Future of Forestry Discussed: Meeting Deals With Carbon, Bioenergy

The future of forestry was the theme for the Georgia Forestry Association Valdosta Regional meeting Thursday evening.

Speakers John Ramey and Dr. Jeffrey Wright discussed carbon sequestration and bioenergy.

Ramey, manager of Valley Carbon for Valley Wood, shared the company's experiences with carbon sequestration and possible legislation that would make green gas emission reductions a requirement for United States companies.

The Valley Wood company works with diversified forest products.

Forests absorb CO2, creating a natural carbon sink, he said.

Deforestation through fires, pestilence or human control contributes to green house gas emissions, which, in popular thought, helps cause climate change, Ramey said.

In recent years more emphasis has been placed on controlling excessive greenhouse gas emissions across the globe. In many countries, including the

United States, incentives for companies, including timber owners, are being developed to help facilitate the reduction of green house gas emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol, ratified by 183 countries, began enforcement in 2005 to reduce carbon emissions by 5.2 percent.

If the United States had participated in the treaty, the country would have been required to reduce emissions by seven percent, Ramey said.

The reason the United States did not participate in the treaty was because high-pollution countries like China, Brazil and India were not requested to adopt the treaty as they are seen as still developing countries, Ramey said.

China surpassed the United States this year in greenhouse gas emissions, but the United States, per capita, is still by far the largest emitter, he said.

Several organizations have been developed in recent years to begin market carbon sequestration, creating a domestic voluntary market for purchase of carbon offsets, he said.

Valley Carbon and Valley Wood are members of the Chicago Climate Exchange. The goal of the company is to decrease greenhouse gas emissions of participating companies by six percent by 2010.

These organizations have been developed ahead of possible legislation that will make reductions a requirement, Ramey said.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 has already passed in the United States House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate.

The bill calls for a three percent reduction of green house gas emissions levels from 2005-2012 and a 17 percent reduction by 2020.

The bill would require energy companies to develop renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency.

Basically the bill will require companies to purchase the right to pollute by purchase offsets from companies who have achieved their required reductions, he said.

The bill will also place a tax on homeowners and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the cost will range between $98 and $140 a year.

The proceeds from the tax will go to promote "green collar" jobs, promote energy efficiency in homes and companies, and be put back in state governments to help low income families cover the cost, he said.

If the bill is passed into law 85 percent of emission permits will be given away and the remainder of the permits auctioned off.

Many companies are already buying offsets for many reasons. Some are trying to be good stewards of the environment and others are anticipating the coming legislation, he said.

Wright, ArborGenn LLC, product development manager, then discussed the possibility of growing eucalypt species of trees in the Southeast for bio energy uses.

Eucalypt cannot be used as lumber, but is being developed in the United States for mulch, pulp and energy sources.

ArborGen is working with three species of Eucalypts that can be sustained in this area of the country.

Eucalypts are native to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, he said.

For biomass and bio energy production, current work states that three and four year old eucalypt plants developed for this area can produce between 14-18 tons and 10-14 tons of biomass product per acre.