "Considering the amount of wood in Maine—including around 6 million green tons of additional available biomass, according to a 2008 Maine Forest Service Assessment of Sustainable Biomass Availability—the new fuel has the possibility of 120 million gallons per year of gasoline, diesel, heating oil, and kerosene mixtures while providing all the steam and power needs of the processing plants."
    • "The fuel has been determined to have a number of properties that make it better suited to serve as a drop-in fuel—which refers to the ease of which it can be used in a number of fuel tanks and pipelines—than many hydrocarbon fuels being widely researched and even those currently on the market."
    • "The process by which the oil is created, known as thermal deoxygenation or TDO, is relatively simple, Wheeler says, and will work on the cellulose found in wood or other substances that contain cellulose or carbohydrates."[9]
  • 'World's first' biomass exchange to open in Rotterdam, 3 October 2011 by Business Green: "What has been hailed as the world's first biomass exchange looks set to be launched in Rotterdam from next month, in response to soaring demand for wood chips from the biomass energy industry."
    • "Online systems in North America already serve a global market for wood pellets estimated to stand at around 10 million tonnes a year."
    • "Countries are increasingly turning to biomass to decarbonise their energy sectors, and experts predict that demand could grow sixfold by 2020."
    • "Trading will commence on 3 November with non-cleared products, before a second phase scheduled for 2012 will see the development of clearing services for wood pellets contracts."
    • "The new exchange is likely to further fuel the debate over the sustainability of biomass imports."
    • "European countries are likely to look abroad to meet future biomass needs, potentially pushing up the price of wood and encouraging deforestation in poorer countries, critics say."
    • "However, supporters of biomass power, including the UK Forestry Commission, have repeatedly argued that wood from sustainable forests, where new trees are planted when others are cut down, releases far less carbon than traditional fossil fuels."[10]
  • S.C. group fighting biomass pollution, 20 September 2011 by The State: "The S.C. Coastal Conservation League, one of the state’s largest environmental groups, says the federal government should not exempt biomass plants from pending carbon dioxide rules."
    • "Also Monday, the Dogwood Alliance of western North Carolina said it will join the challenge against exempting biomass plants, which are growing in popularity as alternative sources of energy."
    • "Many biomass plants burn wood to make energy."
    • "South Carolina has 28 facilities that burn wood, according to a 2010 S.C. Energy Office report. At least seven more biomass facilities are proposed in the state, the league says."
    • "Black said the league doesn’t oppose biomass plants, but believes major facilities should be monitored until they can show that carbon emissions are not a problem."
    • "The Dogwood Alliance says the exemption could encourage a rush to build biomass plants — and that could take a toll on southern forests."[11]
  • Biomass energy: Another driver of land acquisitions?, August 2011 by IIED: "Rapid expansion of biomass energy in the global North is fuelling demand for wood and increasing interest in tree plantations in the global South. But if biomass is sourced from food-insecure countries where local land rights are weak, there is a real risk that people could lose the land they depend on for their livelihoods. This briefing discusses the potential social impacts of biomass plantations in developing countries and calls for greater public scrutiny and debate about the issue."[12]
  • U.S. gives $136 million for advanced biofuels research, 28 September 2011 by Reuters: "U.S. university researchers will get $136 million to develop advanced biofuels, including to develop jet fuel, by using tall grasses, woody plants and energy cane, the U.S. government said on Wednesday."
    • "Nearly two-thirds of the money will go toward aviation biofuels projects in the Pacific Northwest, including efforts to develop a regional source of bio-jet fuel for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport."
    • "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who announced the awards in Seattle, said the project will help promote growth in rural America."
    • "The projects would focus on using woody crops to produce bio-gasoline and renewable aviation fuel, convert idle sawmills into bioenergy development centers and develop new feedstocks and techniques for sustainable forest production to create a regional source of renewable aviation fuel, and use switchgrass and woody biomass to produce low-cost sugars for conversion to butanol as well as use forest and mill residues and dedicated energy crops to produce biodiesel fuel, heat and power."[13]
  • Land grab for renewable energy production could impact beef capacity, 26 September 2011 by Beef Central: "Rising demand for the dominant form of renewable energy worldwide – wood – could drive yet more foreign acquisitions of land, particularly in developing countries where food insecurity is rising and land rights are weak, researchers say."
