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Turning Forests into Fuel: New Report Outlines Promise and Limits of Biomass Energy in the Northeast

MILLBROOK, N.Y. Feb. 17, 2011 Northeastern United States

http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20110215/NY49030LOGO

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.

Charles D. Canham

Connecticut Maine Massachusetts New Hampshire New York Pennsylvania Rhode Island 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 New Hampshire Thomas Buchholz University of Vermont New Hampshire Maine

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."

Steven Hamburg

Northeastern United States www.caryinstitute.org/biomass.html

Millbrook, N.Y. www.caryinstitute.org

SOURCE Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

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