Resources on Biomass

Resources on (Wood) Biomass for Heat and Power

Scientific Articles

Bioenergy production and forest landscape change in the southeastern United States, Jennifer K. Costanza, Global Change Biology Bioenergy, August 2016 (Study based on modelling of potential landscape changes from wood pellet and wood-based biofuel production in North Carolina, highlighting the likely expansion of industrial tree plantations at the expense of biodiverse bottomland hardwoods.

Projected gains and losses of wildlife habitat from bioenergy-induced landscape change, Nathan M. Tarr et al., Global Change Biology Bioenergy, August 2016 (Study based on simulated modelling which looks at the potential impacts of wood-pellet production in North Carolina on different species)

Recycle, Bury, or Burn Wood Waste Biomass?: LCA Answer Depends on Carbon Accounting, Emissions Controls, Displaced Fuels, and Impact Costs, Jeffrey Morris, Journal of Industrial Ecology, August 2016

The carbon neutrality of electricity generation from woody biomass and coal, a critical comparative evaluation, Victor Nian, Applied Energy, October 2016

Evidence for Losses From Strongly Bound SOM [Soil Organic Matter] Pools After Clear Cutting in a Northern Hardwood Forest, Emily M. Lacroix et.al., Soil Science, April 2016 (Indirectly related to bioenergy: Study about soil carbon losses following clearcutting)

Thinning Combined With Biomass Energy Production May Increase, Rather Than Reduce, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, D.A. DellaSala and M. Koopman, Report by Geos Institute, November 2015 (Scientific report rather than peer-reviewed study)

Limits to Sustainable Use of Wood Biomass, Janis Abolins and Janis Gravitis, Sustainable Development, Knowledge Society and Smart Future Manufacturing Technologies, World Sustainability Series 2015, April 2015 [The authors looked at bioenergy sourced from fast growing tree plantations and “argue that generating electricity by burning wood is an extremely inefficient use of land under conditions of sustainable supply of the fuel and conclude that transfer to bio-energy without radical changes in the existing economic system would further aggravate the environmental crisis.”]

Quantifying consequences of removing harvesting residues on forest soils and tree growth – A meta-analysis, D.L. Achat et al, Forest Ecology and Management, July 2015 [This meta-analysis looks at the impacts of ‘whole tree harvesting’, which is increasingly practised for bioenergy, on soil nutrients and future tree growth and finds serious negative impacts.]

Forest soil carbon is threatened by intensive biomass harvesting, David L. Achat et al, Nature, March 2015

Avoiding Bioenergy Competition for Food Crops and Land, Creating a Sustainable Food Future, Tim Searchinger and Ralph Heimlich, published by World Resources Institute, January 2015 [Scientific report, not peer-reviewed study]

The Burning Question: Does Forest Bioenergy Reduce Carbon Emissions? A Review of Common Misconceptions about Forest Carbon Accounting, Michael T. Ter-Mikaelian et al, Journal of Forestry, November 2014

Projected CO2 Emissions Due to Increased Logging Under Senator Ron Wyden’s “Oregon and California Land Grant Act of 2013” by Dr. Olga Krankina, Courtesy Faculty, Department of Forest Ecosystems & Society, College of Forestry, Oregon State University, September 2014 [Note increased logging is proposed in part to serve the needs of energy companies seeking to burn biomass in the US.]

Life-Cycle Impacts of Biomass Electricity in 2020, Dr Anna Stephenson and Professor David MacKay, DECC, July 2014 [This study looks at a range of different scenarios for life-cycle CO2 emissions associated with pellets imported from North America to the UK.]

Forest biomass for energy in the EU: current trends, carbon balance and sustainable potential, IINAS, EFI and Joanneum Research, prepared for BirdLife Europe, EEB and Transport Environment, May 2014

Forestry Bioenergy in the Southeast United States: Implications for Wildlife Habitat and Biodiversity, J.M. Evans et al, National Wildlife Federation, December 2013 [This is not  a peer-reviewed study but a report produced through a collaboration of researchers at different universities.

Ecological limits to terrestrial carbon dioxide removal, Lydia J. Smith and Margaret S. Torn, Climatic Change (2013)  [Note: This article specifically looks at Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage as well as at tropical ‘afforestation’, which the authors define as meaning primarily industrial pine and eucalyptus plantations established at the expense of shrubland and grassland.  Many of the findings are relevant to large-scale bioenergy in general.]

The ‘debt’ is in the detail: A synthesis of recent temporal forest carbon analyses on woody biomass for energy, Patrick Lamers and Martin Junginger, Biofuels, Bioprod, July/August 2013 [Note that the authors presume that most wood pellets are currently produced from residues.  There is evidence to the contrary from the southern US and no independent analysis has been carried out in other regions.]

