Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Turning forests into fuel: Promise and limits of biomass energy in Northeastern U.S.

Date:
February 28, 2011
Source:
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Summary:
In targeted applications, the heat generated by locally-grown biomass can reduce dependence on fossil fuels and support local economies," said Dr. Charles D. Canham, a forest ecologist at the Cary Institute and co-author of the report. "But each forested landscape is different, and regional variation in forest conditions and energy infrastructure means there is no one-size-fits-all solution."

This is an aerial view of logging activity in the Adirondack region of New York state.
Credit: Charles Canham

Forest biomass could replace as much as one quarter of the liquid fossil fuel now being used for industrial and commercial heating in the Northeastern United States. That's according to a new report released February 17 by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

But the report also has sharp caveats: The potential for forest biomass varies widely within the region, and forest resources must be carefully managed to protect the other important services and goods they provide. Under the right circumstances, however, the report found that forest biomass can provide a domestic energy resource, create local jobs, and provide incentives to forest owners.

"In targeted applications, the heat generated by locally-grown biomass can reduce dependence on fossil fuels and support local economies," said Dr. Charles D. Canham, a forest ecologist at the Cary Institute and co-author of the report. "But each forested landscape is different, and regional variation in forest conditions and energy infrastructure means there is no one-size-fits-all solution."

The report analyzed U.S.D.A. Forest Service Forest data from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

It found that using forest biomass for heat in the region was far more effective in replacing liquid fossil fuels than converting it to cellulosic ethanol for road transport. Biomass burned in combined heat and power plants reduced fossil fuel use more than five times more effectively than substituting gasoline with cellulosic ethanol.

Under best-case scenarios, however, the energy generated sustainably from forest biomass in the Northeast could replace only 1.4% of the region's total fossil fuel energy. But for some states, biomass energy could be much more compelling when replacing fossil fuel use in certain sectors.

"Maine and New Hampshire show the greatest potential for forest biomass energy," said Dr. Thomas Buchholz, a researcher at the University of Vermont's Carbon Dynamics Lab and co-author on the report. "Our study found that New Hampshire could replace as much as 84 percent of its liquid fossil fuel dependence in the industrial and commercial heating sector, and Maine could replace 49 percent of its liquid fossil fuel dependence in the home-heating sector."

But the report cautioned that utmost care must be observed in all parts of the region.

"There is a misconception that Northeastern forestland is a vast, untapped resource," Canham commented. "This is simply not true. Unrealistic growth in biomass energy facilities could lead to serious degradation of forest resources. While forest biomass is part of the renewable energy toolkit, it is by no means a panacea."

"Forest biomass can be an important element of a low-carbon energy future," added contributing author Dr. Steven Hamburg of Environmental Defense Fund. "But we'll need ongoing scientific oversight to ensure it is done sustainably."

Full report: Forest Biomass and Bioenergy: Opportunities and Constraints in the Northeastern United States


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. "Turning forests into fuel: Promise and limits of biomass energy in Northeastern U.S.." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110217124915.htm>.
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. (2011, February 28). Turning forests into fuel: Promise and limits of biomass energy in Northeastern U.S.. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110217124915.htm
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. "Turning forests into fuel: Promise and limits of biomass energy in Northeastern U.S.." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110217124915.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins