October 19th 2016-The hills in New England are alive with color as the Massachusetts Statewide Wood Energy Team (SWET) celebrates National Bioenergy Day and the use of wood, our most abundant and environmentally friendly biofuel. By using our local wood supply to provide reliable and low-cost energy, modern wood heating technology benefits both our economy and our forests.
If you drive through the Berkshires or up to Vermont to see the foliage, take a moment to appreciate that more than 60% of Massachusetts is forested and more than 75% of those woodlands are privately owned. We can thank our neighbors, and their commitment to the land, that every October we gaze upon seemingly endless displays of red, orange, and yellow foliage.
Part of this commitment includes sustainable forest management. Landowners periodically harvest or thin their woods to give better trees more room to grow. The extra space helps these high-quality trees grow faster and take in more carbon dioxide. Sufficient markets for wood that is removed help landowners maintain their management practices.
Wood energy markets supply low-cost heating fuel to many families and create jobs for rural areas. Modern wood heating technologies are clean burning and efficient. In Vermont, more than 30% of public school students attend a school heated with wood, as do most students at Vermont colleges. Vermont’s use of wood heat supports local jobs, keeps fuel dollars in the regional economy, and prioritizes healthy and productive forests.
Like Vermont, Massachusetts is blessed with abundant forests. Our three million acres of woodlands are growing wood five times faster than we cut it. Nearly a million tons of waste wood is generated by our communities each year from tree removals, utility tree trimming, and landscaping. Instead of importing 98% of our wood products, why don’t we make use of this plentiful local supply to heat our schools, town halls, colleges, and homes?
This year, three schools in Massachusetts have installed modern wood heat, and there are dozens more that could benefit from the cost savings and the opportunity to lead Massachusetts into a low-carbon future. A common expression in the environmental community is “think globally, act locally.” Today, the Massachusetts SWET is thinking about global climate change, and envisioning how local wood heat can be part of the solution. So join us in celebrating modern wood heat and its contributions to our economy and our forests, which not only provide beautiful foliage, but also filter our water and air, provide habitat, and are an important part of a renewable energy future.
The Massachusetts SWET identifies and assists with the expansion of wood energy technologies. The team is supported by a U.S. Forest Service Initiative and coordinated by the Massachusetts Forest Alliance. The Massachusetts Forest Alliance is a trade association that advocates for a strong, sustainable forest economy, responsible forest management practices, private land equity and the continuation of working forests on public and private lands.
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