    • "Wood accounts for 67 percent of global renewable energy supplies, and many northern hemisphere countries were increasing their use of it both to reduce their reliance on costly fossil fuels and to mitigate climate change."
    • "New tree plantations in developing countries designed to be harvested to export wood could spell good news in terms of jobs, investment, climate change and conversation — if they were well managed, the IIED report said. But there was also a risk that plantations would displace poor and marginalised communities from land they had tended to for generations."
    • "Biomass plantations may also compete for the best lands with food crops and livestock (and with biofuel feedstocks), adversely affecting local food security and further marginalising smallholder farming."[14]
  • Questioning Europe's Math on Biofuels, 25 September 2011 by The New York Times: "Much of the appeal of generating energy from plants was that they emit only as much carbon when burned in cars and power plants as they absorb while growing."
    • "It turns out that the emissions from growing and processing some biofuels significantly diminish their benefits, when taking into account factors like the use of fertilizers manufactured with fossil fuels."
    • "Concerns have also grown that large swaths of forest and grassland will be chopped down or burned to grow fuel crops — and to grow food that has been displaced by growing fuel crops elsewhere — thereby releasing additional stocks of carbon into the atmosphere."
    • "The Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency said the European Union had committed a 'serious accounting error' by failing to measure how much additional carbon dioxide was absorbed by existing fields, forests and grasslands, compared with that absorbed by energy crops."
    • "Bioenergy, including the burning of wood to produce electricity, would meet about half of the overall renewable energy target under national plans, while biofuels would provide the majority of renewable transport fuels."[15]
  • Biomass schemes will boost destructive timber imports, claims wood industry, 11 September 2011 by The Guardian: "Big wood companies are trying to halt Drax, RWE and others pressing ahead with a raft of lower-carbon energy schemes which would see large power stations switch from burning coal to timber."
    • "The wood industry fears thousands of jobs in its factories will be threatened by the 'green' power plans and wants government to remove the subsidies facilitating them."
    • "Wildlife and environmental groups are also alarmed that the new biomass schemes could trigger a huge escalation in wood imports and threaten rainforests."
    • "The Wood Panel Industries Association said: 'We have already seen a 50% increase in wood prices over the last three years because of these kinds of energy developments and we do not think they should be receiving subsidies for schemes which we believe are not carbon-friendly and which will require a huge amount of imported wood to support a tenfold increase in planned capacity.'"
    • "A DECC spokesman said the department was aware of concerns from interest groups about a major escalation in biomass but said it had safeguards in place. 'The very clear sustainability criteria we now have in place under the renewables obligation will mean we know where biomass has come from and how it has been grown.'"
    • "The current subsidy regime for biomass and other clean technology such as wind power runs until 2013."[16]
  • Britain’s biomass demand will affect climate, wildlife – R.S.P.B., 7 September 2011 by EcoSeed: "United Kingdom charity group Royal Society for the Protection of Birds revealed in a report that Britain's increasing demand for biomass could lead to serious damage to wildlife and climate."
    • "The report showed that the proposed scale of British biomass development will surpass the continent's domestic fuel supply. Currently, the country's biomass industry heavily relies on domestic supplies amounting to 74 percent."
    • "However, changes on the use of biomass may yield to dependence on biomass imports from countries such as Canada, the United States, Russia, and the Baltic states."
    • "R.S.P.B. believes that Britain is capable of having a sustainable bioenergy sector based on wastes and domestic feedstocks if the government acts to encourage more sustainable technologies at appropriate scales, rules out subsidies for large-scale electricity production dependent on imported wood, improves sustainability standards, and fully accounts for all emissions from bioenergy."[17]
  • Ghana sees first biomass supply chain project, 2 September 2011 by Biomass Power and Thermal: "Africa Renewables Ltd., headquartered in London, is actively recruiting for more than 70 new forestry and biomass production jobs in Ghana to support the country's first wood chip supply chain venture."
    • "The project will harvest redundant rubber trees from the Ghana Rubber Estates Ltd. plantation for chipping and sale to European utilities and energy traders, according to Jamie Wynn-Williams, spokesperson for Africa Renewables."
    • "The project, located between the GREL plantation and the port of Takoradi, will also include the development of a 5 hectare (12 acres) storage depot to house wood chips between monthly shipments, a spare part store and a mechanical workshop."
