Review of consumption trends and public policies promoting woody biomass as an energy feedstock in the U.S.
A review of the four main wood energy sectors in the U.S. was conducted to explore historic trends and the impact of alternative energy prices and public policies on wood energy consumption. High oil prices have triggered the adoption of government regulation and financial incentives to promote greater use of wood energy over the last four decades. However, the amount of wood energy consumed in the U.S. industrial sector was driven mainly by the output of the pulp and paper products industry and not by energy prices or any particular public policy incentive. Residential consumption of wood energy was positively correlated with competing energy prices. Public policies seem to have had a greater impact on wood energy consumption in the electric power sector and over the last four decades have concentrated on promoting biopower with a recent shift to liquid cellulosic biofuels. High oil prices and a series of public policies such as tax credits, loans, grants, and renewable energy standards have resulted in higher consumption of wood energy from 2004 to 2009 in the residential, electric power and commercial sectors by an estimated 5, 2, and less than 1 percent annually, respectively. The impact of new federal programs such as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program remains to be observed. Continuation of public incentives and preferential regulations for renewable energy appears to be necessary for a steady increase in U.S. wood energy consumption.