By Donna Harman
President & CEO
The term “carbon neutral” is becoming increasingly mainstream,
appearing on everything from mailers to bumper stickers. And
although it’s applied in many different ways – from products to
transportation to energy generation – the basic definition is the same
for all: no net release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
For the paper and wood products industry, it’s a simple and long-standing practice that helps perpetuate the sustainable carbon cycle: the trees (biomass) we use to make our products are continuously replanted to absorb the carbon that is released in the manufacturing process and maintain a steady fiber supply for our industry’s future. We’re extremely efficient in our use of these raw materials; in addition to the products, we generate about two-thirds of the energy we need to operate from biomass – nearly all being manufacturing residuals (otherwise known as the “leftovers” from product manufacturing). These residuals don’t go unused! To illustrate our unique carbon neutrality story, we’ve even developed a web video that explains this entire concept in about 90 seconds.
Countries across the globe recognize the carbon neutrality of biomass, and here in the U.S., we grow 2.1 trees for every one we harvest; this is more than carbon neutral. Additionally, a recent study has shown that using manufacturing residuals provides greenhouse gas-reduction benefits equal to removing 35 million cars from the road when taking into account fossil fuel displacement and avoidance of greater methane emissions from disposal in a landfill or incinerator. This evidence led EPA to recognize the benefits of biomass manufacturing residuals in its revised Framework for Assessing Biogenic Carbon Dioxide for Stationary Sources and accompanying policy memo, released last November.
States now have an opportunity to implement this policy in their Renewable Portfolio Standards (where applicable) and in their compliance plans for Section 111d of the Clean Air Act following the EPA’s latest Existing Source Performance Standards for power plants. By recognizing biomass as part of their energy mix, states would have greater availability of renewable, baseload energy to meet their regulatory obligations and support their current and future energy needs while keeping rates in check.
Want to learn more about this issue? Visit our carbon neutrality policy page (https://www.afandpa.org/issues/carbon-neutrality) and our biomass page (https://www.afandpa.org/issues/biomass).