October 25, 2008

Analysis of Woody Biomass Case Studies

After every thinning operation of forest management (see the before/after picture above) there is an accumulation of woody biomass (see below).
Woody biomass is the lowest-value material removed from the forest, usually logging slash, small-diameter trees, tops, limbs, or trees that can not be sold as timber. However, in the emerging renewable energy paradigm shift, this biomass has suddenly acquired added value as a potential feedstock for conversion to biofuels and biopower. So there is a pull of demand for this feedstock that did not exist before. Couple that with the push to reduce the impacts of global warming, accumulations of woody biomass in the forests are seen as a two-prong threat. First, they dry out to become combustible fuelwood to spark wildfires and second, as they rot they emit greenhouse gases.

So the collection, impacts, and the logistics involved in removal of these piles is a new subject of research and debate. Numerous case studies have been collected that examine the impacts of woody biomass on forest fires (both left standing in the forest and left piled after forest management).

I reported on the case studies accumulated and referenced online by the Joint Fire Science Program. A new report has been issued by the Forest Guild titled
Synthesis of Knowledge from Woody Biomass Removal Case Studies that provides an analysis of the case studies focusing on seven main themes that emerged from collecting and comparing them: objectives, collaboration, ecology, fire, economics, implementation, and regional differences.

Its final conclusions are that all aspects of biomass removals from forests are evolving - expanding markets, harvest technology, restoration of fire-adapted eco-systems, collaborative partnerships, contractor experience, and guidelines for best management practices. Funding challenges for science and implementation of new forest management remain. However -

"Rising oil prices, carbon concerns, wildfire hazard reduction requirements, and interest in renewable fuels may help expand markets and thereby expand the number of forests where biomass removals are profitable."


Profits are important, in the absence of other sources of funding, to make evolution of woody biomass management environmentally as well as economically sustainable.

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September 15, 2008

Raven Biofuels allies with Price BIOstock

Price BIOstock and Raven Biofuels announced the signing of a strategic alliance that will help them usher in the new era of biofuel biorefinery deployments. Raven expects to build several acid hydrolysis bio-refineries over the next five years. Each biorefinery is being designed to produce an initial capacity of more than 10 million gallons per year (10 MPGY) of ethanol and high value furfural chemicals.

I work as a Marketing Consultant for Price BIOstock. This project is the product of the sales efforts of Ken Day, Price BIOstock Canada Vice President.

What I especially like about the alliance is the emphasis on the use of waste construction wood and Mountain Pine Beetle infested wood to make biofuels. From the Raven Biofuels website:

Our first project is in Washington state and uses construction wood waste for feedstock. Our second project will be in British Columbia Canada and we expect to use pine beetle infested wood for feedstock. This feedstock is readily available and unusable for other applications.

Salvaging waste wood helps mitigate the impact of its decay that would otherwise add greenhouse gas emissions to our already saturated carbon cycle.

Here is the text of their joint press release, found on the CNN Money online report.

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Raven Biofuels Forges Strategic Alliance With Biomass Feedstock Experts at Price BIOstock

September 15, 2008: 07:00 AM EST

Raven Biofuels International Corporation (OTCBB: RVBF) ("Raven" or the "Company") is pleased to announce a strategic alliance with Price BIOstock Services, a division of Arkansas-headquartered The Price Companies, Inc. ("Price Companies") (www.pricebiostock.com), with the stated intent towards the development of definitive agreements on a project by project basis.

With over 40 years of operating history and $450,000,000 in fixed assets the Price Companies is one of the largest and most experienced wood processing companies in the U.S. offering 19 facilities nationwide under contract for many of the most respected manufacturing companies in America -- including International Paper, Rayonier, Weyerhaeuser, New Page, and Georgia Pacific.

Through their many association memberships and industry-wide relationships, Price recognized that the future of biofuels production will significantly exploit cellulosic biomass and has subsequently developed customized solutions for a broad range of dry biomass feedstock including wood, paper, municipal solid waste (MSW), tires, C&D (construction and demolition waste), and agricultural waste. Currently, Price operates 19 Bio-Mass (Wood Pulp Chip) state-of-the-art facilities that produce 14.6 million tons of pulp chips and 2.5 million tons of hog fuel annually. The BIOstock division offers an expanded set of services for managing biomass feedstock materials including consulting, procurement, systems design/engineering, and facilities management.

John Sams, Raven's President and Chief Operating Officer, commented, "The Price Companies are a long established and well managed organization. With the establishment of their BIOstock division they can provide innovative solutions specifically tailored to the needs of biofuels companies like Raven. Feedstock procurement and management is critical to efficiently operating our proposed refineries. Additionally, I feel that Price brings a lot to the table beyond their core offering and could ultimately accelerate Raven's growth strategy."

About Raven Biofuels International Corporation (OTCBB: RVBF)

Raven Biofuels is a developing global renewable energy company focused on producing ethanol from waste or biomass (cellulosic ethanol). Raven plans to build commercial scale refineries using a proprietary 2 stage dilute acid hydrolysis process to convert forestry and agricultural waste to transportation grade ethanol. The production of cellulosic ethanol could play a major role in national energy independence as it has in Brazil. Ethanol made from waste is a viable clean fuel that can play a part in reducing emissions that cause global warming and reducing independence on foreign oil. For more information visit: www.ravenbiofuelsinternational.com.

Contact:
Bakerview Investor Relations Inc.
1-888-525-7823 (RVBF)

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September 4, 2008

Woody Biomass Removal Case Studies


Here are a series of publicly accessible case studies that point to the conscientious work being performed and meticulously documented by forest managers and academia "so that managers, land- owners, business entrepreneurs, communities, and industry partners can easily access information to help them remove and utilize woody biomass from forests in an efficient and ecologically responsible manner."

Who is the Forest Guild?

We are a professional organization of forest stewards and affiliates who are passionate about sustaining and restoring the integrity of our forests while meeting the needs of the communities that rely on them. Our members’ work provides tangible examples of “excellent forestry”—forestry that is ecologically, economically, and socially responsible.

Anyone can access the fruits of this study by simply inserting a search keyword (a species of animal, for instance) or by choosing from multiple options for each of several fields of information (see screen shot below).

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Woody Biomass Removal Case Studies
Lessons Learned and Strategies for Success

Forest managers remove woody biomass from forests for many reasons, including: reducing hazardous fuels, increasing fire safety in the wildland-urban interface, restoring ecosystems, improving wildlife habitat, conducting forest stand improvement, and providing products from poles to pellets. Managers across the country on public, tribal, conservation, and private lands have utilized a wide variety of strategies for removing biomass. To help share these strategies, the Joint Fire Sciences Program initiated two coordinated analyses of themes, strategies, and lessons learned from an examination of over 40 biomass removal case studies.

