A concern of many environmentalists is that the use of biomass energy will decimate the forests. Searchinger et al. (2008, 2009) examined this issue related to corn ethanol and suggested that substituting corn ethanol for petroleum would increase carbon emissions associated with the land conversion abroad necessary to offset the decline in corn availability. Associated with these concerns is the overall issue of climate change (IPCC 2006). This issue is broader than simply corn. If agricultural croplands are drawn into the production of biofuel feedstocks, commodity prices are expected to rise, triggering land conversions overseas, releasing carbon emissions, and offsetting the carbon reductions expected from bioenergy. Using a general stylized forest sector management model, our study examines the economic potential of traditional industrial forests and supplemental dedicated fuelwood plantations to produce biomass on submarginal lands. It finds that these sources can economically produce large levels of biomass without compromising crop production, thereby mitigating the land conversion and carbon emissions effects posited by the Searchinger Hypothesis.
Brent L. Sohngen
Brent Sohngen is a university fellow at RFF. He conducts research on the economics of land use change, the design of incentive mechanisms for water and carbon trading, carbon sequestration, and valuation of environmental resources.
Common Resources — Nov 18, 2013
Sourcing the Future of Wood Bioenergy
Some of the biggest bioenergy debates stem from a “food or fuel” problem, where agricultural lands have been devoted to growing grain as inputs for...
On the Issues — Dec 8, 2023
On the Issues: Preserving Forests at COP28, Charging Electric Vehicles, and More
A biweekly newsletter connecting global current events, pressing climate and energy policy news, and economics research from RFF scholars. This week: preserving forests at COP28, charging electric vehicles, and more.
Resources Radio — Nov 28, 2023
Counting Carbon in US Forests, with David Wear
David Wear discusses the rate at which US forests can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, different approaches for estimating the amount of sequestered carbon, and the implications of varying estimates.