College of Forest Resources University of Washington
Forest Products Management Development Institute University of Minnesota
Land use decisions that encourage substituting other materials for wood are made daily at all levels of government in the United States. Although generally motivated by a desire to protect the environment, such decisions, and the deliberations that lead to them, rarely account for the effects of substitution triggered by land use constraints. This is a critically important omission, and one that is leading to environmental decisions and regulations that are adverse, rather than beneficial, to the global environment.
A decision to eliminate or sharply reduce harvests on a given land area obviously reduces the environmental impacts associated with timber harvest and subsequent regeneration. However, in the absence of planning to reduce overall consumption of raw materials, and the goods made from them, that decision also automatically triggers global market mechanisms to replace or substitute raw materials for those that have been made unavailable. Research, including that of a mid-1970s National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Renewable Resources for Industrial Materials (CORRIM), has shown that the environmental impacts associated with raw materials substitution are substantial—in many cases greater than the environmental damage that restrictions on forest harvesting seek to avoid (National Research Council, 1976a,b).
It is no surprise that raw materials-related environmental decision making in the United States can lead to environmentally damaging policies. The NRC's CORRIM research is the only comprehensive study of environmental effects of renewable raw materials production and use done in the United States—and that study is now 20 years old. Consequently, there is today an almost total lack of
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Chapter 2 Committee on Renewable Resources for Industrial Materials: A Look Back and Consideration of the Future James Bethel College of Forest Resources University of Washington James Bowyer Forest Products Management Development Institute University of Minnesota Land use decisions that encourage substituting other materials for wood are made daily at all levels of government in the United States. Although generally motivated by a desire to protect the environment, such decisions, and the deliberations that lead to them, rarely account for the effects of substitution triggered by land use constraints. This is a critically important omission, and one that is leading to environmental decisions and regulations that are adverse, rather than beneficial, to the global environment. A decision to eliminate or sharply reduce harvests on a given land area obviously reduces the environmental impacts associated with timber harvest and subsequent regeneration. However, in the absence of planning to reduce overall consumption of raw materials, and the goods made from them, that decision also automatically triggers global market mechanisms to replace or substitute raw materials for those that have been made unavailable. Research, including that of a mid-1970s National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Renewable Resources for Industrial Materials (CORRIM), has shown that the environmental impacts associated with raw materials substitution are substantial—in many cases greater than the environmental damage that restrictions on forest harvesting seek to avoid (National Research Council, 1976a,b). It is no surprise that raw materials-related environmental decision making in the United States can lead to environmentally damaging policies. The NRC's CORRIM research is the only comprehensive study of environmental effects of renewable raw materials production and use done in the United States—and that study is now 20 years old. Consequently, there is today an almost total lack of
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current information about the environmental impacts of raw materials extraction, reduction, processing, and use. A renewed attention to U.S. industrial raw materials policy is strongly suggested. In particular, it would be useful to promote systematic life-cycle analyses of renewable materials, with a focus on the environmental effects of renewable raw materials production and use. Corrim II: The Need is Great Policy and management decisions by federal, state, and local agencies have begun to affect the ability of domestic forests to meet even the local demand for wood raw materials. Recent actions have led to sharp reductions in forest harvesting on federal lands, and the pressure is mounting to reduce harvesting on private lands. Such actions and pressures are based almost completely on environmental concerns. However, because decisions that influence the management and periodic harvesting of forests are not linked to U.S. consumption, the effect is simply to transfer demand to regions outside our borders or to trigger substitution of nonwood materials. The mid-1970s NRC CORRIM study (1976a) quantified the energy use associated with production and use of wood and other building materials. Based on its results and the findings from several more recent studies outside the United States (Arima, 1993; Buchanan, 1991; Meil, 1994; National Commission on Materials Policy, 1973; National Research Council, 1976a; Richter and Sell, 1992), it is clear that materials substitution results generally in large increases in energy consumption (and all associated environmental impacts) for raw materials gathering and processing. The net effect is that the environmental impacts of both materials substitution and the increased demand for wood from foreign sources are likely to cause significant harm to the global environment. Because wood accounts for a large portion of the nation's industrial raw materials consumption, significant restrictions on domestic wood production will tend to trigger the amount of substitution and import activity on a massive scale. Thus, environmental, economic, and other effects will not be trivial. It is, therefore, extremely important that economic, strategic, and global environmental concerns be considered as part of each proposal for domestic environmentally based action. In this context, current data are needed to reflect current technologies and life-cycle considerations for various material options. Even though the investigation of the environmental consequences of substitution was part of the mandate of the original CORRIM effort, it was impossible then to examine any consequences other than energy impacts. It has subsequently become clear, however, that the sort of effort that CORRIM devoted to the energy consequences of renewable resource use could be used to study other environmental impacts as well. Today, some of these nonenergy-related environmental
