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(ARA) – You don’t have to be an energy expert to realize the challenge ahead if the country is to reach President Obama’s goal of reducing 50 percent of America’s fossil fuel emissions by 2050. To do that will require several innovative approaches to generating fuel and electricity.

One alternative is to use plant or tree materials, also known as biomass, as an energy source. Biomass trees could be specifically planted for use as bioenergy in regions where available land is well-suited to tree growth and harvest. Although many different types of crops can be used as biomass, trees have particular advantages, including the ability to be harvested year-round. In the Southeast, where the infrastructure to harvest and transport trees to the mill already exists, biomass production could help reinvigorate rural economies.

In addition to poplar, pine and cottonwood, another variety of tree being evaluated for its amazing growth potential is the eucalyptus. One of the fastest growing hardwood trees in the world, eucalyptus is cultivated in more than 90 countries and represents 8 percent of all planted forests. In 2003, global eucalyptus pulp demand was 8 million tons and it represented 40 percent of the world’s hardwood pulp market.
“In order to slow climate change, reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil and slash fossil fuel emissions in half by 2050, we must learn how to use regional, purpose-grown resources for bioenergy in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way,” says Barbara Wells, CEO of ArborGen, a leading tree research and development company. “Purpose-grown resources, including trees, are the most ideal feedstock for biomass. A purpose-grown tree is specifically planted to be harvested for wood, fiber and energy production, thereby taking the pressure off our natural resources and forests.”

For more than 50 years, U.S. pulp and paper companies and government organizations have invested resources and devoted research to identifying the most economically and environmentally sustainable hardwood species.  South Carolina-based ArborGen develops seedlings, both through conventional breeding and selection as well as through biotechnology, that improve the productivity and sustainability of well managed, working forests to help meet the needs for wood, fiber and energy. ArborGen’s research supports eucalyptus as a top choice for wood, fiber and energy for numerous reasons. Eucalpytus:

  • … is the world’s most widely planted hardwood species.
  • … is prized globally for excellence in paper and energy production
  • … grows faster than other hardwood species.
  • … will grow on upland landscapes, reducing pressure on environmentally sensitive areas.
  • … grows commercially with similar management inputs needed for pine.
  • … produces feedstock for fiber and energy in short rotations.
  • … can be well-contained in a managed plantation environment.

The United States contributes a disproportionate amount, 22 percent, of the world’s carbon emissions, even though the country houses just 5 percent of the world’s population. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, bioenergy provides the country with a major opportunity to generate power from both renewable and sustainable sources like plants and trees, reducing the amount of carbon emissions.  The energy department has specifically identified eucalyptus as a potentially viable option for biomass because of “its implications for helping wean the nation’s dependence on fossil fuel.”

As such, the federal government is currently spending millions of dollars to map the DNA sequence of the eucalyptus – bringing in expert partners on eucalyptus and biotechnology such as ArborGen to help fulfill this mission.

“We want to help create a viable solution to the increasing energy demands at a time when our traditional supply is being depleted,” says Wells. “The time for this solution is now, and we continue to examine and test the effectiveness of trees, including the eucalyptus, as a purpose grown source for energy biomass.”

For more information on the benefits of Eucalyptus visit www.eucalyptusfacts.org.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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