Two research teams, one led by the Forest Guild and another by the University of Minnesota, have collected and analyzed the case studies presented here so that managers, land- owners, business entrepreneurs, communities, and industry partners can easily access information to help them remove and utilize woody biomass from forests in an efficient and ecologically responsible manner.
Search the case studies
Case studies index
Project summary – University of Minnesota
Project summary – Forest Guild
Links to woody biomass resources and information

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August 25, 2008

The Forest Service and Climate Change

The Forest Service has put together a 12 minute video titled The Forest Service and Climate Change that encapsulates some of the mounting concern for the impact of global warming on the health of our forests, the ability of forests to counteract its progress, and how the Forest Service plans to deal with it.
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August 11, 2008

Authority returned to the Forest Service

I am convinced that one of the hardest jobs in the government is to work in the USDA Forest Service. It is not that it is dangerous work... it's that it must be so frustrating.

Here is an organization entrusted with a gargantuan challenge, with what should be a more than adequate budget, and more responsibility than should be expected of any governmental agency - safeguarding the health of one of our biggest assets, our federal forests. The job should be the most fulfilling in government - "gardeners" of our rich forest legacy and its wildlife. The people I've met are dedicated and top-notch - steeped in decades of education and experience studying the fine machinations of our forest ecology.

So why is it so frustrating? It is because the management lacks any real authority. They cannot control their own much less our forests' destiny.

What is ironic is that the people that challenge them the most - the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that frequently take them to court - insist on turning more private lands into their care. Do they receive commensurate budgetary increases to manage the additional lands? No. Are the forests going to be taken care of better by a federal bureaucracy than by private timberland owners - no. Why? Well, the private owners had authority to tend to their assets. The Forest Service has very little control over these same lands. It must be great sport taking the FS to court but it certainly isn't resulting in healthier forests based on better science.

Which is why it is heartening to see the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals come out and unanimously overrule a decision that judges should not be making scientific decisions in lieu of Forest Service expertise. The August 2008 issue of the Society of American Forestry (SAF) reports on this encouraging turnaround.

Incredibly, many court challenges barring forest management projects are based on the specious argument that the Forest Service violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because it doesn't "adequately address all of the uncertainties in its proposed treatments." The lower courts often take the view that "the public interest in preserving nature and avoiding irreparable environmental injury outweighs economic concerns." In short, neither money nor time matters if there is any possibility that their actions might be detrimental to some special concern or another. The appeals court's ruling counters that this policy gives the lower court too much authority over scientific matters outside its jurisdiction.

In its July 2 ruling on Lands Council v. McNair (or Lands Council I) the panel wrote that, “In essence, Lands Council asks this court to act as a panel of scientists that instructs the Forest Service how to validate its hypotheses regarding wildlife viability, chooses among scientific studies in determining whether the Forest Service has complied with the underlying Forest Plan, and orders the agency to explain every possible scientific uncertainty. As we will explain, this is not a proper role for a federal appellate court.”"

Such a ruling couldn't come too soon. As explained elsewhere in this blog, our forests suffer from too little forest management stalled interminably by litigation - particularly in view of the unnatural conditions of smoke and greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires which continue to distort the historic profile of our forests.

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Ninth Circuit: Improper for Judges to Act as Scientists
11-Judge Panel Says Courts Must Defer to Agency Expertise

In a landmark case, an 11-judge panel of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled last month that courts must defer to US Forest Service expertise when it cannot be shown that the agency acted in scientific uncertainty in complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and that the agency could choose the scientific methods it uses in meeting the requirements of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA).

Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey praised the decision.
“We think this is a fairly significant decision—maybe the most significant Forest Service environmental case of the past two decades,” he said. “The panel was reacting to the Ninth Circuit getting deeper and deeper into a posture of second-guessing agency expertise or its use of expert scientific information. In several instances, the panel reversed what they believed was a drift in Ninth Circuit jurisprudence away from the standards of review used by other circuits.”

Rey added that the panel said that it was not necessary for the Forest Service to prove its methods to a level of scientific certainty.
“The panel said that wildlife viability is not the only consideration that the agency has to take into account and that we are not required to use on-the-ground analysis in all cases,” Rey said. “They said that it is not the court’s role to conduct an assessment of the methodology the Forest Service uses, that the Forest Service has discretion to determine what scientific studies are important, and that we’re not required to address every possible uncertainty in our decisionmaking.”

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July 24, 2008

Redefining "renewable biomass" in EISA

As we strive to find sustainable alternatives to the demonstrably unsustainable fossil fuel paradigm the definition of "renewable biomass" is critically important. It is not just biofuels, biopower, or bioproducts that are (or are not) environmentally sustainable. Sustainability is a function, too, of the feedstock - and it may vary by region. Corn grown in the midwest might be sustainable while corn grown in California might not be for any number of reasons - water, pests, climate, topography, or soil to name a few. And that doesn't begin to address the question of economic sustainability which is determined by a host of other factors like capital availability, markets, infrastructure, ownership, manpower, and subsidies.

Bruce Dale of Michigan State University said at the 2008 California Biomass Collaborative "All biomass is local. And, as Tip O'Neil used to famously assert 'All politics is local.' So the obvious syllogism is that 'All biomass is political!'"

Funny if it wasn't so true.

Which is why it makes no sense for a federal definition of "renewable biomass" to be exclusionary (which is the way that it is as currently defined in the EISA law). It should be as inclusive as possible - allowing local considerations to determine what is environmentally and economically sustainable.

I think this is the inferred conclusion of an excellent "renewable biomass" testimony made today by Environmental and Energy Study Institute Senior Advisor Jetta Wong in her presentation at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research.

Here are some key points that she made in her summary and conclusion.

Summary:
On December 19, 2007 the President and Congress took a huge step forward in trying to mitigate climate change and reduce our country’s reliance on fossil fuels by enacting the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA, P.L. 110-140). EISA substantially increases the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), calling for the production by 2022 of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel with specific targets for greenhouse gas reductions. Within the 36 billion gallon mandate, 21 billion gallons must come from advanced biofuels, which means renewable fuel other than ethanol derived from corn starch. Additionally, there is a carve-out within the advanced fuels mandate that 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel be derived from ‘renewable biomass.’

This is an aggressive and ambitious RFS. It is laudable, but it stirs up a lot of difficult issues regarding the sustainability of biofuels. One of the biggest factors in determining if a biofuel is sustainable is the choice of feedstocks used to produce the renewable fuel. Unfortunately, the definition of ‘renewable biomass’ included in the law deems several feedstocks ineligible, including thinning materials and woody residues from federal forests, some woody feedstocks from private forests, and a wide array of feedstocks from municipal solid waste.

