The four-day Tour explored how innovations supported by government and industry are enabling the deployment of a more sustainable bioeconomy. The bioeconomy refers to the use of renewable biomass in place of fossil inputs such as coal and petroleum for production of products and services, including energy, plastics and chemicals. Because sustainability is aspirational and context-specific, during the Tour it was interpreted as being
characteristic of activities that maintain or enhance environmental, social, and economic benefits relative to the status quo.
Tour attendees from 10 countries met SE US industry stakeholders and landowners and visited forest field sites and two DOE national laboratories. The Study Tour also provided an opportunity for participants to develop a better understanding of the costs, benefits, opportunities and constraints of an expanding wood pellet industry. Most pellets produced in the SE US are exported to displace coal in European biopower facilities. The mixture of US and European participants from a diversity of backgrounds and sectors resulted in lively debates of issues. This photo essay summarizes the learnings and discussions that occurred during the Tour.
Issues and conditions prevalent in SE US forests that were addressed through the field visits, presentations, and discussions among Tour attendees include the following.
Lands now managed as forests in the SE US have experienced significant periods of transition in management and ownership. The largest trees were selectively logged and most forests were cleared for agriculture in the centuries following European colonization of North America.