Releases & Statements

USIPA Response to Chatham House Report on BECCS

January 29th, 2020 

Contact: Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipa.org 


A report issued today by Chatham House questions the effectiveness of Biomass with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) technology. We welcome this report, as continuing research on forest biomass is important to quantify the risks and benefits associated with its use, encourage dialogue and debate, drive innovation and investment in new technologies, and inform policy. These are especially important subjects in light of the ambitious goals set by the U.K. to reach carbon net zero by 2050, and the benefits that sustainable biomass may bring to reaching this goal. 


However, this report fails to recognize that the U.K.’s regulations for bioenergy are among the most stringent in the world, and ensure that only biomass that meets the highest of sustainability standards is used to achieve climate goals. The concerns expressed in the report over sustainability and land-use change are ‘worse-case scenario’ situations, and mitigation measures are in place through-out the forest supply chain to prevent them from occurring. In particular, biomass sourced from the U.S. Southeast addresses the report’s core concerns, meeting sustainability requirements and delivering real carbon benefits, especially when paired with carbon capture technology. 


Here are two main points of concern with corresponding information on how our sustainable sourcing practices address them.  


Statement #1 from Chatham House Report: “It is not valid to assume that biomass for energy is inherently carbon-neutral” (and thus that BECCS, by capturing and storing the emissions from combustion, is carbon-negative). 

It is important to recognize that not all biomass is sustainable. However, it is equally important to recognize the real carbon benefits of biomass that is, such as the wood fiber sourced from the U.S. Southeast. Indeed, the carbon benefits of sustainable forest biomass energy are well-established. 


This is a conclusion supported by the world’s foremost climate and forestry experts. It is considered the number one fundamental of biomass carbon accounting according to a recent letter signed by more than 100 international forest scientists. These same scientists also emphasize the science fundamentals of how to measure carbon benefits of biomass and how to compare them to the fossil fuels emissions to account for the biomass benefits accurately.


As recently explained with the example of North Carolina forests by Bob Apt and Fred Cubbage – both forestry professors at North Carolina State University who have published research on forest carbon - measuring carbon benefits of biomass has to be done with the right metric. “… One stand is not the right metric for carbon neutrality and sustainability. The overall forest volume in the region or the state is correct. Forest stands always mature, die, regenerate — naturally by old age and mortality (like people) or by planned timber harvests and planting or natural regrowth. …So, since the state has increasing overall timber volumes per acre and in total, we are sustainable, and we are carbon neutral or better.” 


This conclusion is shared by Puneet Dwivedi, a professor of forest sustainability sciences at the  University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry who recently explained, “When assessing carbon emissions from biomass, what matters is not the fate of individual trees, but whether the forest as a whole is regenerating at a rate sufficient to maintain or increase its overall volume of the wood fiber. If forests are growing at this rate – as they have been for the past 50 years in the Southeast, where the majority of America's wood biomass is sourced – they recapture the carbon emitted by burning wood pellets or any other wood-based energy feedstocks within a year.” 


Statement #2 from Chatham House Report: “BECCS could lead to widespread land-use change, and prove problematic for developing countries.” 

Our members source biomass from the U.S. Southeast, which is among the world’s most sustainably-managed wood baskets. This region encompasses about 1.2 million sq. km of forests, which is larger than France, Germany and the U.K. combined. What’s more impressive than the scale of this natural resource, is how well it’s been managed over the past 100 years. The land-use change experienced here is defined by healthy, expanding forests.  


According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, forest inventory and forested area has steadily increased since the mid-1950’s, while carbon stocks have more than doubled, despite the pressures of record population growth and urban development. This is due in large part to strong markets for forest products, which incentivize the private landowners – which collectively own 87% of the forestland here – to continue planting trees. 

Wood biomass accounts for just 3% of all wood fiber harvested in the U.S. Southeast each year. While this is a small fraction relative to the overall forest products sector, wood biomass still provides a critical market for lower-value wood to private landowners, which incentivizes them to keep growing trees for all uses. 