Key Points :
• Renewable fuels are important to our climate and energy security strategy. They are reducing our dependence on foreign oil, reducing the cost of gasoline at the pump, and if produced sustainably, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
• Renewable fuel facilities provide a market for low-value material produced through forest management practices.
• Abundant sources of woody biomass in the west can increase the distribution of liquid transportation fuels across the country. This will help to meet the large fuel markets of the west while further securing our energy supply.
• Mill residue and other woody materials create complications (in terms of collection) and should be carefully considered during implementation.
• Municipal solid waste is a low-value feedstock that several companies are investigating. Confusing or varying definitions included in public law create risk, limit innovation, and ultimately reduce the use of a feedstock currently considered a problem.
• Production of renewable fuels from low-value materials, such as woody biomass and municipal solid waste, reduces the pressure to develop feedstocks on sensitive land.
• A variety of stakeholders overwhelmingly support a broadening of feedstocks that could be eligible for the RFS. Specifically, low-value woody biomass sustainably harvested from both federal and private lands should be included.

Cellulosic biofuels can be produced from a highly diverse array of feedstocks, allowing every region of the country to be a potential producer of this fuel. (Cellulose is found in all plant matter.) As a result, support for cellulosic biofuels has brought together a broad array of constituents including environmentalists, farmers, national security experts, industry, and religious leaders. Unquestionably, the production of renewable fuels needs to be done in a way that sequesters carbon and enhances natural resources, including soils, water supply and native habitats. Production of renewable feedstocks should not be deemed to be in competition with the goals of sustainable agriculture or forestry. In fact, there are opportunities for renewable fuel and energy production to aid conservation efforts and environmental sustainability beyond those associated conventional agriculture, forestry or fossil fuel production and consumption.

Conclusion:
The wisest course of action would be to focus on feedstocks that do not compete for land resources, such as low-value forest residues and other waste materials. The RFS is a very aggressive mandate, but it is not an impossible one, as long as we do not exclude any of those feedstocks that can be produced sustainably and that meet important environmental and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. With conversion technologies still in development, we must keep our options open and strive to produce renewable fuels that meet objective and appropriate standards of sustainability. Fortunately, our nation possesses abundant and readily available feedstocks that satisfy this criterion.

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July 21, 2008

Flambeau River BioFuels trailblazes Paper & Pulp Mill Conversions

It is always life-affirming to see the good guys win one. In this case the good guys are the participants of the Flambeau River Biofuels project led by strategic consultant Ben Thorp whose vision, persistence, and professionalism has been an inspiration to all who know him.

It has been a labor of love for Ben who has seen the industry he has devoted so much of his career (at Georgia Pacific) be reduced to a fighting retreat as offshore sourcing, labor prices, and environmental activism has taken a toll on this proud industry. During a time of heightened awareness of the need to buck the oil addiction, it is rarely mentioned that biomass conversion is the nation's largest producer of renewable energy (see chart).

To date the electricity and heat produced by combusting manufacturing residual wood at paper and pulp mills is generally used in plant operations. With projects like the Flambeau River project, the biofuels produced will be sold on the open market (capacity of 6 million gallons per year of Fisher-Tropsch liquids in the form of renewable sulfur-free diesel fuels and waxes).

The refinery is projected to open in 2010.

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U.S. Department of Energy Awards Flambeau River BioFuels a Grant to Construct First-in-Class Facility for Production of Renewable Diesel to be Co-located at Pulp and Paper Mill in Park Falls, WI

PARK FALLS, Wis., July 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Flambeau River BioFuels is pleased to announce that it has received approval of its $30 million grant request from the U.S. Department of Energy to construct and operate a first- in-class biorefinery at an existing pulp and paper mill in Park Falls, Wisconsin. The final award value will be subject to final negotiation with the Department of Energy. When in full operation, the biorefinery will produce at least 6 million gallons of liquid fuels per year in the form of renewable sulfur-free diesel. The biorefinery will not be dependent on any food-based feedstock materials, but rather on by-products or residuals from forest and agricultural sources. The biorefinery will also generate at least 1 trillion BTUs per year of process heat that will be sold to Flambeau River Papers, which will make it the first integrated pulp and paper mill in North America to be fossil fuel free.

"This grant supports Flambeau River BioFuels' goal to be a major contributor in achieving the Federal government's goal of increasing renewable fuels production and reducing our nation's dependence on Mideast oil," said Bob Byrne, President, Flambeau River BioFuels. "With this funding, we will be able to accelerate the retrofitting of this mill from a pure pulp and paper plant to a broader production facility that will produce biofuels within the same facility, thus sharing key infrastructure elements and costs."

The Flambeau River BioFuels biorefinery will employ two commercially proven technologies to produce clean renewable energy and biofuels. It will gasify biomass resources, such as forest residuals and agricultural wastes, into a high-quality synthesis gas, which will then be catalyzed by the well-established Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) process to generate renewable transportation fuels (sulfur-free biodiesel).
"As you can imagine, we are very pleased that our technology approach has been recognized by the Department of Energy as a viable way to produce biofuel from forest residuals -- one of the most abundant renewable resources in the U.S." said William "Butch" Johnson, whose company Johnson Timber is both a project partner and a supplier to the biorefinery. "Since day one, our project has received strong support from Governor Doyle, Chairman Obey and Senator Kohl and we wish to thank them for all their efforts. Once operational, the biorefinery will serve to validate the technology while creating a compelling new model for the pulp and paper industry that can be proliferated throughout the U.S."

"A clean energy future depends on combining Wisconsin ingenuity with our state's resources, and I want to congratulate Flambeau River BioFuels for leading the way," Governor Jim Doyle said. "Their proposed biorefinery shows us all that we can have an energy future that creates jobs, protects our environment and relies less on Mideast oil and more on Midwest know-how."

The Flambeau River BioFuels biorefinery will create permanent, high-skilled operating jobs in the region, long-term logging jobs, and short-term, engineering and construction jobs, thus contributing to the economic stimulus of Park Falls, Wisconsin. The biorefinery is expected to be in operation in 2010.

The project team leading this endeavor is comprised of premiere engineers and scientists with demonstrated successes in implementing new technologies. It will also be supported by the expertise of university and government laboratories.

Flambeau River Biofuels received this grant through their partnerships with: ANL Consultants, Auburn University, Brigham Young University, Citigroup Global Markets, CleanTech Partners, Emerging Fuels Technology, Flambeau River Papers, Johnson Timber, National Renewable Energy Lab, Michigan Technological University, NC State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, ThermoChem Recovery International, University of Wisconsin, and the USDA Forest Products Laboratory.
"This grant will help meet our government's goals of creating new jobs, stimulating remote areas, re-positioning traditional industries for a new world era, and, most importantly, producing clean fuels from renewable resources abundantly found in the U.S.," said Bob Byrne. "We are proud to be a part of this important initiative by taking a leading position in the advancement of bioenergy technologies and the development of cellulosic biofuels."

For more information please Bill Johnson at 1-715-558-1630 or Bob Byrne at 1-715-661-0235.

SOURCE Flambeau River BioFuels
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July 11, 2008

Are Marginal Farmlands the Key to Sustainable Bioenergy?

