Forest Carbon Accounting Considerations in US Bioenergy Policy

Submitted by: Pamela Watters 09/14/2014

Four research-based insights are essential to understanding forest bioenergy and “carbon debts.” (1) As long as wood-producing land remains in forest, long-lived wood products and forest bioenergy reduce fossil fuel use and long-term carbon emission impacts. (2) Increased demand for wood can trigger investments that increase forest area and forest productivity and reduce carbon impacts associated with increased harvesting. (3) The carbon debt concept emphasizes short-term concerns about biogenic CO2 emissions, although it is long-term cumulative CO2 emissions that are correlated with projected peak global temperature, and these cumulative emissions are reduced by substituting forest bioenergy for fossil fuels. (4) Considering forest growth, investment responses, and the radiative forcing of biogenic CO2 over a 100-year time horizon (as used for other greenhouse gases), the increased use of forest-derived materials most likely to be used for bioenergy in the United States results in low net greenhouse gas emissions, especially compared with those for fossil fuels.


Source: Reid A. Miner, Robert C. Abt, Jim L. Bowyer, Marilyn A. Buford, Robert W. Malmsheimer, Jay O’Laughlin, Elaine E. Oneil, Roger A. Sedjo, and Kenneth E. Skog. Journal of Forestry, August 29, 2014.