JRC Technical Reports – Carbon Accounting of forest bioenergy, Conclusions and recommendations from a critical literature review, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, 2013

Dead Forests Release Less Carbon Into Atmosphere Than Expected  Trees killed in the wake of widespread mountain pine beetle infestations have not resulted in a large spike in carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, contrary to predictions, a University of Arizona-led study has found. Published in Ecology Letters March 2013 as:  Persistent reduced ecosystem respiration after insect disturbance in high elevation forests

Mineral soil carbon fluxes in forests and implications for carbon balance assessments, Thomas Buchholz et al, GCB Bioenergy, January 2013 – See here for a Science Daily article summarising the key findings, including: “The findings suggest that calls for an increased reliance on forest biomass be re-evaluated and that forest carbon analyses are incomplete unless they include deep soil, which stores more than 50 percent of the carbon in forest soils.”

Site-specific global warming potentials of biogenic CO2 for bioenergy: contributions from carbon fluxes and albedo dynamics, Francesco Cherubini et al, Environmental Research Letters, November 2012 – for an interview with the lead author see here.

The outcome is in the assumptions: analyzing the effects on atmospheric CO2 levels of increased use of bioenergy from forest biomass, Bjart Holtsmark, 5th October 2012, GCB Bioenergy

Sound Principles and an Important Inconsistency in the 2012 UK Bioenergy Strategy, Tim Searchinger, September 2012

Global Consequences of the Bioenergy Greenhouse Gas Accounting Error, Tim Searchinger, 2012 (for a background presentation by the author, see here)

Using ecosystem CO2 measurements to estimate the timing and magnitude of greenhouse gas mitigation potential of forest bioenergy,  Pierre Bernier and David Paré, July 2012 (looking at the carbon impact of sourcing wood from boreal forests in Canada for energy)

Large-scale bioenergy from additional harvest of forest biomass is neither sustainable nor greenhouse gas neutral, Ernst-Detlef Schulze et al, April 2012

Biogenic vs. geologic carbon emissions and forest biomass energy production, John S Gunn et al, GCB Bioenergy, April 2012

Biomass Supply and Carbon Accounting for Southeastern Forests, Biomass Energy Resource Center, the Forest Guild, and Spatial Informatics Group for Southern Environmental Law Center and National Wildlife Federation, February 2012

Carbon debt and carbon sequestration parity in forest bioenergy production, Stephen R. Mitchell et al, January 2012

Is woody bioenergy carbon neutral? A comparative assessment of emissions from consumption of woody bioenergy and fossil fuel, Giuliana Zanchi et al, December 2011 – For a background presentation by one of the authors, see here.

Can fuel-reduction treatments really increase forest carbon storage in the western US by reducing future fire emissions?, John L. Campbell et al, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, December 2011 [Note: This article specifically looks at the carbon impacts of forest thinning for fire prevention, rather than at how the timber from forest thinning is then used.  However, wood from forest thinning for this purpose is being widely promoted as ‘sustainable’ bioenergy.]

Regional carbon dioxide implications of forest bioenergy production, Tara W. Hudiburg et al, Nature Climate Change, 23rd October 2011

Opinion of the European Environment Agency Scientific Committee on Greenhouse Gas Accounting in Relation to Bioenergy, September 2011

Harvesting in boreal forests and the biofuel carbon debtBjart Holtsmark, August 2011

Forest Bioenergy or Forest Carbon? Assessing Trade-Offs in Greenhouse Gas Mitigation with Wood-Based Fuels, J.McKechnie et al, March 2011. summarised here

Effect of policy-based bioenergy demand on southern timber markets: A case study of North Carolina, Robert C. Abt et al, Biomass and Energy (34)

Review of the Manomet Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study, Mary Booth for the Clean Air Task Force, July 2010

The upfront carbon debt of bioenergy, Joanneum Research, July 2010

Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, June 2010

Implications of Limiting CO2 Concentrations for Land Use and Energy, (click here for a similar publicly available article by the authors) Marshall Wise et al, May 2010

Fixing a Critical Climate Accounting Error, Timothy Searchinger et al, October 2009

Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate policy impacts on natural habitats for the United States of America, Robert I McDonald et al, PLoS ONE 4(8): e6802. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006802, August 2009

All The Carbon Counts: Including Land-Based Carbon In Greenhouse Gas Control Strategies Lowers Costs And Preserves Forests, Science Daily, June 2009

Goodbye to Carbon Neutral, Eric Johnson, 2008

other informative websites about wood-based bioenergy

Biomess101: A project by Partnership for Policy Integrity which exposes the misinformation about wood-based bioenergy and counters it with fact-based information

Dogwood Alliance “Our Forests aren’t Fuel” campaign: Joint campaign by conservation NGOs to protect southern US forests from destruction for bioenergy

Energy Justice Network, resources on biomass incineration: “Energy Justice is the grassroots energy agenda, supporting communities threatened by polluting energy and waste technologies. Taking direction from our grassroots base and the Principles of Environmental Justice, we advocate a clean energy, zero-emission, zero-waste future for all.”  US-based.

