Bioenergy is the creation of energy—electricity, heat, and fuel—from plant or animal materials. Bioenergy is an alternative to fossil fuels because biomass comes from renewable sources that are produced and replaced more quickly than fossil fuels, such as agricultural and forest residues, pulp and paper mill wastes, urban wood waste, energy crops, landfill methane, and animal waste.
Bioenergy from wood sources is often described as “carbon neutral” because the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted when wood-based products are used for bioenergy will be reabsorbed by new tree growth in a relatively short period of time. The overall net input of CO2 into the atmosphere is near zero as long as forest growth is sustained after harvest.
Wood and wood-derived fuels supplied 2% (2.1 quadrillion BTUs) of US energy use in 2006. Continually increasing demand for energy, as well as concern about climate change, demonstrate the need for greater production of bioenergy from wood. For example, the US Departments of Energy and Agriculture have determined that the US could produce enough biomass from forestlands to supply 10% of the nation’s current petroleum consumption. Forest bioenergy typically comes from three sources: (1) Waste wood from pallets, landfills, paper and pulp mills, and other sources; (2) Forest residues of wood remaining in the forest after a harvest; or (3) wood energy crops—trees that are grown specifically to be used for energy production.
- Biomass as Feedstock for Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry (Perlack et al. 2005 – pdf) Commonly called the “Billion-ton Report,” this document explains the resources and technology needed to supplement 30% of US petroleum consumption with agricultural and forest biomass products.
- US Forest Service
- Bioenergy Feedstock Information Network
- US Department of Energy
Last Modified: 10/15/2010