Today marks the Eighth Annual Bioenergy Day, an occasion in which more than 40 organizations all over the United States and Canada – businesses, nonprofits, universities, and state and local governments – are showcasing the many ways they benefit from bioenergy.
Biomass is a sustainable substitute for fossil fuel-intensive products and can play a key role in maintaining forest health, controlling soil erosion and improving water quality. Using sustainable production systems, our nation’s grasslands and forests are a natural and strategic resource that can help America achieve and enhance U.S. energy security, economic opportunity, environmental quality and global competitiveness.
Bioenergy Day recognizes the importance of using domestic biomass for a wide variety of applications: renewable energy, heating and cooling, and biobased products, to improve health, mitigate climate change, and create jobs in rural America.
Bioenergy produces a significant percentage of the nation’s total energy and supplies full-time jobs for tens of thousands of Americans. It is clean, renewable energy that can be generated from biomass of low value which would often otherwise be discarded. Bioenergy in the form of biogas creates new markets for cover crops, which incentivizes sustainable land management, while supporting vibrant rural economies.
Restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic will be curtailing what has traditionally been extensive interaction between bioenergy projects and their local communities on Bioenergy Day. But sponsors like the Biomass Power Association and others will find a variety of ways to virtually raise awareness of the economic and environmental benefits offered by bioenergy.
“Bioenergy” is the use of any organic material, including forest thinnings, crop residues and agricultural waste, to generate heating, cooling and/or electricity. The category also includes biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel. As bioenergy, they all play a key role in a pillar of climate smart agriculture, as its use reduces greenhouse gas emissions relative to equivalent fossil fuels.
Many independent power producers across the United States and Canada produce electricity for the grid using bioenergy. Hospitals, college campuses, school districts and government buildings also use bioenergy for heat and electricity. Thousands of American homes and businesses have installed stoves and other appliances powered by wood pellets, reducing their heating costs. Working farms and other businesses with organic waste products recycle their “leftovers” to power or heat their facilities and produce high value, low carbon renewable natural gas.
In addition to serving as a domestic energy source, bioenergy is responsible for sustaining tens of thousands of jobs, many of them in rural communities where they are most needed.
It’s important to remember that bioenergy’s many stakeholders work closely together to keep American farms and forests healthy and put organic byproducts like forest trimmings, industry byproducts and agricultural residuals to good use.
A prominent example of stakeholder initiative is a project being undertaken in Iowa where a Climate Smart Ag Work group is pursuing the integration of cover crops and renewable energy. The project calls for harvested cover crops to be used to enhance the effective functioning of anaerobic digesters on hog and beef farms in producing renewable natural gas. The effort is a great example of asymmetrical thinking and uncommon collaboration – combining an effort to better retain soil carbon while providing feedstock for biogas production. And it exemplifies the kind of thinking necessary in a post-COVID economic recovery.
Biomass is an incredibly versatile domestic energy resource that can contribute to a more secure, sustainable and economically-sound future. Not only can biomass be converted into transportation fuels and power for the electrical grid, but it can also be used to produce valuable chemicals for manufacturing.
A collaborative in-depth analysis by the DOE determined that the United States has the capacity to sustainably produce more than 1 billion tons of biomass annually—and still meet demands for food, feed, and fiber.
SfL commends the bioenergy sector, which has deservedly been recognized by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) its generation of large, sustained climate change mitigation benefits.