By MITCH LIES
Reducing greenhouse gases through use of forest biomass isn't all it's cracked up to be, according to a recently released report from Oregon State University.
The report, released April 18, showed that large-scale bioenergy production from forest biomass is unsustainable and will increase greenhouse gas emissions.
"The main objective of bioenergy production from forest harvest is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the strategy is likely to miss the mark," said Beverly Law, a professor of forest science at OSU, one of the report's co-authors.
The report was led by the Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Germany, OSU and universities in Switzerland, Austria and France.
"The article raises important issues for bioenergy policies," said co-author Helmut Haberl, who also is working on a report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Scientists outlined several concerns, including:
* An assumption that bioenergy is carbon-neutral is not valid.
* The reduction of biomass and lost carbon sequestration by forests could take decades to be paid back by fossil fuel substitution.
* Biofuels may require government mandates or subsidies to be economically valid.
* Negative impacts on vegetation, soil fertility, water and ecosystem diversity are possible.
"Society should fully quantify direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy alternatives, and associated consequences, prior to making policy commitments that have long-term effects on global forests," the authors wrote in their conclusion.
"There is substantial risk of sacrificing forest integrity and sustainability with no guarantee to mitigate climate change," they said.