Today, we recognize the fifth annual Bioenergy Day in the United States. You may be asking yourself, “What is bioenergy?” A simple definition from Merriam-Webster says bioenergy is used for industrial or commercial purposes and is sourced from biological origins, such as plant matter.
In Arkansas, our most abundant bioenergy sources are trees, which provide woody biomass that can be used to fuel power plants around the world. Among the benefits of bioenergy such as woody biomass, are the minimal environmental impacts. The EPA said in 2009, “The CO2 emitted from biomass-based fuels combustion does not increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations, assuming the biogenic carbon emitted is offset by the uptake of CO2 resulting from the growth of new biomass.”
In Arkansas, not only do we provide the fuel for bioenergy from woody biomass, but we also have facilities that use bioenergy. One such facility is the Potlach plant in Warren, which has an 8.7 megawatt capacity, according to the Biomass Power Association.
Another facility, also in the Fourth Congressional District, is Highland Pellets in Pine Bluff. The new multi-million dollar facility will produce the pellets used in bioenergy facilities around the world, sourcing their products from woody biomass found right here in Arkansas.
The Biomass Power Association estimates that 5.75% of the nation’s total energy supply comes from bioenergy and provides full-time jobs for tens of thousands of Americans. While the economy has struggled to grow since 2008, bioenergy has been expanding rapidly, adding more capacity with facilities like Highland in Pine Bluff. With this, more and more Americans are going to work in a forestry-related industry, whether it be for logging companies, nurseries, or bioenergy providers.
In Arkansas, the state’s forestry association estimates a total economic impact of $6.3 billion, with more than 28,000 people employed across the industry. Total payroll in the forestry industry in Arkansas is about $1.46 billion. In a state with an ever-increasing number of forested acres, forestry keeps our state healthy using sound scientific practices while also keeping our economy strong.
As we mark National Bioenergy Day 2017, be mindful of the impact bioenergy has on Arkansas. Chances are, you have been positively affected by bioenergy in the Natural State.