There are many aspects that need to be considered when comparing the sustainability of different feedstock. We are all familiar with the feed vs. fuel debate. Then concern arose about land use change - deforesting to create land for growing biofuel feedstock. Ideally, the highest yielding, most sustainable energy crops would be grown on available land not already being used for any other purpose.

A recent study by scientists from Carnegie Institution and Stanford University that focus on the availability of "marginal farmlands" that are not forests, not being used to grow food crops, but are suitable for growing energy crops for conversion to bioenergy and biofuels.

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Report Says Abandoned, Marginal Farmlands Key to Sustainable Bioenergy
7/11/08

Biofuels can be a sustainable part of the world's energy future, especially if bioenergy agriculture is developed on currently abandoned or degraded agricultural lands, report scientists from the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University. Using these lands for energy crops, instead of converting existing croplands or clearing new land, avoids competition with food production and preserves carbon-storing forests needed to mitigate climate change.

The report, The Global Potential of Bioenergy on Abandoned Agriculture Lands, asserts that sustainable bioenergy is likely to satisfy no more than 10 percent of the demand in the energy-intensive economies of North America, Europe, and Asia. But for some developing countries, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa, the potential exists to supply many times their current energy needs without compromising food supply or destroying forests.

Elliot Campbell, Robert Genova, and Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, with David Lobell of Stanford University, estimated the global extent of abandoned crop and pastureland and calculated their potential for sustainable bioenergy production from historical land-use data, satellite imaging, and ecosystem models. Agricultural areas that have been converted to urban areas or have reverted to forests were not included in the assessment.

The researchers estimate that globally up to 4.7 million square kilometers (approximately 1.8 million square miles) of abandoned lands could be available for growing energy crops. The potential yield of this land area, equivalent to nearly half the land area of the United States (including Alaska), depends on local soils and climate, as well as on the specific energy crops and cultivation methods in each region. Still, the researchers estimate that the worldwide harvestable dry biomass could amount to as much as 2.1 billion tons, with a total energy content of about 41 exajoules, nearly 7 billion barrels of oil, or about eight percent of the world's energy demand.

"At the national scale, the bioenergy potential is largest in the United States, Brazil, and Australia," says lead author Campbell. "These countries have the most extensive areas of abandoned crop and pasture lands. Eastern North America has the largest area of abandoned croplands, and the Midwest has the biggest expanse of abandoned pastureland."

The authors say that using these lands would generate about six percent of the nation's energy needs, though larger opportunities exist in other parts of the world. In some African countries, where grassland ecosystems are very productive and current fossil fuel demand is low, biomass could provide up to 37 times the energy currently used.
"Our study shows that there is clearly a potential for developing sustainable bioenergy, and we've been able to identify areas where biomass can be grown for energy, without endangering food security or making climate change worse," says Field, director of the Department of Global Ecology.

The results of the study were published in the June 25 online edition of Carnegie Institution for Science.

An abstract of the report :
Converting forest lands into bioenergy agriculture could accelerate climate change by emitting carbon stored in forests, while converting food agriculture lands into bioenergy agriculture could threaten food security. Both problems are potentially avoided by using abandoned agriculture lands for bioenergy agriculture. Here we show the global potential for bioenergy on abandoned agriculture lands to be less than 8% of current primary energy demand, based on historical land use data, satellite-derived land cover data, and global ecosystem modeling. The estimated global area of abandoned agriculture is 385−472 million hectares, or 66−110% of the areas reported in previous preliminary assessments. The area-weighted mean production of above-ground biomass is 4.3 tons ha−1 y−1, in contrast to estimates of up to 10 tons ha−1 y−1 in previous assessments. The energy content of potential biomass grown on 100% of abandoned agriculture lands is less than 10% of primary energy demand for most nations in North America, Europe, and Asia, but it represents many times the energy demand in some African nations where grasslands are relatively productive and current energy demand is low.

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July 3, 2008

CA Draft Scoping Plan comment:
Sustainable Forests

This is one of a series of comments submitted to the California Air Resources Board for their draft version of the California Climate Change Draft Scoping Plan. Other BIOenergy BlogRing comments are linked here:
Challenge the Status Quo
Recycling and Waste
Sustainable Forests

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The ill health of our forests is a statewide catastrophe. We are witnessing deforestation by wildfire, bug infestation, and decay that consumes our forests without adequate reforestation efforts. It is estimated by the California Forest Foundation that we are losing over 30,000 acres of timberlands (an area the size of San Francisco) each year to brushlands.

Nationally, six of the seven worst fire seasons on record have occurred within the last eight years with some fires lasting months and covering hundreds of thousands of acres. Just four wildfires that were recently studied were found to emit the GHG equivalent of adding 7 million cars to our streets for one year.

The smoke and emissions from wildfires are greenhouse gases that we can see, smell, and touch as ash and particulate matter is strewn across the landscape. But this is only the start of the GHG problem. Decay contributes 3 times as much greenhouse gas as the fire itself.

The goal of reducing 5 MMTC02E by 2020 seems woefully inadequate considering the GHG from the combustion of just one wiidfire (2007 Moonlight Fire in Plumas National Forest) which burned 65,000 acres has been documented to have generated 4.9 MMT GHG. Unmanaged treatment would add an additional 15 MMT GHG according to a study by the California Forest Foundation. If wildfire trends continue on their current trajectory, we will have to see much greater reductions to maintain the forest managed GHG sequestration defined in the Scoping Plan.

There are forest management practices that can and should be implemented that would mitigate the greenhouse gas impact of these fires while reducing the ferocity of future fires. These practices are not mentioned in the Scoping Plan and I'll list them here:

1 - We need to thin our most vulnerable forests.

Recent reports of a thousand fires in California spotlight the urgency of the problem - which is neither the lightning that sparks the fires nor the lack of firefighting resources to fight the blazes. The real problem is the density of the number of trees with undergrowth - estimated to be 4-10 times their historic profile - on our largely unmanaged forests.

In 2003, the U.S. Congress passed the 2003 Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) allocating $750 million dollars in federal funds to thin approximately 20 million acres nationally. Thinned forests contain the spread of wildfires.

Due to resource allocation to fight forest fires, answer environmentalist challenges (729 lawsuits between 1989-2003), and the resultant bureaucratic inertia only 77,000 acres have been thinned.

Thinning forests won't reduce the incidence of fires, but it would significantly reduce their size and GHG consequences.

2 - We need to salvage wood from impacted forests.

Reducing the biomass of dead and dying trees would go far to mitigating the GHG impacts of wildfires since decay contributes three times the GHG as the original fire itself. Large diameter wood could be converted into saw logs and building materials that sequester carbon in energy efficient homes. Scrap wood could be used to cleanly generate green electricity and convert into carbon-neutral biofuels reducing our GHG from fossil fuels.

3 - We need to replant our devastated forests.

From 2001 to 2007, over 143,500 acres of forestland outside wilderness owned by the federal government has not been replanted and has been left to turn into brush.

