“Forests Aren’t Fuel” Campaign and the Buchholtz et al. Review


NRDC and Dogwood Alliance have launched the “Forests aren’t Fuel” campaign. Here is a link to the site.

The recent Buchholz et al. paper attached here has been cited (in the press) as evidence that using trees for fuel is “not green.” It’s also quoted as “new evidence”, but, in reality, it is a literature review, which by definition means a round-up of existing literature.

This has rather major policy implications in terms of policies that favor green energy sources.

It seems to me that this is once again a paper that looks at things framed in a certain way…but not a framing that I would have chosen.

1. Wood for energy can and does mean… people cutting firewood from their woodlots, backyards, or public lands. When we did the Colorado Roadless EIS, I think I remember 10% of households in the San Luis Valley heat with wood.

2. In fire prone areas (not the northeast), it can mean using trees removed for fuels reduction or dead hazard trees for energy. Soil characteristics of removing the trees occurs anyway, and the trees would otherwise be burned in piles with the CO2 released to the atmosphere.

So I am not a carbon expert, but it seems to me that the carbon effects of using wood for energy depend on the local situation and what else would happen, C wise, if you did not use the wood for fuel. Also if the wood you use is a byproduct of other activities like sawmills or fuel reduction projects.

Here’s a piece from the NRDC blog that makes the case.. it seems to be about “intensive forest management for energy.” But it takes a broad brush (or chainsaws a wide swath?;)..”cutting forests for electricity.” It is precisely that lack of precision that concerns me.

I think this is interesting, because as far as I know the southern forests are not New Hampshire (where the study was done) and folks in the northeast aren’t developing “energy plantations.”

Folks in the south are sending chips to Europe. But shouldn’t NRDC be trying to convince the Europeans that they are wrong? I see that this campaign is about Dogwood Alliance and NRDC. Now you might remember Dogwood Alliance from these recent stories about their work with IP.

But IP does “intensive forest management” just not for carbon, whereas I don’t see a lot of “intensive forest management” for biofuel in the northeast, where the cites in the Buchholz et al.study were.

Any help understanding all this, and whether something is really going on, or it’s just an idea of something that could be done.. (intensive management for energy plantations) would be helpful.

P.S. I have become curious about NRDC’s funding, and sent two messages asking for their 2012 990 and have not received a reply. I do know a human being there and got a nice reply from her, but when I send to the 990 department, I have gotten no answer at all.

8 thoughts on ““Forests Aren’t Fuel” Campaign and the Buchholtz et al. Review”

  1. Yes,about the 2012’s not being due, but if I asked you or Andy for yours, you would write me a note and say “they’re not ready yet, I’ll send it to you when we have them”. It’s the no message at all that makes me question… thanks for the 2011 link! And for the links to the previous articles.

  2. I hear that clearcutting “for wildlife” was happening in New England, using the trees for sawlogs and biomass, claiming more “green benefits”. I didn’t buy it 4 years ago. As I have said before, the logging is after the sawlogs, and the biomass is part of the cleanup, to complete “the Management”, via clearcut. Entire forests are not being cut for energy. We SHOULD be utilizing excess forest fuels, instead of preserving them, for the next inevitable wildfire.

  3. I would be careful not to confuse the broad brush used to frame campaigns with the nuances of policy negotiations.

    I also find it interesting that concern about the broad framing of this campaign are not showing equal concern about timber industry campaigns that paint with an equally broad brush, e.g., forests = tinderboxes. Every increment of forest growth that does not go through the mill is just fuel for a mega-fire (ignoring the many ecological values associated with biomass accumulation and mortality processes).


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