Did you know that paper and wood products manufacturers are the leading producers and users of carbon-friendly bioenergy of any industrial sector? It all starts with one of our greatest renewable resources, and National Forest Products Week provides a welcome opportunity to tell this important chapter of the forest products story.
Through the power of the sun, growing forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and support the biosphere on which life on earth depends. The fiber from those trees provides products essential for our daily lives – products that promote literacy, health and hygiene, global commerce, our sense of community and more.
But some of that biomass – such as small branches, bark and liquid bioenergy extracted during the papermaking process – can’t be used to make paper, packaging, tissue and wood products. Fortunately, those forest products manufacturing residuals are not wasted. Instead, they are very efficiently used to produce enormous amounts of renewable bioenergy to power the mills or to provide electricity for the grid. This not only reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, but also avoids potential greenhouse gases that otherwise would result from disposal, such as methane from decomposition. This sustainable production and use of bioenergy avoids the annual emission of an estimated 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to the emissions of 35 million cars.
On average, U.S. forests are growing at twice the rate of harvests, and sustainable forest management can provide forest products and the bioenergy produced during their manufacturing process to continually improve the lives of future generations. Forest products can keep lands forested, store carbon, support our nation’s recycling system and ultimately provide carbon-neutral fuel. It’s no accident that the forest products industry was instrumental in the development of the ‘chasing arrows’ symbol.