Following the 1992 Cleveland Fire in the Eldorado National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service replanted some lands, and left some untouched in an experimental ecoplot. Today, trees stand more than 17 feet tall on replanted lands, but brush dominates the untreated ecoplot.

Unlike government-owned lands, private forest landowners quickly remove dead trees and other fuels for additional fires and then replant. It is a part of their enduring legacy for their children.

CARB needs to incorporate these common sense steps into the Scoping Plan otherwise the status quo will prevail. CARB needs to show leadership in fighting bureaucratic inertia caused by public resistance to necessary change in forest management. These problems will worsen in the midst of compounding global warming factors. As the Plan so clearly states "Future climate impacts will exacerbate existing wildfire and pest problems in the Forest sector."

We can ill afford to lose the carbon sequestering forests of our state.

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June 27, 2008

California's Target for Forest Carbon Reduction

The California Air Resources Board is responsible for implementing the state's AB32 Global Warming Solutions Act. It's first step is to provide a Climate Change Draft Scoping Plan that outlines the reduction goals for achieving a reduction in statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

One of the goals is the reduction of 5 million tons/year of CO2 from forests using sustainable management practices. It is no secret that California can profit from better management of both its private and public forest lands. But as documented in studies from the California Forest Foundation, wildfires in America are at an all-time high and trending higher. Unless aggressive changes take place, like implementing forest management programs funded by the federal 2003 Healthy Forest Restoration Act, greenhouse gases may well outpace the reductions stipulated in the plan.

Here is the specific text in the Scoping Plan that stipulate the Sustainable Forest portion.

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Sustainable Forests

Preserve forest sequestration and encourage the use of forest biomass for sustainable energy generation.

The 2020 target for California’s forest lands is to achieve a 5 MMTCO2E reduction through sustainable management practices, including reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and the avoidance or mitigation of land-use changes that reduce carbon storage. California’s Board of Forestry and Fire Protection has the regulatory authority to implement the Forest Practice Act to provide for sustainable management practices and, at a minimum, to maintain current carbon sequestration levels. The federal government must do the same for lands under its jurisdiction in California. California forests are now a net carbon sink. The 2020 target would provide a mechanism to help ensure that this carbon stock is not diminished over time. The 5 MMTCO2E emission reduction target is set equal to the current estimate of the net emission reduction from California forests. As technical data improve, the target can be recalibrated to reflect new information.

California’s forests will play an even greater role in reducing carbon emissions for the 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals. Forests are unique in that planting trees today will maximize their sequestration capacity in 20 to 50 years. As a result, near-term investments in activities such as planting trees will help us reach our 2020 target, but will play a greater role in reaching our 2050 goals.

Monitoring carbon sequestered on forest lands will be necessary to implement the target. The Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, working with the Resources Agency, the Air Resources Board, and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection would be tasked with developing a monitoring program, improving greenhouse gas inventories, and determining what actions are needed to meet the 2020 target for the Forest sector. Future climate impacts will exacerbate existing wildfire and pest problems in the Forest sector. These problems will create new uncertainties in reducing emissions and maintaining sequestration levels over the long-term requiring more creative strategies for adapting to these changes. In the short term, focusing on sustainable management practices and land-use issues is a practical approach for moving forward.

Future land use decisions will play a role in reaching our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals for all sectors. Loss of forest land to development increases greenhouse gas emissions because less carbon is sequestered. Avoiding or mitigating such conversions will support efforts to meet the 2020 goal. When significant changes occur, the California Environmental Quality Act is a mechanism providing for assessment and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Biomass fuels will also play a role in the expansion of renewable energy sources but will be accounted for in the Energy sector. Similarly, no reductions are yet attributed to future fuels management strategies, but that accounting will be done following implementation. Public investments to purchase and preserve forests and woodlands would also provide reductions that will be accounted for as projects are funded. Urban forest projects can provide the dual benefit of carbon sequestration and shading to reduce air conditioning load. The Forest sector is already a source of voluntary reductions that would not otherwise occur. ARB has already adopted a methodology to quantify reductions from forest projects, and will be considering additional quantification methodologies later this year. Table 11 summarizes the emission reductions from the forest measure.




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June 21, 2008

Georgia's Energy Innovation Center: An interview with Director Jill Stuckey

In April, 2008, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue established six "innovation centers" to focus executive activity in industries perceived to be of key importance to the future of the state. One of these is the Energy Innovation Center (EIC). The primary goal of the EIC will be to increase production and use of renewable energy and biofuels in Georgia by utilizing natural resources, locally grown feedstocks, agricultural and industrial byproducts, solar energy, wind power and other renewable energy alternatives.

“The state of Georgia is quickly becoming a recognized leader in alternative energy and fuel,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “Our goal is to develop a bioenergy industry that provides substantial economic benefit to Georgia and produces 15 percent of the state’s transportation fuels by 2020 from locally produced biofuels.”

At this past week's huge BIO International convention in San Diego, I had the privilege of shaking hands with Governor Perdue and the pleasure of interviewing his Director of the Energy Innovation Center, the dynamic and engaging Jill Stuckey.
“The governor wants a complete circle when it comes to energy development and production in Georgia,” said Stuckey. “Our goal is to grow the feedstocks, produce the fuel, and use our own energy. Designating energy as a focus of one of the Centers of Innovation allows us to harness the power of our resources under one roof.”

Jill is not a newcomer to energy innovation. Prior to this role she was in charge of Alternative Energy in the state.
"When Rita and Katrina hit I was one of the ones who had to try to find fuels when there weren't any coming in through the pipelines from the Gulf. In metro Atlanta, that's where our fuel comes from.

"People don't realize that two thirds of our tank capacity in the world is in our gasoline tanks in our vehicles. Only one third is in our gasoline terminals, gas stations and their tanks. When there is a scare and everyone runs to the gasoline stations, we run out. We want to see fuel developed within our state to increase our self-reliance during crises - whatever they are."

"What the Governor would like to see is that we raise the feedstocks, we produce the fuels there, and we use it there. We would love to see that, when we drive to the pumps, the fuel is coming from 75 miles away from people we know rather than 5,000 miles away from folks that might not like us very well. Not to mention the economic development difference of having a factory right within our community instead of sending it to a foreign country."

I asked Jill several questions about Georgia's longterm commitment to biofuels and its various feedstocks for biomass conversion.

What is Georgia's attitude toward corn ethanol?
"If it wasn't for corn ethanol, gasoline prices could well be 20% higher than they are today. Lots of people are growing corn now. We have doubled our corn acreage in the state of Georgia since a year or so ago. We have a 100 million gallon ethanol facility that will be starting up this Fall. "

What about cellulosic ethanol from wood as a feedstock?
"We have 12 million acres of plantation forests in the state of Georgia. That's our crop. We know how to manage it, we know how to use it. Just about all the industry that I have spoken to is very anxious to look at the next generation utilizing pine for something other than paper - but still embracing that industry."