    • "Africa Renewables will provide the appropriate training required for the operation of forestry equipment, with new jobs at every level of the project logistics chain from initial felling of trees to harvesting, processing and eventual delivery of biomass to cargo ships for export."[18]
  • Time to Substitute Wood Bioenergy for Nuclear Power in Japan, 6 July 2011 by Nophea Sasaki et al in the journal Energies.
    • Abstract: "Damage to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant by the recent earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan should stimulate consideration of alternative sources of energy. In particular, if managed appropriately, the 25.1 million ha of Japanese forests could be an important source of wood biomass for bioenergy production. Here, we discuss policy incentives for substituting wood bioenergy for nuclear power, thereby creating a safer society while better managing the forest resources in Japan."[19]
  • Massachusetts pro-biomass coalition advocates for positive change, 30 June 2011 by Biomass Power and Thermal: "The Coalition for Biomass Energy for MASS has a simple goal: convince Gov. Deval Patrick and the state legislature in Massachusetts that biomass in the form of construction and demolition waste, forest residues and other materials, should be used in-state to produce energy."
    • "Under pressure from numerous anti-biomass organizations, the DOER crafted renewable portfolio standard (RPS) qualifications in May that all but eliminate biomass power from being eligible for Renewable Energy Certificates."
    • "Construction and demolition debris processing facilities already send material to biomass plants in Maine and Canada, Mike Camara, the coalition’s passionate chairman, said, as well as cement kilns in Pennsylvania."
    • "Starting in September, Camara will focus on crafting letters to legislators, recruiting the help of hauling, recycling, and demolition workers, as well as unions."
    • "The opposition groups have argued that the biomass plants will be harmful to the environment, as well as human health."[20]
  • Turning up the Biomass Heat, 23 May 2011 by Biomass Power and Thermal: "Vermont has rich wood resources and the opportunity for further development of that local fuel and its local biomass equipment manufacturing."
    • "Thus, the governor has requested the state develop and implement incentives to spur a switch from oil to wood pellet heat in residential and commercial applications."
    • "The state already provides direct financial incentives to consumers for high-efficiency fossil fuel stoves, says George Twigg, deputy policy director for Vermont Energy Investment Corp., which runs Efficiency Vermont, and this program will be similar, although the specific amount has yet to be determined."
    • "The wood pellet incentives will essentially be a rebate paid by Efficiency Vermont for purchasing wood pellet-burning equipment."[21]
  • New Study Assesses Wood For Biofuels, 17 May 2011 by DomesticFuel.com: "Today a new study evaluates the promise of wood waste biofuels by reviewing 12 technologies and 36 projects that convert wood to fuels including ethanol, butanol, diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel."
    • "According to Forisk Consulting and the Schiamberg Group, the authors of the 'Transportation Fuels from Wood: Investment and Market Implications of Current Projects and Technologies,' biofuels derived from wood waste will fail to substantively contribute to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) either this year or through 2022."
    • "According to co-author Dr. Bruce Schiamberg of the Schiamberg Group, major technical hurdles will disrupt commercialization for the majority of the technologies."
    • "The study finds an on average 11 year gap between estimated commercialization and actual full-scale production."
    • "The report also looked at the impact of biofuel development on US timber markets and found that they would be minimal with the highest potential for wood waste coming from Alabama, California, Michigan, Mississippi, and Tennessee."[22]
  • MA Proposes GHG Restrictions on Biomass Power, 11 May 2011 by RenewableEnergyWorld.com: "The Massachusetts governor's office last week said the biomass electricity industry must meet strict emissions standards if wood-fired power plants expect to earn renewable energy credits (RECs)."
    • "Gov. Deval L. Patrick and Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray proposed the restrictions before the Legislature this week after the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) revised the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to account for the findings of an independent study."
    • "In June, the DOER-commissioned study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences of Plymouth concluded that large-scale, biomass-fired electricity would create 3% more greenhouse emissions (GHG) than coal-fired plants by 2050."
    • "Massachusetts, officially a commonwealth, is among the first states to regulate biomass emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency tabled the issue for three years when it announced in January a three-year deferral on GHG-permitting requirements."
