Promoting Healthier Forests and Sustainable Biofuels

by Douglas L. Faulkner

The Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee has publicly issued its final report from its 2019 “Year of the Tree”, with recommendations for improving federal government research, policies and regulations for growing woody bioenergy and bioproducts industries while also improving the health and safety of America’s vast forests.

That effort was actually launched late in 2018 when the Committee publicly pointed out federal regulatory barriers to the growth of advanced biofuels, including those from trees, and gave a clear roadmap to the Environmental Protection Agency for breaking down those obstacles.

The Committee last year travelled to Missoula, Montana, and New Bern, North Carolina, for a first-hand look at America’s two main forest ecosystems and cultures. It found very big differences in their regional mix of experiences and challenges, especially in the differences between public and private land ownership. There is an incredibly large volume of forest resources available nationwide, with the southeastern USA in particular is poised to take a leadership role in launching new advanced biofuels and bioproducts industries.

The Committee called for re-orienting federal government research and development priorities for woody biomass to reflect both the feedstock’s complexities and the nature of the country’s forests and woody biomass markets themselves. It also urged the government to include sustainability as a “bedrock” for R&D goals as well as soil health and carbon sequestration.

Greater public understanding and acceptance of sustainable bioenergy and biobased products and building new private-public partnerships are critical for the growth of these industries. The Committee also emphasized continuing Department of Energy emphasis on helping financial markets assess risks better in woody bioenergy projects and thus increase financing opportunities for growth.

The U.S. Congress recently embraced key elements of the Committee’s recommendations on regulatory reform and directed the EPA to implement them.

Douglas L. Faulkner is President, Leatherstocking LLC, and Co-Chair of the Biomass R&D Technical Advisory Committee.

The Biomass R&D Technical Advisory Committee was first authorized by Congress in the landmark bipartisan legislation, the Biomass R&D Act of 2000. That law also named biofuels and biobased products as a national initiative overseen jointly by the U.S. Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture. The Committee’s reports and recommendations can be found at (link to Committee).