Back in November, the Governor joined the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary, the Under Secretary of Agriculture and renowned investor, Vinod Khosla for the groundbreaking of the Range Fuels facility in Soperton, GA. What is the commitment of Georgia's government to cellulosic ethanol from woody biomass?
"The Governor came in and was very excited about the groundbreaking and the opportunity for Georgia and the potential for this company. He is very committed to this industry.

"The Range Fuels facility was able to acquire their environmental permit within 76 days. He had an executive order stating that we would turn it in 90 days once we had a completed application and we beat that. He has also passed legislation that gave them tax-free on all their bricks and mortar materials. A lot of the machinery was already tax-exempt but he passed that for all alternative fuels companies. He is very committed to that and I don't see any of that is going to change. I wouldn't be surprised to see more legislation passed to help these companies."

What about succeeding Georgia administrations? Can investors and timberland owners be confident that policies set today will last for the next generation?
"All the upcoming candidates for Governor are interested in alternative fuels and alternative energy as well as the existing pulpwood industry. That industry has a lot of potential with a big headstart if they were to get involved with these projects. I have seen considerable interest in that industry."

What do you think about hybrid trees and energy crops?
"People talk a lot about switchgrass. The numbers I've heard are $80-$100 per ton for that. Wood is less than half of that. We have 12 million acres of plantation pines sitting in Georgia, ready today. We are doing some work with the polonia tree because it grows three times faster than a pine tree. It doesn't have the saps that are inhibitors for the ethanol process.

"We are always looking toward the next generation working with people like Arbogen. We are trying to find the most tons per acre the fastest we can grow. The pines are so great - they don't need a lot of water, you don't have to cultivate them like you do with most other crops. If we don't want to harvest them today we can harvest them next month. It's such a no-brainer."

In the face of mainstream media confusion and disinformation moving forward requires stakeholder engagement and public outreach to make sure that all sectors of Georgia are ready for the changes ahead. How is that being handled?
"That's one thing the Herty Foundation is trying to do - to gather all the powers to be in Georgia and the landowners. They are trying to explain what they see the future is going to be - selling their wood and how to grow it, and explaining that they may not be selling by green ton but by BTU or moisture content - and try to get them to think about how the future is going to be for wood-to-energy as well as wood-to-paper."

The controversial U.S. Senate staff redrafting of the definition of qualifying biomass feedstock in the 2007 EISA (Energy Independence and Security Act) could be interpreted to exclude Georgia woody biomass. What can Georgia's political leaders do to insure that federal law does not infringe on state's management over their own resources?
"From the state's standpoint we have been very involved in that issue from our state forestry commission as well as we are working with our landowners because they are very concerned about that issue. We are very vocal in Washington working with our elected officials in Washington to help any way we can."

"We need to hurry up and try to get this figured out."

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May 25, 2008

Sustainable Forestry for Bioenergy and Bio-based Products

To many preservationists the term "Sustainable Forestry" is an oxymoron. To them all management of forests is unnatural, and therefore unsustainable. I have two questions for them:

1 - If your garden was infested with bugs, suffering from lack of soil nutrients, invaded by weeds, recently burned, or eroding from water damage, would you intervene by managing it? If yes, then why should forests be treated differently?
2 - Hasn't civilization already changed the character of our natural forests to a point from which they will never return to a "natural" state?

Even the experts of the USDA Forest Service would agree with the second question. Some of the problems that are plaguing our public forest lands are the result of aggressive fire suppression of the mid-1900's that were initiated in response to massive fires of the period. If we want to restore our forests, we need to return them to a profile more closely resembling the 1800's with care to make sure that the restored profile is more sustainable. But it will take management to get there, and management to sustain it in the face of growing population, climate change, and global competition for energy feedstocks.

Forest management is necessary. The expanded interface between wildlands and civilization (called "Wildland Urban Interface") is inevitable and the current high density (number of trees per acre) of undermanaged forests is changing their character. The consequence could be a spiral of forest wildfire and decay causing unprecedented greenhouse gas emissions, leading to more global warming, leading to more greenhouse gas emissions. The magnitude of the problem potential dwarfs emissions from other sources.

The forest industry is ready to lead the way to more sustainable forest management practices. The Southern Forest Research Partnership (SFRP) is a leader in research examining how the use of woody biomass can be expanded to aid the health of our forests while insuring that health is sustainable. SFRP research is available online with digital manuals and powerpoint presentations that can be used to train the public about environmentally sustainable bioenergy production systems.

I met up with Dr. Larry Biles, Interim Director of SFRP, at the 2008 Smallwood conference in Madison, WI who had barely enough time during his presentation to outline the wealth of SFRP information available online. Their 300-page training manual is located the Forest Bioenergy website (under Training Tools). They also have a forest encyclopedia (actually a series of several encyclopedias that focus on specific topics) and he highly recommended both the Forest and Range and Interface South websites that provide useful information for practitioners of forest management.

He gave me a CD of the training materials and I found them to be extremely well written and up-to-date (having been published in September, 2007). They really do "span the gap between knowledge and application."

Of particular interest to me was Module 7: Environmentally Sustainable Bioenergy Production Systems:

This module provides an overview of adaptive forest management along with international agreements and various certification systems. It covers issues related to forest soils, water quality, and biodiversity conservation. Specific issues include soil compaction, streamside management zones, and the management of dead wood.

The final part of this module deals with designing low impact operations. Using tools and information presented previously, the readers learn how to plan a low-impact operation. A summary of the concept of best management practices and links are provided to each state’s specific BMP program. You will learn about the proper application of these practices to conserve and protect the environmental sustainability of the forest while maintaining biomass and timber productivity.

The SFRP and supporting organizations have provided a tremendous service collecting this information and providing straightforward media for its distribution and presentation. The slides are a gold mine for presenters who wish to engage stakeholders in decisions affecting the management of forests.

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May 23, 2008

Engaging Forest Stakeholders through Stewardship Contracting

We have seen too many examples of mainstream media spinning and twisting the discourse between science research, environmental concern, and public opinion. I recently attended a workshop that showed a constructive approach that is taking root in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Back in early March I organized two side events at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC) on "Bioenergy and Communications." The humble objective of these panels was to address the challenge of communicating bioenergy information to the public and engaging stakeholders the colossal energy and environmental paradigm shifts that are predicted to occur over the next few decades. The panelists were terrific but the central question remained largely unanswered:

What new ways might exist to engage stakeholders in the constructive development of economically sustainable solutions to environmentally sustainable challenges?

The federal Stewardship Contracting program is a good example of one innovative approach. It is providing a constructive means for bringing diverse stakeholders together to plan and finance forest restoration programs while rebuilding the economic infrastructure of local communities.

Last week the first of four traveling workshops titled Biomass Utilization and Stewardship Contracting was held in Auburn, California. It was hosted by the Sierra Business Council and sponsored by Resource Innovations of the University of Oregon, UC / Berkeley Cooperative Extension, USDA Forest Service (Region 5), the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and Placer County (site of the recent Angora Fire in Lake Tahoe).