    • "DOER officials hope the restrictions will encourage the biomass industry to design smaller projects for combined heat and power (CHP) units, which can provide heat and electricity for industrial parks and community districts. The Manomet study found that CHP would reduce GHGs 25% by 2050."[23]
  • Burning issues: tackling indoor air pollution, 7 May 2011 by The Lancet: "According to WHO, 2 million people die as a result of the smoke generated by open fires or crude stoves within their homes every year. Indoor air pollution has been definitively linked to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pneumonia, the risk of which is doubled by exposure to indoor smoke. More than 900 000 people die from pneumonia caused by indoor air pollution every year. 500 million households worldwide—roughly 3 billion people—rely on solid fuels, such as wood, animal dung, or coal, for cooking and heating. These fuels are usually burned in a rudimentary stove, or in a traditional open fire. It need not be a problem, at least in terms of health. But only assuming the fuel is completely combusted—wood must be dry, and the stove must work efficiently—and there is plenty of ventilation, a spacious chimney, or a sizeable window. In those places where the use of solid fuels prevails, however, these conditions rarely apply, and the consequences can be severe."
    • "Yet, 'despite the magnitude of this growing problem' notes WHO 'the health impacts of exposure to indoor air pollution have yet to become a central focus of research, development aid, and policy making'....But the past year has had some encouraging advances."
    • "In September, 2010, the UN Foundation launched the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves....The Alliance—a public-private initiative—brings together partners from the range of specialties across which the issue of indoor air pollution sprawls. There is public health, of course, but also energy, international development, female empowerment, climate change, technology, and business."
    • "The real benefits will be seen by switching to cleaner fuels and cleaner stoves. Improved stoves—those fitted with fans, for example—combust fuel more efficiently, have lower emissions, and require shorter cooking times."[24]
  • The Range Fuels Fiasco, 10 February 2011 by The Wall Street Journal: "As taxpayer tragedies go, Broomfield, Colorado-based Range Fuels has all the plot elements—splashy headlines, subsidies and opportunistic venture capitalists."
    • "Vinod Khosla founded Range Fuels and in March 2007 it received a $76 million grant from the Department of Energy— one of six cellulosic projects the Bush Administration selected for $385 million in grants. Range said it would build the nation's first commercial cellulosic plant, near Soperton, Georgia, using wood chips to produce 20 million gallons a year in 2008, with a goal of 100 million gallons."
    • "By spring 2008, Range had also attracted $130 million of private funding, the largest venture investment in the nation in the first quarter of that year."
    • "In early 2010, the EPA said Range would finally produce some fuel in 2010—but only four million gallons, not 100 million, and of methanol, not cellulosic ethanol."
    • "So taxpayers have committed $162 million (along with at least that much in private financing) to produce four million gallons of a biofuel that others have been making in quantity for decades."[26]
  • Montpelier building biomass district energy system, 8 February 2011 by Biomass Power and Thermal Magazine: "With the help of an $8 million Recovery Act grant, Vermont’s capital city will install a 41 MMBtu combined-heat and-power biomass district energy system that will provide heat to the statehouse and up to 175 other public and private buildings downtown, as well as 1.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity to the grid."
    • "Locally sourced wood chips will fuel the plant. In terms of how much a system like this would require, Sherman said it’s a moving target dependent on what the final build-out of the system is, but it will not be a huge volume—somewhere from 10,000 to 15,000 green tons annually."[27]
  • Washington State to push for biomass-derived jet fuels, 14 January 2011 by BrighterEnergy.org: "Washington State’s Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark has announced plans for proposals that would mean the next step for a Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) forest biomass pilot project, leading to the production of jet fuel from wood waste."
    • "Speaking at the Pacific West Biomass Conference in Seattle, Mr Goldmark said aviation biofuel meant a renewable, locally grown energy source could be produced 'combining Washington’s forestry heritage and our technology future.'"
    • "'Forest biomass represents an incredible opportunity to heat our homes, power our cities and fight climate change,' said Governor Chris Gregoire. 'Thanks to the hard work, groundbreaking research and leadership of so many, including Commissioner of Public Lands Goldmark, forest biomass may now fuel our airplanes.'"[28]
  • Is Biomass Clean or Dirty Energy? We Won't Know for 3 Years, 13 January 2011 by Solve Climate News: "The Obama administration put off for another three years a decision on whether to regulate planet-warming gases from biomass power."
    • "The delay leaves wide open a question central to the industry's future: Should turning tree parts into electricity qualify as clean renewable power in the eyes of government regulators, or should biomass emissions be regarded as a source of greenhouse gas pollution?"
