WaPo Editorial Inaccurate, Unfair in Condemning Bioenergy

May 16, 2016

By Paul Noe
V.P​., Public Policy
As submitted to
The Washington Post on Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dear Editor:

Your April 29 editorial (“Dear Congress: Burning wood is not the future of energy”) was inaccurate and unfair in its sweeping condemnation of bio-energy. Paper and wood products manufacturers are the largest producers and users of bio-energy of any industrial sector in the U.S. Most of the energy our mills use to make paper, packaging and wood products is derived from the manufacturing residuals of the trees that are our raw material. Using highly efficient combined heat and power technology, our mills capture large quantities of energy from biomass residuals that otherwise would go to waste. This displaces fossil fuels and captures energy from manufacturing residuals that otherwise would release greenhouse gases to the atmosphere anyway -- including methane, which is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO
2).  A peer-reviewed study by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement shows that the forest products industry’s use of biomass residuals for energy each year avoids the emission of approximately 181 million metric tons of CO2e.  This is equivalent to removing about 35 million cars from the road.  

The forest products industry is a part of, and depends on sustaining, the natural carbon cycle. Growing forests absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and help support the biosphere on which life on earth depends. The fiber from those trees provides products that meet essential human needs – promoting literacy, health and hygiene, global commerce, our sense of community and more. The manufacturing residuals that can’t be used for higher value products provide carbon neutral fuel to power the mills or to provide electricity to the grid. Through sustainable forest management (growing forests at about twice the rate of harvest), these products can be provided continually to improve the lives of future generations. And after being used, many of these products are recyclable. Forest products help keep lands forested, store carbon, are natural and biodegradable, support our nation’s recycling system and ultimately can provide carbon neutral fuel. It’s no accident that an AF&PA member was instrumental in the development of the “chasing arrows” symbol.