A rise in US forestland thanks to Europe

According to US Forest Service scientists, demand for wood pellets in Europe, will lead to a rise in US forestland. 

The European Union has set an ambitious target of 20% of the energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020. In addition, all EU countries must also ensure that at least 10% of their transport fuels come from renewable sources. Every country in Europe has included bioenergy in its energy and climate policies. In order to meet national targets for renewable energy, the intense mobilization of domestic sources as well as increased imports is required.

The EU is considered as the world’s largest wood pellet market, and USA are the main supplier of wood pellets to EU. In 2015, U.S. exports totaled 4.3 MMT, representing a value of US$ 825 million. If trade flows remain consistent with current patterns, the United States has the potential to supply at least half of the import demand, which would represent a trade value of potentially over US$ 1 billion in 2020.

Fast growing conditions, abundant forest resources, and low-cost transatlantic freight make the Southeast U.S. an attractive source of biomass imports for the EU. The following question has arisen:  Does EU destroy forests in Southeast U.S?

According to US Forest Service scientists, demand for wood pellets in Europe, will lead to a rise in US forestland. This situation is due to the fact that increased pellet demand in Europe, creates lucrative new markets for US timber exports, increases wood prices, and lead to substantial increases of forested areas.

Karen Abt, research economist with the Forest Service’s Economics and Policy unit and lead author of the report said:

‘Southern forests and some northern forests as well, are being used to produce pellets for export to the EU. Current and proposed production levels have the potential to increase prices, but may also lead to an increase in timberland area.’

Karen’s team has used a computer model to simulate timber markets in the US Coastal South up until the year 2040.

‘We modelled a ‘business as usual’ scenario which continued the current level of wood production and an alternative scenario which increased the production of wood bioenergy.’

Recently, EU countries have agreed on a new 2030 Framework for climate and energy, including EU-wide targets and policy objectives for the period between 2020 and 2030. As stated, these targets aim to help the EU achieve a more competitive, secure and sustainable energy system and to meet its long-term 2050 greenhouse gas reductions target. Therefore, one may expect that pellets imports to Europe will continue to grow, as well forestlands in U.S.

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