The Nation's Unused Wood Offers Vast Potential Energy and Product Benefits

Gao ID: EMD-81-6 March 3, 1981

Immense quantities of wood residues are wasted in the United States in the form of decaying logging residues and dead trees, unused wood processing residues, and large, untapped acreages of small, defective, and other lower value trees. Wood residues could be an important energy source. A study was made of federal policies that are contributing to this lost potential.

GAO identified numerous factors standing in the way of greater use of wood residues for energy and products. These barriers include: (1) inadequate data on the volume, location, accessibility, and availability of forest residues; (2) lack of economical and effective equipment for harvesting and transportation of residues; (3) lack of investment capital needed for harvesting and using residues; and (4) limited awareness and acceptance of wood energy and product technology among industrial firms, utilities, and state and local bodies. Other obstacles pertain to federal forest management policies and programs, utility practices and regulations, and environmental concerns related to greater use of residues. The Forest Service and the Department of Energy (DOE) have made little progress in developing a national wood residue plan. The agencies should make a number of residue assessments in operating areas which are defined in terms of key factors such as topographical features, transportation corridors, economic hauling distances, and landowner attitudes. The Forest Service should take the lead in accomplishing the needed assessments. DOE should be an active participant in the studies. The assessments must deal more with resource management problems than end-use technology questions.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Michael Gryszkowiec Team: General Accounting Office: Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division Phone: (202) 275-7756

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