Date of Award

12-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Energy Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Virginia Dale

Committee Members

Keith Kline, Nicholas Nagle, Adam Taylor

Abstract

Although transition to renewable energy resources like bioenergy is being promoted as a way to mitigate global climate change, it is not always clear what potential tradeoffs stakeholders might encounter as these new energy resources reach commercial scale. Holistic consideration of a variety of potential effects on environmental and socioeconomic factors valued by human societies will be an essential component of meeting the world’s energy needs without compromising the quality of life available to future generations. This dissertation is therefore intended to advance understanding of the potential benefits and tradeoffs associated with the production of industrial wood pellets from Southeastern United States’ (SE US) forests for use in European biopower facilities.Although SE US global industrial wood pellet exports have developed in response to European Union goals to mitigate climate change, groups on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean have expressed concerns that the trade arrangement will lead to negative impacts on SE US forests. Concerns include potential loss of old growth and bottomland forests and associated ecosystem services and species, as well as heavily debated potential effects on global greenhouse gas emissions. These claims of adverse impacts need to be tested with empirical data associated with key environmental and socioeconomic indicators of sustainability.Four collaborative research manuscripts developed for this dissertation are presented as four chapters following an Introduction. In Chapter 1, a telecoupling framework is used to qualitatively analyze the sustainability of the transatlantic wood pellet trade system. Chapter 2 proposes a set of definitions and reference scenarios to improve cross-cultural understanding of the new pellet industry within the context of the pre-existing SE US timber industry, as well as guidelines for future quantitative modeling efforts. Chapters 3 and 4 describe a quantitative analysis of timberland changes in two case study SE US fuelsheds that have been supplying industrial wood pellets to Europe since 2009. The Conclusion synthesizes the main findings from the four chapters and discusses opportunities to use the research to improve future policy decisions related to this renewable bioenergy system.

Orcid ID

http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9264-6295

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