Why not put forests to good use?

 

Why not put forests to good use?

Dear HCN, With the big summer fires in full flame, and all the talk of need for "treatment" of the forests to make them less fire-prone, the question comes to mind, "Why not use all the extra trees in the forests to fuel biomass power plants?" Has anyone done the calculations to figure out how many BTUs or kilowatts could be generated with the thinnings from one acre of overly dense forest? Could thinned trees be ground up and mixed with coal in conventional power plants, thereby reducing the need for new or expanded coal mines? Wouldn't power plant revenues help pay for forest- and community-saving forest restoration efforts?


Every time I drive to Flagstaff, Ariz., I look at the dog-hair thickets of trees and imagine a restored forest in their place. I imagine trees and slash hauled off to power plants to fuel generators instead of burn in ugly, soil-sterilizing "bone piles," and the resultant smoke passing through "best available technology" scrubbers instead of filling the nearby communities with haze. I look at mile after mile of 500-tree-per-acre stands, where the forest restorationists point to the 25 or so red-barked pines per acre that are the natural tree densities, and wonder how long a local power plant could run on all this extra "fuel." I contemplate youth work crews mulching and kicking out stumps in the following years and natural fire cycles bringing back the forest grasses. In my mind's eye I see an open, diverse forest and electricity coming from a "green source," and I ask myself, "Well, why not?"

Greg WoodallGrand Canyon, Arizona