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impacts are more important, or at least of more immediate social interest, than are the energy-related environmental impacts. The energy conservation opportunities of materials substitution vary over time as processing technologies change and as product designs are modified. These changes call for updating the findings of two decades ago. It is unrealistic to expect that the NRC study's findings are as useful today; the data need to be updated periodically. Furthermore, as noted before, the nonenergy consequences of substitution have not been studied systematically or quantitatively. Today, decisions are being made in the name of environmental quality that significantly affect the capacity to sustainably produce wood and wood fiber in U.S. forests; these decisions are being made in the absence of sound scientific data concerning the environmental impacts of wood use. As noted in the NRC CORRIM report: The U.S. has unique opportunities to increase the use of renewable resources as industrial materials. These resources derive from the growth of living organisms, plants and animals, using a large and very productive land base. Within U.S. borders are included some of the most productive lands in the world for the production of biologically based resources. The nation has selected to emphasize the use of much of this highly productive land base for the effective production of food. It has not had the same national commitment to the production of renewable materials. This statement has more relevance today than it did when it was written. The United States continues to make policy decisions that increase its almost 80 years of dependence on foreign imports of wood. Moreover, the same advocacy groups that press their position on the United States are advising its potential suppliers to reduce their production of wood as well. All of this is based on a weak, indeed almost nonexistent, scientific knowledge base concerning the environmental consequences of using wood as a material of commerce. Historical Perspective The United States developed and prospered in its early history largely through the use of its rich endowment of natural resources, the first of which to be exploited was the forest. Wood was the predominant fuel used in early America. Forests supplied materials for the construction of homes and other structures. Wood was, in fact, among the first exported commodities, and its sale permitted colonists to buy manufactured products from Europe. Many of the ships that brought colonists from England returned loaded with ships' timbers obtained from the forests of New England. With the discovery of coal, oil, and a variety of mineral deposits, these natural resources added to the mix of materials that contributed to the development of a new nation. With the growth of a transportation infrastructure, primarily through the construction of the railroad network that was
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augmented by water transport via canals, rivers, lakes, and coastal waters, whole communities developed around the exploitation of forests and mines. As the easily accessed natural resources of the populated Northeast were exhausted, this area of the country was supplied from the less developed lands in the South, the Midwest, and ultimately the far West. But with the local reduction in the supply of natural resources in the Northeast came a concern in some segments of society for the supply of essential materials. In the forestry sector this concern often focused on fear of a ''timber famine.'' For example, Gifford Pinchot, the father of American forestry and a consummate politician, pressed on his political mentor Theodore Roosevelt the necessity of adding dramatically to forest reserves with the prediction that "at the present rate of use the country will run out of timber in twenty years." Looking back, it is clear that fears of a timber shortage were unfounded and partly the result of a lack of recognition of forest renewability. The use of materials of all kinds, including wood, has continued to increase even though individual products have become obsolete or disappeared entirely from use. The pattern of materials use has changed dramatically over the years, but demand for materials of all kinds has increased. As materials have become more costly they have been used more efficiently. The forest famine syndrome that was a significant part of early American forestry had its counterpart in other materials sectors. From time to time this concern for materials supply resulted in the appointment of various committees and commissions to study the subject. Sometimes groups focused on a material or group of materials; sometimes they examined a broader spectrum. After World War II and the Korean War there was public concern about the shortage of materials for military use in wartime. This led President Harry S. Truman to appoint the Paley Commission to study materials supply from the vantage point of national security. National Commission on Materials Policy In the late 1960s, the beginnings of concerns related to the relationships between materials supply and the environment surfaced and resulted in the passage of the National Materials Policy Act of 1970 which included a mandate to the president to appoint the National Commission on Materials Policy. The commission's charge included determination of national and international materials requirements priorities and objectives, both current and future, including economic projections; the relationship of materials policy to national and international population size and to the enhancement of environmental quality; means for the extraction, development, and use of materials that can be recycled or reused or that self-destruct, to enhance environmental quality and conserve materials;