    • "Biomass includes plant waste, wood chips, organic debris and whole trees, and industry representatives say burning it is "carbon neutral." They argue that new growth absorbs CO2 and cancels out emissions spewed into the atmosphere from burning the wood."
    • "Conservationists dispute that claim with a very different understanding of what constitutes the natural carbon cycle. Rotting biomass enriches soils, which capture and sequester some of the carbon of the once-living plant tissue. They argue that biomass combustion produces more CO2 than burning fossil fuels — by how much varies depending on the type of materials and how they are transported."
    • "EPA said it would bring the best science to bear on the issues over the next three years. By July 2014, it will decide how to treat biomass under its "tailoring" rule, which determines which polluters are required to account for their emissions under the Clean Air Act."[29]

2010

  • Fungus Genes Help Turn Grass into Ethanol, 10 September 2010 by Technology Review: "Genes copied from a common fungus could simplify the production of ethanol from abundant materials such as grass and wood chips, a development that could one day help ethanol compete with gasoline."
    • "Scientists have taken genes from a fungus that grows on grass and dead plants, and transplanted them into yeast that is already used to turn sugar into ethanol. The genes let the yeast ferment parts of plants that it normally can't digest, potentially streamlining the production of ethanol."
    • "Most ethanol is produced using simple sugars, like the glucose derived from corn kernels or sugar cane. Ethanol producers would like to use glucose from more abundant sources, such as corn husks and stalks, switchgrass, wood waste, and other tough plant materials. But those plant parts are made of cellulose, a carbohydrate built from long chains of sugars. For yeast to produce ethanol from these materials, the complex carbohydrate has to first be broken down into very simple sugars, a process that takes time and normally requires the addition of expensive enzymes."
    • "With the new technique, ethanol makers would no longer have to break cellulose down into simple sugars. Instead, they would only need to break down cellulose into an intermediate material called cellodextrin."[34]
  • 46,000 Square Miles Of Forest Needed To Supply 120 Planned US Wood-Fired Power Plants, 3 August 2010 blog post by TreeHugger: Why "are 120 wood burning power plants being planned in multiple US states? Are banks and managing utilities planning for biomass (a euphemism for wood-fired) just to meet state renewable energy goals?"
    • "Mainstream media are 'missing the forest for the trees' on this issue and the underlying reasons may surprise you."
    • An article from Ohio.com, Burning Ohio trees at Burger sets fire to debate reported that:
      • "Nationally, there are 102 biomass plants that generate electricity in 21 states, according to the Biomass Power Association, a national trade group. Biomass accounts for 1.2 percent of America's electricity."
      • "More than 120 wood-burning biomass power plants have been proposed in the past three years. They would require 46,000 square miles of forests -- an area the size of Pennsylvania -- to be cleared by 2025, according to one national eco-group."
    • "Wood fired power plant stack emissions are relatively low in SOX and PM2.5 particulates compared to stack emissions produced by coal. Utilities can meet their emission permit limits by simply switching to wood - without investing in expensive new air pollution equipment."
    • "Environmental regulations promulgated under the US Clean Air Act may be a primary force behind the biomass power movement. Too soon [to] tell whether local opposition to such planned projects will hold many of them back."[36]
  • Fight Gears Up on Biomass, 27 July 2010 by the New York Times "Green" blog: "There is evidently no form of energy, including renewable energy, that lacks opposition. A big spat right now centers on biomass power plants."
    • "Biomass is a broad category that encompasses everything from burning whole trees to burning leftover wood chips, agricultural residues or household garbage. The focus of the argument is currently in Massachusetts, where state regulators are considering raising the bar for biomass plants."
    • "Supporters say that cutting down trees to make electricity is carbon-neutral, because the trees will regrow and absorb carbon dioxide from the air. But a recent study suggests that the trees will take years to do that, offering little short-term help."
    • "Now a group in Cambridge, Mass., is mounting a more direct assault on harnessing biomass: the Biomass Accountability Project is trotting out experts in medicine and forestry to argue against such power generators."
    • "Margaret Sheehan, a lawyer with the group, says that even if new biomass plants meet all Environmental Protection Agency regulations on air emissions, generation could still endanger human health because the standards are inadequate. For emissions of very small soot particles, she said, 'there is no safe known limit.'"[37]
  • Alaska Airlines, Boeing, & Airports Partner on Biofuels, 14 July 2010 by Bill DiBenedetto: "Their endeavor, called the “Sustainable Aviation Fuel Northwest” project, is the first regional assessment of its kind in the U.S., according to a joint announcement from the group this week."
