Natural Resources: Woody Biomass Users' Experiences Provide Insights for Ongoing Government Efforts to Promote Its Use Page: 4 of 16
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on information we collected from 13 users of woody biomass, including
power plants, pulp and paper mills, and school and hospital facilities in
various locations around the United States, as well as on our prior study of
The primary factors facilitating woody biomass use among users we
reviewed were financial incentives and benefits associated with its use,
while other factors included the availability of an affordable supply of
woody biomass and users' interest in environmental benefits associated
with its use. Four of the 13 users in our review had received federal or
state financial assistance to begin using woody biomass, while 3 users
received ongoing support as a result of their use of the material. Other
factors included energy cost savings from using woody biomass in place of
fossil fuels such as natural gas; the availability of an affordable supply of
the material (particularly in cases where it was already being removed as a
byproduct of other activities); and anticipated environmental benefits
associated with using the material, such as promoting forest health and
reducing air pollution.
Using woody biomass, however, was not without challenges for the users
we reviewed. Users cited insufficient supply, increased equipment and
maintenance costs, and other factors that limited their use of woody
biomass or made it more difficult or expensive to use. Several users
reported they found it difficult or impossible to obtain a sufficient supply
of the material, particularly from federal lands. Such users relied more on
woody biomass from private lands or on alternative wood materials such
as sawmill residues (including sawdust, chips, bark, and similar materials)
or urban wood waste (made up of tree trimmings, construction debris, and
the like). Several users also told us that, despite the financial advantages
of using woody biomass in place of oil or natural gas, they had incurred
increased equipment, operation, and maintenance costs in using woody
biomass that they would not have incurred had they burned the other
Our findings offer several insights for the federal government as it seeks to
promote greater use of woody biomass. First, if not appropriately
designed, efforts to encourage its use may instead stimulate the use of
sawmill residues or other alternative wood materials, which some users
told us are cheaper or easier to use than woody biomass. Second, the lack
of a local logging and milling infrastructure to collect and process forest
materials may limit the availability of woody biomass; thus, government
activities may be more effective in stimulating its use if they take into
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Natural Resources: Woody Biomass Users' Experiences Provide Insights for Ongoing Government Efforts to Promote Its Use, text, April 27, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc295140/m1/4/: accessed January 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.