During these two days of presentations attendees witnessed the testimonies of Forest Service managers, community leaders, environmentalists, academicians, consultants, and fire fighters. These experts spoke knowledgeably about the challenges of forest restoration from their unique perspectives. Then examples were given of existing projects that were changing the environmental and economic landscapes of the forests they were designed to restore.

Four stewardship examples from the Pacific Northwest are amply documented in Redefining Stewardship: Public Lands and Rural Communities in the Pacific Northwest - a publication prepared by Ecotrust and Resource Innovations.

Besides meeting some terrific local leaders, what I learned was that patient community discourse is necessary in the formulation of sustainable projects. It is preferable to engage stakeholders up front rather than suffer the delays of reactive litigation to plans that have not been fully vetted by those most vested in the results of forest restoration - the local community.

Similar workshops will be held in Sonora (May 22-23), Bishop (May 28), and Chester (May 30).

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May 6, 2008

Up in Smoke: Reforesting California after wildfires

The problem I have with Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Life Cycle Analyses (LCA) is that they attempt to measure only the impact of a new project upon the status quo. They stop short of analyzing what will occur if no attempt at remediation is done. Below is the finding of one report based on data secured from the Forest Service. It seeks to compare action to inaction rather than just the environmental impact of the project itself.

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California Losing More Than 30,700 Acres of Forestland per Year
Federal Government's Replanting in Wake of Fires Lags

Following the 1992 Cleveland Fire in the Eldorado National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service replanted some lands, and left some untouched in an experimental ecoplot. Today, trees stand more than 17 feet tall on replanted lands, but brush dominates the untreated ecoplot.


AUBURN, Calif., April 29, 2008 - California has lost forests on federally owned land at the rate of more than 30,700 acres per year over the last seven years because of a lack of replanting following catastrophic forest fires, according to a review of Forest Service data by The Forest Foundation and the National Association of Forest Service Retirees.

The 30,700 acres lost annually is equivalent to losing a forest slightly larger than a city the size of San Francisco. If this failure to reforest federal land in California were to continue over the next 100 years, this would lead to the loss of 3 million acres of forestland and conversion into brush fields.

From 2001 to 2007, over 143,500 acres of forestland outside wilderness owned by the federal government has not been replanted and has been left to turn into brush.

"The federal government is consistently unable to replant and restore forests following devastating wildfires," said Doug Piirto, department head for the Natural Resources Management Department at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and a member of the Forest Foundation's Scientific Advisory Panel.

"The result is a loss of forestland and a loss of all the benefits these forests provide - from filtering our water to absorbing greenhouse gases," Dr. Piirto said. "We need to commit ourselves to restoring our forests by doing all that is necessary: preparing the land, reforesting and following up with the required maintenance to ensure a healthy forest in the long term."

On the heels of tree-planting celebrations last week to mark Arbor Day, the deforestation on federal forestland stands in stark contrast.

Over the course of the seven years, a total of 304,000 acres of federally owned forestland were deforested, with just 88,900 of those acres replanted. As a result, nearly 71 percent of the previously forested land has been replaced by brush.

The loss of forests limits the amount of carbon that could be absorbed by forests in California and help the state's fight against global warming. According to the non-profit group American Forests, a restored acre has the ability of absorbing and storing 200 tons of carbon dioxide - or the equivalent of absorbing carbon emitted by 35 minivans.
"This deforestation deprives future generations of the forests we have enjoyed," said George M. Leonard, Chair of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees and former Associate Chief of the US Forest Service. "Without replanting, the land turns to brush and becomes even more susceptible to another fire and more devastation to forestland."

In 2007 alone, more than 100,000 acres of national forest land in California were burned into a deforested condition due to wildfires, compared to approximately 50,000 acres in 2006.
"Replanting has long been the policy and practice of the Forest Service," Mr. Leonard said. "We must maintain that tradition and not allow tens of thousands of acres to be lost at a time when our forests are more needed than ever."

In 1993, for example, following the 1992 Cleveland fire in California that consumed more than 20,000 acres, reforestation occurred - leaving us today with trees that are 15 to 20 feet tall. As part of an experiment, a small "ecoplot" was left untouched to see what would happen. Today, that land is filled with brush.

Unlike government-owned lands, private forest landowners quickly remove dead trees and other fuels for additional fires and then replant. For example, after the 2000 Storrie fire in Plumas and Lassen Counties, local private land manager W.M. Beaty and Associates removed dead trees and fuels on the 3,200 acres it managed that burned in the fire. Its reforestation efforts, including the planting of nearly one million trees, were completed by 2004. Some trees in this young, mixed conifer forest are more than 7 feet tall.

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April 25, 2008

Links between California Wildfires and GHG emissions

"Reducing wildfires maybe the single most important action we can take in the short-term to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight global warming." - Dr. Tom Bonnicksen

Dr. Tom Bonnicksen, a professor at Texas A&M and author of "America's Ancient Forests: from the Ice Age to the Age of Discovery" is a staunch advocate for restoring our forests to a healthier condition. That shouldn't make him controversial but it does because he advocates what many environmental groups consider "heretical" means to achieve this objective - removing excess biomass through forest thinning, salvaging of dead and dying trees, and reforestation on a massive scale. Recognizing such restorative steps will require the building of temporary roads and the re-introduction of forest product industries to buy the wood, he has drawn criticism from environmental groups, including coordinated attempts to question his academic credentials.


Above is a historic chart produced by the National Interagency Fire Center that plots the disturbing rise in wildfire acreage nationwide in the last 50 years. This doesn't register the growth of intensity of fires which are believed to be at unprecedented ferocity producing even more GHG. The trend line shows the legacy of the last ten years when litigious obstruction by environmental groups of planned USDA Forest Service projects has been the most vigorous - delaying remedial public forest programs.

To circulate his interpretation to a broader audience, Dr. Bonnicksen published a very professional 52-page booklet titled "Protecting Communities and Saving Forests: Solving the Wildfire Crisis through Restoration Forestry." It should be required reading for all environmental policy makers in California because it clearly states how the state has arrived at a condition of ever increasing wildfires and suggests sensible actions to mitigate the problem.

Taking his research a step further, Dr. Bonnicksen has just released a new study entitled "Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Four California Wildfires: Opportunities to Prevent and Reverse Environmental and Climate Impacts" which draws the connection between GHG and forest fires. Without restorative action, fires will get worse and greenhouse gas emissions will increase. With action, not only will the growth of forest fires and bug infestations likely be held in check, but more carbon will be sequestered, correcting the imbalance created by the original fires.

A key to understanding the urgency for remedial action is recognition that GHG doesn't just come from the combustion and smoke of the original fire - that only accounts for 25% of the emissions. The other 75% comes during the period of decay of the affected forest. According to his research of four representative fires, initial combustion plus eventual decay emissions represent the equivalent of adding 7 million cars to California's roadways for 1 year!