    • "The assessment will examine all phases of developing a sustainable biofuel industry, including biomass production and harvest, refining, transport infrastructure and actual use by airlines. It will include an analysis of potential biomass sources that are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, including algae, agriculturally based oilseeds such as camelina, wood byproducts and others. The project is jointly funded by the participating parties and is expected to be completed in about six months."
    • "Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh added, 'Developing a sustainable aviation fuel supply now is a top priority both to ensure continued economic growth and prosperity at regional levels and to support the broader aim of achieving carbon-neutral growth across the industry by 2020.'"
    • "The assessment process will be managed by Climate Solutions, an Olympia, WA, environmental nonprofit organization, which will align the effort to sustainability criteria developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. The project’s objective is to identify potential pathways and necessary actions to make aviation biofuel commercially available to airline operators serving the region."[38]
  • New Rules May Cloud the Outlook for Biomass, 9 July 2010 by New York Times: "An energy technology that has long been viewed as a clean and climate-friendly alternative to fossil fuels is facing tough new regulatory hurdles that could ultimately hamper its ability to compete with renewable power sources like wind and solar."
    • "[A] long-simmering debate in Massachusetts questioning the environmental benefits of biomass has culminated in new rules that will limit what sorts of projects will qualify for renewable energy incentives there....The new proposals would, among other things, require the projects to provide 'significant near-term greenhouse gas dividends.'"[39]
  • Researchers propose movable biofuel center, 8 July 2010 by UPI.org: "If agricultural waste can't go to a biofuel processing center, then the processing center should go to the agricultural waste, U.S. researchers theorized."
    • "Researchers at Purdue University propose creating mobile processing plants that would roam the Midwest to produce biofuels using a technique called fast-hydropyrolysis-hydrodeoxygenation, the West Lafayette, Ind., university said this week in a release."
    • "'What's important is that you can process all kinds of available biomass -- wood chips, switch grass, corn stover, rice husks, wheat straw,' said Rakesh Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone distinguished professor of chemical engineering."[40]
  • The Rainforest Alliance Releases New Verification Mark to Recognize Achievements in Sustainability, 23 June 2010 by Environmental News Network: "The Rainforest Alliance today released its new verification mark to recognize businesses and projects that have achieved significant and measurable sustainability milestones. The new mark is awarded to forest carbon projects and tourism and certain forestry enterprises that meet standards developed by the Rainforest Alliance itself or by other organizations with which the Rainforest Alliance is aligned."
    • A key issue is "verification of the legality of wood sources, which is particularly important since illegal logging throughout the world continues to undermine efforts to promote social equity, environmental conservation and sustainable economic growth in many nations."[41]
  • Net Benefits of Biomass Power Under Scrutiny, 18 June 2010 by Tom Zeller Jr. from The New York Times: "Matthew Wolfe, an energy developer with plans to turn tree branches and other woody debris into electric power, sees himself as a positive force in the effort to wean his state off of planet-warming fossil fuels."
    • "[P]ower generated by burning wood, plants and other organic material, which makes up 50 percent of all renewable energy produced in the United States, according to federal statistics, is facing increased scrutiny and opposition."
    • "Biomass proponents say it is a simple and proved renewable technology based on natural cycles. They acknowledge that burning wood and other organic matter releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere just as coal does, but point out that trees and plants also absorb the gas. If done carefully, and without overharvesting, they say, the damage to the climate can be offset."
    • "But opponents say achieving that sort of balance is almost impossible, and carbon-absorbing forests will ultimately be destroyed to feed a voracious biomass industry fueled inappropriately by clean-energy subsidies. They also argue that, like any incinerating operation, biomass plants generate all sorts of other pollution, including particulate matter. State and federal regulators are now puzzling over these arguments."[43]
  • New Federal Policies Needed to Jump-Start Clean Advanced Biofuels Industry, 14 June 2010 by The Union of Concerned Scientists: "The federal government needs to adopt a suite of new policies to spur production in the stalled advanced biofuels industry, according to a report, The Billion Gallon Challenge, released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
    • "Advanced cellulosic biofuels – made from grasses, woodchips, wastes and other non-food sources – release dramatically less pollution than gasoline or corn ethanol. Reforming production tax credits for biofuels and providing new loan guarantees, investment tax credits and other financial incentives would spark investment in cellulosic biofuels, cut oil consumption, reduce global warming pollution, and ultimately save taxpayers money, the report found."