EU Bioenergy: A joint project by BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Transport & Environment (T&E) with news and analysis about bioenergy in the EU

Markets for Change Biomass Campaign: Australian campaign against the burning of wood from native forests for bioenergy

Natural Resources Defense Council “Our Forests aren’t Fuel” campaign: NRDC website about the joint campaign to protect southern US forests from destruction for bioenergy

Partnership for Policy Integrity: “The Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) uses science, legal action, and strategic communications to promote sound energy policy.” Good science-based resources and reports about wood-based bioenergy.  US-based.

Fact sheets and Reports

Comparison of national sustainability schemes for solid biomass in the EU, Fern, July 2016

Forest Biomass Energy Policy in the Maritime Provinces: Accounting for Science, East Coast Environmental Law, December 2015

Up in Flames: How biomass burning wrecks Europe’s forests, Fern, November 2015

Bioenergy threatens the heart of North American wetland forests, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), October 2015

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) modelling of carbon emissions from southern US wood pellets, May 2015

Evidence of wood sourcing for Enviva’s Ahoskie Pellet Mill in North Carolina, Dogwood Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),  December, 2014

Climate for deception: Why electricity consumers who care about global warming and air pollution need FTC protection from biomass industry greenwashing,  Kelly Bistow and Mary Booth, Partnership for Policy Integrity, July 2014

A new look at land-grabs in the global South linked to EU biomass policies, Biofuelwatch, June 2014

A calculation of the EU Bioenergy land footprint – Discussion paper on land use related to EU bioenergy targets for 2020 and an outlook for 2030, by Liesbeth de Schutter and Stefan Giljum, Institute for the Environment and Regional Development Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe, May 2014

See here for a summary briefing of the above report by Friends of the Earth Europe

Trees, Trash, and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal, by Mary S. Booth, Partnership for Policy Integrity, April 2014

Biomass Sustainability Standards – a Credible Tool for Avoiding Negative Impacts from Large-scale Bioenergy?, joint briefing by Biofuelwatch, Global Forest Coalition and Econexus, January 2014

Report by Global Forest Coalition and Biofuelwatch: Wood Bioenergy: Green Land Grabs For Dirty ‘Renewable’ Energy

Biofuelwatch Report: Biomass: The Chain of Destruction (including the case report Plantations for Energy: A Case Study of Suzano’s plantations for wood pellet exports in the Baixo Parnaíba region, Maranhão, Brazil by Ivonete Gonçalves de Souza  from CEPEDES and Winfridus Overbeek from World Rainforest Movement)

Enviva’s Wood Pellet Mill in Ahoskie,North Carolina Threatens Endangered Ecosystems and Wildlife, NRDC and Dogwood Alliance, August 2013

Biomassacre: How logging Australia’s native forests for bioenergy harms the climate, wildlife, and people, Markets for Change, April 2013

Tree plantations in the South to generate energy in the North, World Rainforest Movement, with financial support of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC). March 2013

Playing with Fire: Wood pellet fires and explosion,  compilation of accidents between 2008 and 2012, Port Talbot Residents Against Power Stations, 2013

Impact of EU Bioenergy Policy on Developing  countries, European Parliament Directorate-General for External Policies, 2012

The use of whole trees in wood pellet manufacturing – Evidence of the use of whole trees by top wood pellet exporters from the US south to Europe, Dogwood Alliance, November 2012

Fact Sheet: Woody Biomass Incineration, Energy Justice Network, November 2012

Dirtier than coal? Why Government plans to subsidise burning trees are bad for the planet, RSPB, Greenpeace  and Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, November 2012

Sustainable Biomass: A Modern Myth, Biofuelwatch report, September 2012

Bio-Economies: The EU’s real ‘green economy’ agenda?, report published by World Development Movement and Transnational Institute, June 2012

Industrial biomass: How electricity from wood threatens climate, forests and people and why sustainability standards cannot work, Biofuelwatch briefing, June 2012

Nothing neutral here: Large-scale biomass subsidies in the UK and the role of the EU ETS, Carbon Trade Watch, May 2012

Bio-Economy versus Biodiversity, Report by the Global Forest Coalition, 25th April 2012

Impact of EU bioenergy policies on developing countries, Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union, European Commission, Policy Briefing, March 2012

The new trend of biomass plantations in Brazil: tree monocultures, Winnie Overbeek, World Rainforest Movement, November 2011

Fuelling a Biomess, Why Burning Trees for Energy will Harm People, the Climate and Forests, Greenpeace Canada, November 2011

IIED Briefing: Biomass energy: Another driver of land acquisitions?, August 2011

Flows of Biomass to and from the EU: An analysis of data and trends, James Hewitt, published by Fern, July 2011

