[NEWS] Bioenergy Opportunities in Colorado from Beetle-Killed Trees
– by Joseph Pomerening, October 24, 2016, Renewable Energy World
When you think of Colorado, images of snow-capped mountains and lush evergreen forests may come to your mind. But Colorado’s forests have been under attack. It began more than two decades ago when severe drought led to an infestation of mountain pine beetles, spruce beetles, and other pests. The beetle infestation, over time, killed millions of acres of lodgepole pine trees and other tree species. There is now an abundance of dead trees standing on the mountainsides of central and western Colorado.
Decomposition of dead trees occurs naturally and is healthy for a forest ecosystem. However, too many dead trees makes the region prone to forest fires that are costly and dangerous to contain. Forest fires can damage property and communities, harm wildlife, and threaten water supplies.
Fortunately, there is an opportunity here to renew Colorado’s forests by removing and converting some of the dead trees into biofuels and bioproducts. Using forest management best practices to collect and remove dead trees helps to improve forest health and mitigate fire risk. And the dead trees—which are not suitable for higher-quality lumber products and have few uses—can still be used to produce biofuel as an alternative to petroleum-derived gasoline.
Wood is one of the many different types of plant and organic resources that can be converted into bio-based transportation fuel for cars, trucks, and airplanes. Other examples are the wastes from agricultural harvests (such as the corn husks and stalks from a corn field), grasses, wet wastes from wastewater treatment plants, and algae. The Energy Department’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) funds research and development projects that reduce the cost of producing biofuel from non-food biomass resources with the intent of reducing the need for petroleum imports, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, and creating economic opportunities for Americans.