    • "Currently, cellulosic biofuels are falling far short of the mandated levels. In 2010, the standard requires fuel suppliers, largely oil companies, to purchase 100 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had to lower this target to just 6.5 million gallons due to a lack of supply."[44]
  • Mass. study: Wood power worse polluter than coal, 10 June 2010 by Associated Press: "A new study has found that wood-burning power plants using trees and other 'biomass' from New England forests releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than coal over time."
    • "The report, conducted by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, concludes that the net cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases from replacing coal-fired plants with biomass would be 3 percent greater by 2050 than from using coal to generate electricity."
    • "Researchers arrived at the figure by comparing how much carbon is emitted into the atmosphere through the burning of wood — what they termed 'carbon debt' — with the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere from the regrowth of forests, or 'carbon dividends.'"
    • "The study has broad policy implications for states like Massachusetts. And environmental groups called the study 'a wake up call.'"[45]
  • PSC Approves Biomass Plant for Gainesville, 27 May 2010 by Gainesville Regional Utilities: "Plans to bring biomass energy to Gainesville took another step forward today. Commissioners from Florida’s Public Service Commission (PSC) approved GRU and American Renewables’ joint petition for the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, a planned 100-megawatt biomass plant."
    • "Under terms of the 30-year energy contract, American Renewables will build, own and operate the biomass facility. GRU will purchase and own 100 percent of the energy produced. The plant will be fueled by a plentiful, local supply of leftover clean woody waste using urban wood waste, wood processing wastes and logging residues."[47]
  • Biomass Energy Juggernaut Threatens Human and Forest Health, 20 May 2010 blog post by George Wuerthner on NewWest.net: "The long awaited Kerry-Lieberman energy bill known as The America Power Act has, among other goodies for industry, a clause that legally defines biomass incineration as 'carbon-neutral' and 'renewable.'"
    • This "poses a real threat to our forest ecosystem, human health, and global planetary climate."
    • "Since many government entities from local cities to states now require renewable energy as part of their energy portfolios, defining wood energy as a renewable energy creates a direct economic windfall profit for the timber industry."
    • "Because of its low energy content, burning wood releases 1.5 times smokestack CO2 than burning coal to produce the same amount of energy." Also, "recent research suggests that logging disturbance of forest soils can increase carbon losses as well."[49]
  • New publication explains how Europe can harvest more wood to reach its sustainable energy goals by 2020, 18 May 2010 by UNECE: "According to a new publication, if Europe is to achieve its renewable energy objective of 20% by 2020, it must step up the supply of wood from its sustainably managed forests."
    • "The publication, Good Practice Guidance on the Sustainable Mobilization of Wood in Europe [PDF file], gives an overview of measures that countries can take to mobilize their wood resources."
    • "Good Practice Guidance sets out general principles to be applied in wood mobilization, such as avoiding the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and making a maximum amount of market information available to all the stakeholders."
    • "'We hope that this publication will illustrate the enormous potential that wood has for a sustainable energy future,' said Paola Deda, head of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section. 'In the European Union today, over 50% of renewable energy sources come from wood'."
    • "In the 56-country UNECE region, industry and Governments are already acting to mobilize wood sustainably.'"
    • "According to Ms. Deda, 'the publication will particularly contribute to implementing the resolution on "Forests, wood and energy", which was adopted in 2007 by the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe....It also contributes to the objective of the EU Forest Action Plan to promote the use of forest biomass for energy generation'."[50]
  • Maryland researchers turn poplar trees into biofuel, 3 May 2010 by the Baltimore Sun: "Fuel derived from the hardy, fast-growing common poplar could eventually replace some of the billions of gallons of petroleum-based fuel now pumped a year," according to University of Maryland "biologist Gary Coleman and engineer Ganesh Sriram, who have partnered to help turn the woody plant into a widely used biofuel."
    • "Globally, other crops such as sugar are used to make biofuel. And more, including willow trees, algae and switchgrass, are in the race with poplars to become the next viable crop. But the government and scientists see poplars as having an edge because they naturally grow to about 70 feet in five or six years and grow just about anywhere."
