USIPA Views

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?

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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