Janaki Alavalapati on forests’ renewable energy potential

Janaki Alavalapati says that forest biomass – small diameter trees and brush cleared from forests – can be used to create liquid fuel.

EarthSky spoke with Janaki Alavalapati, head of Virginia Tech’s Department of Forestry. He told us that forest biomass – small diameter trees and brush cleared from forests – can be used to create liquid fuel.

Janaki Alavalapati: Biomass is anything above or below ground relating to forests, shrubs and woody trees. Every piece of biomass can be used for one kind or another of liquid energy sources.

Alavalapati spoke of studies showing that liquid fuel made from forest biomass is more energy efficient than corn-based ethanol.

Janaki Alavalapati: If you put one unit of energy in, you are getting approximately 5 units of energy out from forest biomass-based liquid fuels. Corn is, if you put one unit of energy, you might get 1.2 or 1.3, something like that.

And, in contrast to corn-based ethanol, fuel made from forest products isn’t created from a human food source.

Janaki Alavalapati: Forest biomass does not attract food versus fuel debates that we recently had across the world.

The technologies are in place, said Alavalapati, but this type of fuel production isn’t competitive yet at a commercial scale.

Our thanks today to the American Forest Foundation, leading the way in education and conservation.

Our thanks to Janaki Alavalapati
Janaki Alavalapati is a professor of Forest Resource Economics and Policy and head of the Department of Forestry at Virginia Tech University. With an advanced degree in Forest Economics, his research focuses on exploring market solutions for natural resources, energy, and environmental problems/issues at local, regional, and international level.

EarthSky