6. Biomass: Wood

A. Background

Wood is a substantial renewable resource that can be used as a fuel to generate electric power and other forms of energy products. Wood for use as fuel comes from a wide variety of sources. The Nation's forestland (or timberland) is the primary, and in most cases original, resource base for fuelwood. Wood for fuel use is also derived from private land clearing and silviculture and from urban tree and landscape residues. A third major wood resource is waste wood, which includes manufacturing and wood processing wastes, as well as construction and demolition debris.

Worldwide, one-half of the annual timber harvest is used for fuelwood, representing economic value of at least $75 billion on a replacement fuel cost basis. Half the world's population uses wood for heating and cooking. In developing countries, fuelwood accounts for 90 percent of the timber harvested(1) In the United States, however, fuelwood and timber residues used for fuel amount to only about 25 percent of the timber harvest.

Other than hydroelectric power, wood and other biomass resources provide the largest source of renewable electricity and thermal energy produced today in the United States. U.S. biomass power plants account for about 6,500 megawatts of installed electric generating capacity and provide a significant amount of energy in the form of heat and steam from cogeneration. The amount of electric power produced from wood in 1992 was about 42,000 gigawatthours, using approximately 50 million tons of biomass fuel. The contribution to the U.S. energy supply was equivalent to nearly 200,000 barrels of oil per day.(2)

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