Nonpartisan Congressional Research Service Highlights Wood Bioenergy & US Forest Growth

This month, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the nonpartisan think tank run by the Library of Congress to provide policy and legal analysis to the U.S. Congress, published a new report on forest carbon. The report highlights the positive role played by forestry – and US forests – in storing carbon to mitigate climate change.

US Forests Are Growing

The report, which examines the forest carbon cycle, makes clear that US forests are growing, and that this is contributing to significant reduction in atmospheric carbon, helping absorb 12% of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions. The CRS notes that according to data from the EPA, “U.S. forests were a net sink of carbon, having sequestered 221 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon in 2018—an offset of approximately 12% of the gross annual greenhouse gas emissions from the United States for the year” (2).

In fact, since 1990, “U.S. forest carbon stocks have increased 10%” (20). The CRS also notes that, “Nearly all forest pools have gained more carbon as of 2019” (20). This calls into the question the misleading statements of some activist groups that oppose forestry and claim that US forests are undergoing deforestation.

Wood Products Play A Key Role In Carbon Emissions Mitigation

The CRS also makes clear that wood products, including wood bioenergy, are an essential component in our effort to mitigate climate change.

The report highlights the use of wood products as one of three “primary strategic approaches for optimizing forest carbon sequestration and storage.”

The CRS goes on to recommend the increased use of wood products, including using wood as a substitute for fossil fuels. Wood bioenergy is increasingly being employed across the world to reduce net carbon emissions and phase out dirty fossil fuels such as coal.

“To have net impacts on the carbon balance, this approach requires substituting wood products as an alternative to materials that are more carbon intensive to produce (e.g., steel) or using wood as a substitute for fossil fuel” (24).

Wood pellets, one of the primary sources of wood bioenergy in global energy markets, is explicitly recognized in the CRS report (4).

This report is another piece of evidence in the growing body of academic research demonstrating the forest growth and carbon mitigation benefits of wood products and bioenergy. This includes support from the the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – widely considered the world’s leading authority on climate science.  You can read more about the science and other recent studies at FFJ’s new Research Directory here.