Woody Biomass Processing: Potential Economic Impacts on Rural Regions

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Regional Research Institute


This paper estimates the economic and environmental impacts of introducing woody biomass processing (WBP) in a rural area in central Appalachia. WBP is among the most promising additions to energy generation portfolios for reducing import dependency and at the same time providing economic opportunity to stimulate regional economies, especially in rural regions where economic development options are often limited. We use an input-output framework to assess regional economic impacts of introducing WBP under three different pathways, fast pyrolysis, ethanol and coal/biomass to liquids. Based on an analysis of local biomass feedstock supply and using the results of life cycle assessments to parameterize the three production functions, we find that the proposed WBP will increase the regional output by $138.1 to $333.3 million dollars; it will increase income by $17.32 to $51.31 million dollars and employment by 218.1 to 1127.8 jobs in the region. Of these impacts, the direct portions are 63% to 77% of the total impact, depending on the chosen pathway. The results from the accompanying environmental assessment show that only the ethanol pathway has both economic and environmental benefits.

Source Citation

Jackson, R. W., Neto, A. B. F., & Erfanian, E. (2018). Woody biomass processing: Potential economic impacts on rural regions. Energy Policy, 115, 66–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2018.01.001