Regarding concerns of land use change, a recent report from the University of Georgia and the U.S. Forest Service projects that the absence of a market for wood biomass would actually result in the loss of up to 15,000 square kilometers of U.S. forestland, roughly the size of the Netherlands, over a 10 year period. So not only is demand for biomass good for U.S. forests, but loss of this demand could result in less forestland overall. 


In terms of biomass availability, a recent report from a European consortium projects that the U.S. is actually well-below its sustainable capacity. The research shows the sustainable export potential for biomass from the Southeast U.S. is more than double its current production levels. 

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Scientists highlight carbon benefits of renewable wood energy

October 25th, 2019 

Contact: Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipa.org 


RICHMOND, VA –  The US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) today lauded a recent letter signed by more than 100 scientists from more than 50 colleges and universities citing the benefits of wood energy. The letter, published by the National Association of University Forest Resource Programs (NAUFRP), calls on policymakers to consider key fundamentals related to forest biomass. 


Emphasizing that research on the use of forest biomass dates back to the 1980s, the scientists noted that the “carbon benefits of sustainable forest biomass are well established.” The letter also cites a report from United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which notes:


“In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.” 

The scientists also emphasized research showing that “demand for wood helps keep land in forest and incentivizes investments in new and more productive forests, all of which have significant carbon benefits.”


Reacting to the report, Seth Ginther, USIPA Executive Director, commented:

“This is a resounding statement of academic consensus on the benefits of renewable wood energy. The value of biomass energy production in lowering carbon emissions and supporting healthy forests is well-documented through decades of peer-reviewed research. This letter underscores exactly what we are hearing from the UN IPCC: that sustainably-sourced wood biomass is an essential technology to fight climate change and limit global temperature rise to 1.5C.” 


Reviewing more than 30 years of scientific research on forest biomass utilization, scientists from a diverse range of universities across the country – from Yale, Harvard, and Georgia to Washington, Idaho, and Berkeley -- identified four fundamentals for science-based decision-making on biomass energy production:

- The carbon benefits of sustainable forest biomass energy are well established.

- Measuring the carbon benefits of forest biomass energy must consider cumulative carbon     emissions over the long term.

- An accurate comparison of forest biomass energy carbon impacts with those of other energy sources requires the use of consistent timeframes in the comparison.

- Economic factors influence the carbon impacts of forest biomass energy.


“We would encourage all policy-makers to heed the recommendations of these university scientists when considering the role of wood energy in reducing carbon and lowering emissions,” said Ginther. “The scientific consensus is clear and continues to strengthen: forest biomass is a critical part of an all-in renewables solution for climate change.”


                                                               

 About NAUFRP

The NAUFRP was formed in 1981 to provide university-based natural resource education, research, science, extension and international programs promoting American forest health. Today, NAUFRP represents 80 universities and their respective scientists, educators and extension specialists.


About USIPA

USIPA is a not-for-profit trade association promoting sustainability and safety practices within the US wood energy industry.  We advocate for the wood energy sector as a smart solution to climate change, and we support renewable energy policy development around the globe.  Our members represent all aspects of the wood pellet export industry, including pellet producers, traders, equipment manufacturers, bulk shippers, and service providers. 







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North Carolina's Clean Energy Plan

October 1, 2019

Contact: Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipa.org


The reaction of anti-forestry groups to North Carolina’s Clean Energy Plan is predictable.  Activists -- rightly -- cite the UN IPCC report as THE authoritative source for both WHY and HOW we need to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C.  But the UN IPCC has been crystal clear.  Every pathway outlined by the IPCC to limit temperature increases calls for the use of bioenergy.  And, the IPCC supports the use of forest products like lumber, paper packaging, and renewable wood energy as a way of continuing to promote forest growth.  Anti-forestry activists can’t have it both ways. They can’t point to the UN report as the source for the urgent need to act, but then dismiss its recommendations because those recommendations don’t fit with their anti-forestry agenda.


