In late 2018, the American Wood Council released its third biannual AWC Environment, Energy and Safety: Industry Progress Report. Compiled from data collected over the last decade, the report shows that there have been significant improvements by the industry in these three areas, even despite the economic downturn that caused a drop in wood products manufacturing beginning in early 2006.
Biomass and Energy Profile
From the data, I want to draw particular attention to the energy profile of wood processing facilities, which, as is well known, have found ways to use all parts of the natural raw materials from which our products are manufactured, but also generate most of the energy used in mills. Among the greatest users of alternative energy in the country, the wood products industry, and AWC member companies in particular, have met over 75% of their energy needs, on average, from carbon-neutral biomass over the last decade.
By using these biomass manufacturing residuals, the wood products industry is harnessing the energy value of carbon before it’s otherwise lost to the atmosphere. The result is that, by using biomass, our industry avoids fossil fuel use and its associated emissions, and the resulting use of our products also displaces the carbon emitted from the fossil-fuel-intensive products of our competitors.
Most notably, the greenhouse gas reduction benefit of using biomass manufacturing residuals for energy by the wood products industry is equivalent to removal of about 24 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is equivalent to removing approximately 4.6 million cars from the road every year. Something for which we can all be proud.
Other Key Findings
In addition to the industry’s sustained use of biomass, key findings in the report are:
- Energy intensity has improved significantly since the 2008–09 recession and is now 17% below pre-recession levels.
- The 10-year trend in chemical releases has shown significant reductions, which includes formaldehyde and methanol.
- Worker safety incident rates for AWC member companies are consistently lower than both all wood products as well as all manufacturing during the 2004–2016 period.
- Capital spending by the U.S. wood products sector increased from 2012 to 2016, with a three-fold increase since 2009.
The wood products industry should be very pleased with this newest documentation of its record of protecting the environment, energy management, and efficiency, as well as mill safety, all achieved while producing carbon-neutral products that are central to the lives of all.
The full report can be found on the AWC website at https://www.awc.org/aboutus.