    • "Poplars would use up land...but not as much as corn and not in place of food crops, said Sriram, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering".[51]
  • Nation's Forests Can Meet Demands for Energy, Bioproducts and Traditional Uses, 12 March 2010 blog post by 25x’25: "25x’25 has created a Wood-to-Energy Work Group that is bringing together major forestry, conservation and industry stakeholders in a series of roundtable discussions around current and future uses of wood. The goal of these discussions is the development of consensus recommendations on how best to increase and expand the role and contribution of the nation’s private and public forest lands to national energy needs while continuing to provide wood for traditional uses."
    • "[A] significant finding was that without major change in public land management policy, public lands will likely not contribute in any significant way as a source of supply for traditional wood product or biomass for energy. This shortfall in supply potential is particularly unfortunate given the potential gains in forest health, fire reduction and productivity on the public lands and the economic benefits to rural communities that could result from the wider use of their resources."
    • "[T]he participants agreed that if woody biomass is to contribute more to the nation’s energy future while also supplying all traditional uses, there must be more investment and expansion of short rotation woody crop production on marginal crop and pasture lands, including the use of genetically improved trees."[53]
  • Smoke from home fuels tied to emphysema, 25 February 2010 by Reuters: "People who burn wood or other biofuels for heat or cooking may have a heightened risk of emphysema and related lung conditions, a new study suggests."
    • "Biomass refers to biological materials that can be burned for energy, including wood, crops and animal dung. They are major sources of energy in the developing world, and are thought to be used for cooking and heating in half of homes worldwide."
    • "These latest findings strengthen the evidence that exposure to biomass smoke is a risk factor for [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)]".[56]

See the archive of past wood-related news.

Resources

  • Biogenic vs. geologic carbon emissions and forest biomass energy production] by John S. Gunn, David J. Ganz, and William S. Keeton, September 2011. "This report presents the opinion that this is an inappropriate conceptual basis to assess the atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting of woody biomass energy generation. While there are many other environmental, social, and economic reasons to move to woody biomass energy, we argue that the inferred benefits of biogenic emissions over fossil fuel emissions should be reconsidered."[59]
  • The upfront carbon debt of bioenergy (PDF) by Joanneum Research, May 2010. When a raw material such as wood is burned, "the time needed to re-absorb the CO2 emitted in the atmosphere can be long, depending very much on the source of wood. This delay can create an upfront “carbon debt” that would substantially reduce the capability of bioenergy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the atmosphere in the short to medium term."
  • Global land-use implications of first and second generation biofuel targets by Petr Havlík, Uwe A. Schneider, Erwin Schmid, Hannes Böttcher, Steffen Fritz, Rastislav Skalský, Kentaro Aoki, Stéphane De Cara, Georg Kindermann, Florian Kraxner, Sylvain Leduc, Ian McCallum, Aline Mosnier, Timm Sauer and Michael Obersteiner, April 2010. "In this paper we provide a detailed analysis of the iLUC effect, and further address the issues of deforestation, irrigation water use, and crop price increases due to expanding biofuel acreage. We use GLOBIOM – an economic partial equilibrium model of the global forest, agriculture, and biomass sectors with a bottom-up representation of agricultural and forestry management practices. The results indicate that second generation biofuel production fed by wood from sustainably managed existing forests would lead to a negative iLUC factor, meaning that overall emissions are 27% lower compared to the 'No biofuel' scenario by 2030."

Organizations


Wood edit
Charcoal | Firewood | Woodgas | Wood pellets

Sustainability: Forest Stewardship Council


Household energy edit
Household energy use: Biomass (Dung, Wood)
Bioenergy feedstocks edit

Biodiesel feedstocks:
Currently in use: Animal fat | Castor beans | Coconut oil | Jatropha | Jojoba | Karanj | Palm oil | Rapeseed | Soybeans | Sunflower seed | Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO)
Currently in research and development: Algae | Halophytes (Salt-tolerant plants)


Ethanol feedstocks:
First-generation: Cassava | Corn | Milo | Nypa palm | Sorghum | Sugar beets | Sugar cane | Sugar palm |Sweet potato | Waste citrus peels | Wheat | Whey
Second-generation: For cellulosic technology - Grasses: Miscanthus, Prairie grasses, Switchgrass | Trees: Hybrid poplar, Mesquite, Willow


Charcoal feedstocks: Bamboo | Wood
Waste-to-energy (MSW)


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