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Denmark Transitions Away from Coal with Wood Biomass

September 9, 2019

Contact: Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipa.org


Woody biomass sourced from the U.S. southeast is helping Denmark transition from coal and decarbonize its economy. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), widely considered the world’s top authority on climate science, continues to recognize the role of sustainably-managed working forests and wood biomass to limit global warming below 1.5°C. 


Indeed the IPCC in August 2019 acknowledged there are no pathways to meet the critical 1.5°C threshold without the use of bioenergy, it is among the tools that will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefits. 


The U.S. Southeast is among the world’s most sustainably-managed wood baskets. According to data from the USDA, today 1.8 trees are planted for every tree that is harvested in the region. That is why forest inventory and forested area has increased since 1953 despite record population growth and urban development during this same time period, and carbon storage in U.S. Southeast forests has doubled over the last 60 years. 


USIPA’s members are contributing to expanding healthy forests and helping to ensure they remain viable and sustainable for generations to come. We look forward to supporting our customers and partners in Denmark as they work to further reduce CO2 emissions and transition to a renewable economy.  


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USIPA Responds to UK Government’s Net Zero Pledge

June 12, 2019

Contact: Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipa.org


RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - Today’s pledge underscores the UK’s longstanding commitment to addressing climate change and reducing GHG emissions. Over the last decade, biomass has displaced millions of tons of coal in the UK, and will continue to be an essential source of renewable energy to help scale carbon capture technology, and enable the deployment of more wind and solar. We look forward to working with our UK members and partners to support the journey to #NetZero.    


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UK Climate Change Report Recommends Biomass as Part of Effort to Reach Net Zero Emissions by 2050

Report Calls for Deployment of Bioenergy Carbon Capture at Scale by 2030 


May 2, 2019 

Contact: Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipa.org


RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - The United States Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) today lauded a report from the U.K. Committee on Climate Change (CCC) citing biomass as a key renewable energy source to help the nation reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The report calls on the U.K. to end its contribution to global warming within 30 years and says the ambitious new target is achievable with known technologies and should be put into law as soon as possible.  


“Biomass in the form of renewable wood energy has displaced millions of tons of coal helping the U.K. reduce its carbon emissions for the sixth consecutive year, which are now at their lowest level since the 19th century,” said Seth Ginther, USIPA Executive Director. “Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) represents a tremendous opportunity to further reduce emissions by generating carbon-negative electricity using 100% renewable feedstock. We look forward to working with our partners, as well as the CCC, to help the U.K. meet its emissions goals.” 


Along with wind and solar, renewable wood energy supplied by the U.S. has become a vital part of the U.K.’s renewable energy mix over the last decade, and is positioned for continued growth as a source of low-carbon baseload electricity. The report reiterates previous CCC predictions that sustainable imports [including imports from the US] could increase biomass use up to 15% [up from 7%] of U.K. primary energy consumption by 2050. 


Biomass is also anticipated to play a role in carbon sequestration efforts. The report calls for BECCS project to be deployed at scale no later than 2030. Further, it estimates BECCS could generate up to 173 THh of electricity by 2050, capturing up to 51 metric tons of carbon.  


Currently, a pilot project is underway at Drax Power Station near Selby in North Yorkshire that is capturing one metric ton of carbon per day. Scaling BECCS technology, like this pilot, would enable carbon-negative power generation from 100% renewable feedstock.  


The CCC press release can be found here, and the full report can be found here.


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Earth Day Statement

April 22, 2019

Contact: Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipa.org


On Earth Day 2019, we recognize the urgency to act against the most significant threat to our planet – climate change. Our industry is committed to providing solutions to this most pressing issue by enabling countries to curb emissions while promoting healthy, sustainable forests. As the world faces the challenge of decarbonizing its energy supply, renewable wood biomass continues to displace millions of tons of coal each year and serve as an essential part of an all-in strategy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.  

 
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Is the 'Burned' Film Believable?

March, 2019

Contact, Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipaorg 


A recent film by anti-biomass campaigners is being promoted widely online at the moment.


To give the anti-biomass lobbyists credit, they’ve produced a very slick film.


