Opportunities and risks for -sustainable biomass export from the south-eastern United States to Europe

Kevin R. Fingerman*, Gert Jan Nabuurs, Leire Iriarte, Uwe R. Fritsche, Igor Staritsky, Lotte Visser, Thuy Mai--Moulin, Martin Junginger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Import of wood pellets to the EU from the southeastern United States has increased almost ten-fold over the past seven years, driven largely by mandates under the Renewable Energy Directive. While the displacement of fossil fuels with biomass can offer significant energy diversity and climate benefits, these must be balanced against the potential detriment from unsustainable extraction of biomass resources. This study projects the scale of the sustainable biomass resource base in the US southeast through 2030 under various scenarios of industry development and domestic market dynamics. We characterise this resource base at the county level, disaggregating it by material type and spatially constraining it to ensure biodiversity conservation. Our analysis shows that there could be as much as 70 million green metric tons of sustainable export potential from the US Southeast in 2030. However, we also show the extent to which sustainable sourcing criteria applied only to EU biomass energy imports could create leakage across biomass markets, erasing gains from any sustainability mandate. This leakage risk was fairly consistent across our study scenarios and time periods, ranging from 50 to over 63 million green tons of biomass per year. Meaningful biodiversity protections can only be achieved if sustainability criteria for biomass import to the EU are combined with more comprehensive support for sustainable sourcing across biomass industries in exporting regions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-292
JournalBiofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
Issue number2
Early online date29 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • Bioelectricity
  • Forest residue
  • Renewable energy
  • Sustainable biomass
  • Trade policy

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