Administration’s Climate Plan Should Recognize the Carbon Neutrality of Forest Products Manufacturing Residues

Jul 02, 2013
  By: AF&PA President and CEO Donna Harman
  July 1, 2013

 New government regulations that threaten to increase the cost of
 manufacturing without taking into account the economic, social, and
 environmental contributions provided by the paper and wood products
 manufacturing industry should be avoided. 

Our industry already faces additional capital costs of roughly $14 billion from recent and upcoming Clean Air Act rules, and our investments in highly-efficient biomass energy reduce greenhouse gas emissions by displacing fossil fuels with woody residues that would have decayed anyway.  On average, about two-thirds of our energy comes from carbon neutral biomass energy and our products help create market demand to keep land in forests that sequester carbon rather than development.  

EPA’s upcoming framework and regulations on biogenic carbon provide an excellent opportunity for EPA to recognize that paper and wood products manufacturers prevent further increases in carbon in the atmosphere by using biomass residues to produce energy.   

Biomass residues offer exceptional benefits among energy fuels.  As forests grow, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via photosynthesis.  That carbon dioxide will later be released as trees die and decay.  But that same carbon dioxide can also be released as the biomass is combusted, generating energy but adding no more carbon than would otherwise have naturally been released.  As long as forests are sustainably managed, this opportunity to take advantage of energy value that would otherwise be lost to the atmosphere will continue.

Renewable biomass is already helping to power one of the most significant manufacturing sectors of the U.S. economy.  The paper and wood products manufacturing industry accounts for approximately 4.5 percent of all U.S. manufacturing GDP, generating approximately $200 billion in products annually and employing nearly 900,000 Americans.  American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) members have been taking voluntary efforts to improve the sustainability of the industry and the planet for years and are committed to doing so into the future.  We have improved our energy efficiency by 8.1 percent since 2005 and are on track to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent.  Further, by recovering over 65 percent of the paper consumed in America for recycling, we are helping to reduce methane emissions.   

The use of biomass residues to generate power at forest products facilities is part of the carbon cycle and takes into account social, economic, and environmental objectives essential to a sustainable future.