Mulch producers tune into biofuel boom

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Courtesy of Security Shredding & Storage News

The biofuels boom, spurred by government pursuit of energy independence, is a key factor in a congressional movement on alterative energy. Already the government is spending millions on biofuel research and development, and federal law is in place to increase usage of forest and timber resources for biofuel.

In their 2005 “Billion Ton Report,” the US Department of Energy (DOE) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) anticipate that US forest and timberlands have the potential to produce up to an estimated 370 dry tons of biomass annually, in a sustainable manner, as a feedstock for biofuel. An increase in the use of forest and timber resources for biofuel could spur stronger competition for certain woody resources, and the intensity of elbowing will depend on laws of supply and demand. Producers of forest resource products are looking for ways to secure their businesses as government agencies, policy makers and consumers move forward, casting votes that fuel the market.

“It’s all speculative at this time how the markets will drive investment and landowner decisions,” says Bryce Stokes, National Program Leader of the US Forest Service R&D, Washington, D.C. Not every step toward the future will be grounded in speculation; some will be required by law.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 raised the required amount of biofuel to be mixed with gasoline sold in the US to 6.1 billion gallons in 2009 and 7.5 billion in 2012. Signed into law by George W. Bush, the act was a catalyst for the impending biofuels boom. The Energy Policy Act authorizes $50 million annually over the life of the bill for a biomass grant program.

Two years later, upon signing the Energy Independence and Security Act (EIS) into law, the former president set a national goal of raising the total amount of biofuels added to gasoline sold in the US from 4.7 billion gallons in 2007 to 36 billion by 2022. Preparations for increasing national consumption of biofuels are being carried through from the Bush to the Obama administration. The DOE reports that of the nation’s biofuel target, 27% of the feedstock is to be derived from forest resources

While the government agencies seem to understand that the market will drive the outcome for biofuels, the DOE and the USDA are clearly preparing for a future filled with biofuel. “We are now able to estimate both the potential and economic availability [of wood feedstocks] at different costs and show where these resources are spatially located,” says Stokes regarding the new forestry update to the “Billion Ton Report” which is due out by July 2009.

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