If you watch it through, by the end credits you’ll be convinced that all those who support bioenergy – thousands of policymakers, scientists, foresters, energy experts and investors throughout the world – are deeply mistaken. Or, worse, they don’t care.


The film presents an industry freely cutting swathes across ancient, sensitive woodlands, “destroying forests, biodiversity and making climate change worse.” And being paid “disproportionately large amounts” to do so.


But is ‘Burned’ balanced? Have you been shown the real picture and the arguments on both sides? And if not, is it believable?


The truth is that this film is not just unbalanced – it’s completely biased and dangerously wrong. It paints a deeply inaccurate picture, basing its narrative on flawed assumptions about how forestry operates and how US forests over recent years and decades have performed.


This film falls into the normal pattern of anti-biomass campaigners who, in the words of forestry experts Forisk, repeatedly commit three fundamental errors:

  1. Failure to provide context;
  2. Improperly assigning causal relationships;
  3. Errors of fact.


There are many issues here, but we’ve picked out the key ones that keep coming up again and again from the same people.


To begin with, we’d suggest watching this film by Tony Juniper, the renowned environmental champion and now Chairman of the English environmental agency, Natural England. Tony goes into those same forests and explores how the sector works. It’ll help provide some balance.


See the full story here.


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USIPA Response to Vox Article on US Biomass Industry

March 5, 2019

By: Seth Ginther, Executive Director, USIPA

Contact: Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipa.org


Vox Magazine recently published an article titled “Europe’s renewable energy policy is built on burning American trees.  The author, clearly, is not a fan of renewable wood energy. 


This is a debate worth having. 


The article we would write is “Renewable Wood Energy: Helping the EU kill coal.” 


First, a primer. 


Bioenergy, in the form of wood pellets, uses wood that is not suitable for higher value products (like 2x4s or furniture). Instead, wood pellets are produced from lower value wood – including “thinnings,” limbs, tops, small and crooked trees – or even sawdust or other industrial wood “waste.” 


Bioenergy plays an increasingly important role in the renewable energy space. As an alternative to coal, wood pellets help heat generators and power producers reduce their carbon footprint up to 85% on a lifecycle basis, often without undergoing major renovations to their existing structures. That’s why, in Europe, bioenergy represents more than 60% of renewable energy consumption, and is widely seen as part of the strategy for meeting ambitious carbon reduction goals. According to a report published this week, the U.K.'s carbon emissions fell for the sixth consecutive year in 2018, hitting some of the lowest levels seen since 1888. Biomass-fired power is a key reason that’s been possible.


Here’s why: Power generation using bioenergy also provides a reliable, clean source of energy that complements the intermittency of wind and solar energy, ensuring a stable grid without having to rely on fossil fuel-fired backup. In other words, we can use bioenergy when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. Absent bioenergy – the most likely backup plan is: use more fossil fuels. 


The Vox article argues that bioenergy makes the climate crisis worse. That’s wrong. Let’s look at the facts.


First, there are 50% more trees in the US than there were 50 years ago. In other words -- in a time of expanding population and increasing demand for forest products, the total volume of trees grown in the U.S. increased by 50%. Today, in the southeast U.S. private forest owners are growing 40% more wood than they remove every year. 


How does using wood create more trees? It seems counter-intuitive, but the reality is the key to keeping forests as forests is strong demand for forest products. Additional demand raises the value landowners can get from keeping their land as managed forests. Absent strong demand, landowners have the incentive to convert their land for a higher return. That could mean a farm, a housing development, or a strip mall. Moreover, EU renewable energy regulations require sustainable sourcing. Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive, bioenergy must be sourced from a region that has stable or increasing carbon stocks.  


Second, bioenergy is a key part of an all-in solution on fighting climate. The recent report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change laid out, with urgency, the steps we need to take to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. The IPCC has long supported the role that that renewable wood energy can play in climate change, both as a low-carbon source of power and heat, but also as a contributor to afforestation and conservation. The most recent report noted the “flexibility that makes bioenergy and bioenergy technologies valuable for the decarbonization of energy use.”  


