BIOMASS AS ENERGY: Over the last two decades, paper mills across Pennsylvania have closed. This has resulted in a collapse in the pulp market. According to the Penn State Extension, the loss of a low-quality wood market has had devastating impacts on the forest, loggers, and landowners. With no one buying low-quality wood, loggers are faced with a tough choice: either only cut high-quality wood or go bankrupt. Cutting only high-quality wood is called high grading, and it has massive negative effects. It can devastate the ecology and value of a forest.
Managing forests not only benefits humans, but also wildlife like the golden-winged warbler. Saving the bird requires the creation of a million acres of habitat.
This habitat would have been created by clearcutting forests and growing a young forest. But, with the loss of the low-quality market, loggers need to be paid $400 an acre to cut. This makes saving the golden-winged warbler incredibly difficult.
The forest, people who work in it, and the animals that rely on it need a low-quality wood market. This is where renewable energy like biomass or biofuel come in.
Using these sources of energy could create a market for low-quality wood, keeping loggers in business, ensuring forests are managed sustainably, and creating habitat for dozens of wildlife species.
Biomass is renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals.
The use of biomass fuels for transportation and for electricity generation is increasing in many developed countries as a means of avoiding carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use. In 2019, biomass provided nearly 5 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) and about 5% of total primary energy use in the United States.
Biomass sources for energy include:
— Wood and wood processing wastes—firewood, wood pellets, and wood chips, lumber and furniture mill sawdust and waste, and black liquor from pulp and paper mills
— Agricultural crops and waste materials—corn, soybeans, sugar cane, switchgrass, woody plants, and algae, and crop and food processing residues
— Biogenic materials in municipal solid waste—paper, cotton, and wool products, and food, yard, and wood wastes
— Animal manure and human sewage.