The study also paints a revealing picture of the difference in GHG impact between responsive action by private timberland owners versus the publicly-obstructed remedies proposed by the federal government. Because of fierce anticipated public opposition, the Forest Service has no know plans to plant trees on burned areas of the Tahoe area Angora fire - consequently 0% of the total CO2 emitted will eventually be recovered from plantings. Contrast this with the Fountain Fire where 100% of the privately owned burned land was replanted. The study estimates that 99.2% of the original lost C02 will be recovered.

Here is an abstract written by The Forest Foundation on their website where free copies of the study is available for download:

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Wildfires, Forests and Climate Change
California wildfires release millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year. Conversely, sustainable forest management removes greenhouse gases from the air, stores carbon in wood products and regenerates landscapes in a perpetual cycle of carbon sequestration. The Forest Foundation developed the Forest Carbon and Emission Model (FCEM) to help clarify the relationships between wildfires, forest management and greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Four California Wildfires: Opportunities to Prevent and Reverse Environmental and Climate Impacts

In the report above, the FCEM presents details of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with four California wildfires. It estimates the total emissions from combustion and decay, provides comparisons to autos and other emission sources, and notes the potential value of reforestation to recapture gases released from wildfire. This report considers the Angora, Moonlight, Star and Fountain fires.

Forest Foundation Study Finds Four Wildfires Send 38 Million Tons Of Harmful Gases Into Air, Equivalent Of 7 Million Cars On The Road For One Year In California

The Forest Carbon and Emission Model Overview and Technical Information

The FCEM report above considers site characteristics like vegetation type, density, mortality, acres burned, and other factors to estimate emission totals. The FCEM Overview and Technical Information report explains the inputs and methodologies used to drive the model.

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January 23, 2008

Woodchip prices now and in the future

With the passage of the Energy Bill, speculators are looking closely at the possible impact of increasing demand on biomass feedstock prices. We have seen the early impact on corn - what about wood?

In the current market the availability of woodchips, a residual from the manufacture of wood construction materials, is down because the housing construction is down. The price for woodchips has gone up because the supply is low.

What can we expect when wood begins to replace coal and natural gas in boilers or is used as the feedstock for conversion to biofuels? Supplies will increase to meet demand and the price will go down, right?

Not so, according to a press released just distributed by Business Wire that can be found at Forbes.com. Here is the story in its entirety...

Alternative Fuel Demand Boosts Prices of Forest Products

Power companies in the South and Pacific Northwest will drive prices for wood fuels higher as new facilities are built to produce an energy alternative to fossil fuels, experts in the forest products industry said Friday.

But the supply of wood chips - a byproduct of lumber production used at pulp mills and power facilities - is dropping as residential construction drastically slows in the weak housing market. The reduced supply has raised prices by almost 10 percent since the third quarter of 2006.

"The supply of wood chips is already low because of the problems with the housing market," said Pete Stewart, president of price information provider Forest2Market. "Increased demand from power facilities will continue to increase prices."

The current increase in demand for wood fuels is coming from forest products companies in the U.S. that have either updated or installed new boilers that run entirely on biomass - plant material such as wood chips, bark and tree limbs. Forest products companies burn wood fuel to power their operations.

Southern forests are facing additional pressure from Europe as utilities overseas, bound by the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, import wood chips to produce power. The weak dollar has made it cheaper for Europe to import wood fuels to satisfy their energy needs.

The U.S. has not signed Kyoto, but individual states are mandating a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power companies.

In the Pacific Northwest, the dynamics are slightly different. The majority of wood chips are sawmill byproducts used by the region's pulp mills. Generally, wood-fueled boilers are fed hog fuel, which is made of bark and other wood waste unsuitable for pulp production.
"With the startup of new power facilities, the forest industry will have the opportunity to earn additional revenue by collecting forest biomass to supplement residual hog fuel," said Gordon Culbertson, Forest2Market's Pacific Northwest region manager. "Many companies are seeking creative strategies to develop biomass as an economical source of fuel."

Nevertheless, prices for wood chips in the Pacific Northwest are increasing because sawmill production is idled by poor lumber demand. To fill the void, small saw logs that would have otherwise been used in lumber production are being chipped.

The demand for wood fuels throughout the country will continue to grow. U.S. utility companies are planning to build biomass-fueled power facilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the rising costs of oil. These facilities should come online in the next two to four years, which will further increase competition for wood chips.

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January 14, 2008

Senator Wyden: Thinning Forests to Save Them

Well, at least someone in the Senate has it right. Thinning forests is not only "not all bad" but absolutely necessary if we hope to return forest to their historic condition - their condition prior to the relocation of native americans, the rampant logging, the counter-productive suppression of forest fires, obstructive environmentalist litigation, and real estate overdevelopment of wildlands. Without thinning, there will be insufficient funding of this important work which will help reduce forest fires, their greenhouse gas emissions, and their rapacious impact on wildlife habitats.

Below is a press release reporting on Senator Ron Wyden's (D-Oregon) explanation of the need for thinning legislation. On January 9, 2008, a story by Jeff Barnard appeared in on the AP news wire about Wyden's plans to introduce legislation in support of measures to expedite the deployment of national forest logging projects.

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Wyden Says Pacific Northwest Forests in Trouble, Thinning Will Help Increase Forest Health, Reduce Fires, Increase Jobs
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Medford, Or -- Thinning the Pacific Northwest’s troubled federal forests will increase forest health, decrease the chances of catastrophic forest fires and create more timber industry jobs for Oregonians, Senator Ron Wyden said today.

“Thinning creates a healthier forest, a healthier economy and a healthier environment,” Wyden said during opening remarks at a roundtable discussion on how to improve federal forests in the Pacific Northwest. “Trees going up in smoke do nothing for the quality of our communities, our air or our families. As chair of the Public Lands and Forest Subcommittee, I am committed to finding a solution that protects our treasures while meeting our needs for healthy forests and providing timber for our mills.”

The roundtable discussion included representatives of federal forestry agencies, timber, recreation organizations, conservation groups and others. The roundtable in Medford and another earlier this week in Bend were are a follow up to a Public Lands and Forest Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C. last month.

“It’s outrageous, even by federal government standards, that over half of the Forest Service budget is spent on fighting fires while tens of millions of acres of choked, second growth forests go un-managed, waiting to burn,” said Wyden. “Government inaction, endless appeals, and poorly allocated resources have put communities, jobs and forests at risk like never before. If we are willing to work together toward bipartisan, sensible solutions, we can restore our forests, reduce the risk of catastrophic fire, protect old growth and ensure good, family-wage jobs for decades to come.”

Wyden noted that The Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) authorized up to $760 million in new money to complete hazardous fuel reduction work on 20 million acres of federal forest land, but that only 77,000 acres had been treated.

“At that rate, it would take the Bush Administration more than 250 years to complete the Act’s mandate,” Wyden said. “I, for one, am not willing to wait that long.

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