Woody Biomass for Energy: NGO Concerns and Recommendations, 11 European NGOs, April 2011

Bioenergy: A Carbon Accounting Time-Bomb, BirdLife International, European Environmental Bureau and Transport & Environment, June 2010

Clearcut disaster: Carbon Loophole Threatens US Forests, Mary Booth and Richard Wiles, Environmental Working Group, June 2010

Wood-based Bioenergy: The Green Lie, Global Forest Coalition, May 2010

The Harmful Impacts of Biomass Energy Generation: Undermining the Fight Against Global Warming, Factsheet, Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance

Factsheet: Biomass Incineration, The Burning Issues With Biomass, Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

Biomass Briefing, Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance, prepared by Mary Booth, October 2009

Massachusetts Forests at the Crossroads: Forests, Parks, Landscapes, Environment, Quality of Life, Communities and Economy Threatened by Industrial Scale Logging & Biomass Power, Massachusetts Forest Watch, report, March 2009 – 12 MB file

Climate Geo-engineering with ‘Carbon Negative’ Bioenergy: Climate saviour or climate endgame?, Almuth Ernsting and Deepak Rughani, Biofuelwatch, December 2008

The Biomass Dilemma, Dr Ivan Gyulai, CEEweb, 2008

Letters and Resolutions

Open Letter to the 100 scientists who signed the ‘biomass carbon benefits’ letter, by Mary Booth PhD, William Moomaw PhD, and George Woodwell PhD, August 2016

Open Letter by seven US environmental NGOs to US Secretary of State, Thomas Vilsack, July 2016

Open Letter to E.On and Uniper: Planned wood firing at the Provence Power Station poses threat to forests, 26 organisations, June 2016

Complaint about Enviva submitted by Partnership for Policy Integrity and Dogwood Alliance to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), March 2016

Letter by 6 US scientists to the Governor of California warning against increased logging for biomass energy in response to increased tree mortality, February 2016

Letter by 78 Scientists to the US EPA protesting against biogenic carbon emissions from biomass being ignored, February 2015

Letter by 61 US scientists to the UK government: “Problems with burning wood from Southern US forests to generate electricity in the UK”, April 2014

Letter by environmental and community organisations in 23 US states to EPA: Federal permitting for bioenergy facilities, December 2013

41 US Scientists’ Letter to the EPA  , November 2013

Burning wood from Southern US forests to generate electricity in Europe, Letter to the EU signed by over 60 US scientists, August 2013

International Open Letter: Converting coal plans to burn biomass only replaces one disaster with another, April 2013

Letter by Timothy Searchinger to Bernard Bulkin, Office of Renewable Energy, UK Department for Energy and Climate Change: Re Observations and Information Related to DECC Supplementary Statement of November 22, 2012 Regarding UK Bioenergy Strategy, February 2013

Letter of concern from forest groups regarding RWE’s biomass investments, false claims and greenwashing around wood-based bioenergy, Global Forest Coalition, December 2012

Joint NGO Letter to the UK Committee on Climate Change Bioenergy Review, 11th November 2011

American Lung Association Public Policy Position on Biomass, 11th June 2011

Open Letter by Mark Harmon, Timothy Searchinger and William Moomaw to Members of the Washington State Legislature, February 2011

Stop the Destruction of Forests and Lands for Wood-based Bioenergy, Declaration by over 90 organisations worldwide, May 2010

Letter by 90 Scientists to US Senate and House of Representatives calling for full accounting of carbon emissions from bionergy, May 2010

Letter of Concern Regarding Biomass Burning, North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, April 2010

Physicians for Social Responsibility/Pioneer Valley Oppose Construction of Biomass Power Plants in the Pioneer Valley, February 2010

Massachusetts Medical Society Adopts Policy Opposing Biomass Power Plants, December 2009

Letter by US physicians and organisations: Health Effects of Biomass Burning Under S.1733 Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, October 2009

Resolution by the Florida Medical Association: Resource Conservation, Waste Recycling, Health Risks Caused by Incinerators, 2009

Letter by the Oregon Toxics Alliance to the Environmental Protection Agency, October 2009

Letter by the American Lung Association in Massachusetts, June 2009

Letter by US organisations to Chairmen Waxman and Markey, April 2009

Background about the Forest Stewardship Council

See fsc-watch.com for a series of articles and links about the FSC

FSC consultation and complaints procedure: the case of Veracel Celulose in Brazil, World Rainforest Movement, September 2013

Why FSC should not certify plantations, Open Letter, Press Release, Briefing and further resources, World Rainforest Movement

Has SFM helped undermine efforts to protect Earth’s forests and climate?, Wally Menne, Timberwatch

Presentation: Did the FSC pass the practical test or is it on the wrong track?, Chris Lang, October 2008