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Environment

An under-used resource in Washington: forest biomass

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Photo by Hugo90
/
Flickr
Slash such as the branches and stumps shown here in Wishkah, Washington could be used for sustainable biofuels. A new study from the Commissioner of Public Lands says market use of such biomass could double without any impacts to forest sustainability.

Renewable energy is growing on trees in Washington – and right now, much of it is going up in smoke.

That’s the word from Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, who has just released the results of a study on forest biomass.

Goldmark says industry is currently using only about a third of the woody biomass that could be sustainably harvested and then converted into liquid fuel or heat for electricity generation.

“This study demonstrates that there is ample supply of forest biomass to support expansion of Washington’s bio-energy sector," Goldmark says. "This important sector can create needed green jobs, contribute to the state’s renewable energy portfolio and provide new revenue for education and counties.”

Goldmark says market use of biomass could more than double without any impacts to forest sustainability. Currently, it is mostly burned in the slash piles that are a bi-product of logging.  However, mills could save hundreds of gallons of oil by burning the unused biomass instead.

There’s also potential for using it as a feedstock for sustainable jet fuel. The study describes supply regions for potential and existing biomass facilities, statewide.