Economic and Environmental Impacts of
Increased Woody Biomass Utilization for
Bioenergy Production on the Rural Communities of
the Central Appalachian Region

Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Jingxin Wang

Jingxin Wang

Jingxin Wang (PI)
Professor of Wood Science & Technology, Director of Biomaterials & Wood Utilization Research Center
West Virginia University

Hodjat Ghadimi

Hodjat Ghadimi

Hodjat Ghadimi
Design and Landscape Architecture
West Virginia University

Kaushlendra Singh

Kaushlendra Singh

Kaushlendra Singh
Design Forestry and Natural Resources
West Virginia University

 

 

Randall W. Jackson

Randall W. Jackson

Randall W. Jackson
Regional Research Institute
West Virginia University

J. Wesley Burnett

J. Wesley Burnett

J. Wesley Burnett
Natural Resources and Design Resource Management
West Virginia University

 

Goals
The goal of this proposed study is to analyze the increased utilization of wood biomass as an energy feedstock and evaluate the potential impacts on rural economic development and environmental quality throughout the central Appalachian Region. Specific objectives including: (1) model the economic and environmental impacts that are associated with the increased utilization of woody biomass as an energy feedstock in the central Appalachian region; (2) quantify the economic and environmental impactsof woody biomass utilization on rural communities; and (3) examine the interactions among woody biomass harvesting, processing, utilization and the environmental and economic impacts.

Objectives
The project goal will be accomplished by achieving the following objectives:
(1) We will develop a spatial tool to assess the availability of woody biomass for fuel in the central Appalachian region. The intent is to be able to estimate the quantity and price of woody biomass that will, realistically, be available, in central Appalachia, for the production of liquid fuels. Harvest machine production levels, environmental harvest limitations, and harvest logistics will be used to develop models that will be used in combination with spatial data to determine harvest costs and economic availability. The prices and available quantities will be used as inputs in objective 3.
(2) We will evaluate the impacts of harvesting, transportation, material processing and production of liquid fuels on the environment, in terms of impacts on air, water and soil resources. The intent is to assess potential harvesting and fuel production systems to identify which potential technologies will produce the lowest levels of environmental
impact. Life cycle analysis (LCA) will be utilized on a forest-to-fuel system, which will include harvesting systems, transportation systems, preprocessing, material storage and liquid fuel production, to assess levels of emissions and their impacts; and by product generation and recycling needs. The system processes used in the LCA will be used to define the systems for use in objective 3.
(3) We will assess the potential economic impact of increasing the utilization of woody biomass as a feedstock for liquid fuels. The intent is to be able to quantify the direct, indirect and induced effects of wood-to-fuel industries on rural communities in central Appalachia. Knowledge of the economic impacts will provide a basis for decision and policy makers in the region to use when confronted with questions about the use of biofuels as a rural development tool. The regional economy will be examined, through the use of economic Input/Output modeling and Computable General Equilibrium modeling,to determine the direct, indirect and induced economic impacts of utilizing woody biomass as a fuel feedstock.