Other articles have supported the IPCC finding. The Economistrecently noted, in an article titled “How modern bioenergy helps reduce global warming,” that decarbonizing the heat and transport sectors will “be impossible without the contribution of a critical, yet often overlooked source of renewable energy: modern bio-energy.”


Third, the Vox article wrongly suggests that using renewable wood energy increases emissions, and in the short-term we are creating a so-called “carbon debt.” In other words, they argue, yes this is a renewable resource, but it takes too long to regrow, so any increased harvest used for bioenergy will cause short-term emissions that will warm the climate while the trees are growing back. But this argument misses the point. Bioenergy is simply replacing demand for one product with another. Harvest for bioenergy causes no new short-term emissions. Instead, it replaces a fossil fuel with a renewable fuel (and incentivizes landowners to grow more trees). 


Finally, it’s important to put this issue in the context of current policy and political solutions. In Washington, much of the conversation around climate today revolves around the “Green New Deal” – which often means very different things to different people. But the heart of the Green New Deal conversation is the dual goal of moving away from fossil fuels while supporting renewable energy jobs – and, importantly, rural jobs. Renewable wood energy does just that. 


We don’t have to look any further than Governor Jay Inslee – who just announced he is running for President on a mostly single-issue platform of fighting climate change – for a succinct explanation of the benefits of bioenergy. A long-time supporter of this renewable energy, he noted at event several years ago in Washington state: “Enabling clean, renewable heat and power generation from forest biomass not only creates jobs and economic activity in our timber-dependent communities, it supports our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase treatment of our forested lands for health and fire reduction.” We couldn’t agree more.


So why the push back from bioenergy opponents?  If renewable wood energy is so great, why do some strident environmental groups oppose it? As with many issues, people often take an all or nothing approach on renewable energy. Some argue that no forest should be a “working forest” – we should simply never touch them. Others often advocate one-size-fits-all solutions (like 100% wind or solar) that simply aren’t feasible today – and might never be. We take the view that we should use all tools in the tool box – and do the things today that most quickly replace fossil fuels and minimize emissions.


The Vox article was right about one thing – we have limited time to make real progress on climate change. Those who argue against an all-in approach that includes renewable wood energy are only helping the coal industry continue its dominance.  


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Statement by USIPA Executive Director Seth Ginther on Davos 2019

January 22, 2019

Contact: Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipa.org


RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – “This week world leaders are meeting in Davos to take on the world’s most pressing issues – chief of which remains climate change and how to mitigate its effects. Since last year’s Davos meetings, the United Nations, along with countless other nations and organizations, have issued dire reports calling for solutions to cut carbon emissions before the worst effects of climate change materialize around the world.  Biomass remains a viable solution that nearly all of the experts say will go far to curb emissions. Europe and Asia are working closely with industry to meet ambitious energy commitments and the U.S. must follow suit. Because the fact is: bioenergy is a vital source of renewable energy that, along with others, will help reduce the effects of climate change.”


For more information on USIPA, click here.


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UK climate change report predicts increase in imports of US renewable wood fuel

November 14, 2018

Contact: Taylor Fitts, tfitts@theusipa.org


RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - The United States Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) today lauded a report from the U.K. Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that called for increased use for biomass, to provide a low carbon future.

The report states, “with imports supplementing domestic [UK] resources, a total of up to 15% [up from 7%] of the UK’s primary energy demand could, under certain conditions, come from sustainable biomass [including imports from the US] by 2050.”


USIPA Executive Director, Seth Ginther commented that, “The report shows that biomass is an essential source of renewable energy that plays a large role in the all-of-the-above approach to displacing coal with cleaner alternatives.  USIPA’s members and partners are expanding healthy forests and ensuring they remain viable and sustainable for generations to come.  We look forward to working with our partners, as well as the CCC, to further reduce CO2 emissions around the world.”


The report specifically cited US Forest Service data showing that harvesting biomass for renewable energy increases forest cover.


The CCC press release can be found here, and the full report can be found here.


For more information on USIPA, click here.


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