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means for exploiting existing scientific knowledge in the supply, use, recovery, and disposal of materials and for encouraging further research and education; means for enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal departments and agencies in materials use to best serve the national materials policy; the feasibility and desirability of establishing computer inventories of national and international materials requirements, supplies, and alternatives; and assignment of continuing responsibility for the implementation of the national materials policy to specific federal agencies. The commission made its report to the president and Congress in June 1973 (National Commission on Materials Policy, 1973). The completion of its studies very nearly coincided with the start of a major petroleum shortage in the United States and with the initiation of many studies of energy supply. The information supplied by the commission was an important part of the relevant data base for the studies that came after. Corrim After a review of the work of the National Commission on Materials Policy, the Science and Technology Policy Office (STPO), in support of the science adviser to the president, determined that the various studies of materials supply, while recognizing that wood was important, did not focus on it sufficiently. Recognizing this deficiency, the STPO requested that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) "reexamine the role of renewable resources, as the other major component of natural resources, in helping better to meet the needs for materials in the future." In response, NAS appointed the NRC's CORRIM, whose mandate included the following: Quantitative analysis of current materials flows for renewable resources as the basis for assessing the impact of potential future changes (compared with nonrenewable flows). Definition of the limitations (cost and technical) of renewable resources for meeting expanding demands for materials based on them. Delineation of the energy, environmental, and social consequences of such increases, as well as their international aspects. Assessment (stocktaking) of the interchangeability of renewable and nonrenewable resources as the basis for materials. Assessment of the quantity and quality of research and development in the area of renewable resources by the federal government and industry. Evaluation of the relationship of these activities to the size of the industry and its role in the economy. Assessment of changes in scale and emphasis needed to meet future changes. Evaluation of relevant federal, state, and local legislation and regulations that influence the effectiveness of the development and use of renewable resources.
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Improvement in materials properties and performance. Improvement in the yield of raw materials and in the efficiency of processing. Determination of the potential of renewable resources as feedstock for synthetic materials—cellulose based and converted products (such as ethylene)—that can be used to supplement or replace the petrochemical supply used for synthetic polymer production. Consideration of the energy requirements and environmental impacts associated with the implementation of the recommendations. Some 80 scientists representing industrial, government, and university research organizations spent more than 2 years studying the issues raised in the mandate from STPO. The NRC's CORRIM submitted its final report in 1976. Because of time and budget limitations, and because of the critical energy supply problems that were the focus of national attention at the time, most of the efforts of CORRIM were dedicated to the energy consequences of substitution of renewable for nonrenewable resources. The NRC study revealed numerous opportunities to make significant energy savings through such substitution (National Research Council, 1976a,b). Industrial Raw Materials Today The United States today is a net importer of the raw materials used by its economy. An examination of Table 2-1 shows that the proportion of imports is substantial for numerous materials, including most metals, cements, petrochemicals, and wood and wood products. Consumption in the United States of many materials per unit of gross national product is falling and per capita consumption of many materials is level or nearly so (exceptions in the U.S. are plastics, paper [Williams, 1991], and wood and wood products in general; per capita consumption of these materials has risen significantly in the past several decades). Demand for industrial materials in developing nations, however, is rising steadily. Increases in population and purchasing power within developing regions will likely accelerate the demand for raw materials globally; industrial output and energy use are expected to triple worldwide and to increase fivefold in developing countries (World Bank, 1992). Within this context, and given the desire within the United States to maintain a strong economy and balance of payments, it is prudent to consider whether the country is adequately positioned for the future with respect to industrial raw materials. Will industrial raw materials be available at reasonable costs through the next century? If so, what are the implications for the U.S. balance of trade in the years to come? Might the availability of materials obstruct the goal of affordable housing nationally? What effect is increasing U.S. demand for industrial raw materials from foreign sources likely to have on the global environment? How
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TABLE 2-1 Net U.S. imports of selected materials as a percentage of apparent consumption, and by major foreign sourcesa,b,c Material % Imported Principal Foreign Sources ( 1991–1994) Columbium 100 Brazil, Canada, Germany, Thailand Mica 100 India, Brazil, Finland, China Manganese 100 South Africa, Gabon, France, Brazil Graphite 100 Mexico, Canada, China, Madagascar, Brazil Strontium (celestite) 100 Mexico, Germany Bauxite/alumnia 99 Australia, Jamaica, Guinea, Brazil Fluorspar 92 China, South Africa, Mexico Platinum group 88 S. Africa, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany Tungsten 87 China, Germany, Bolivia, Peru Tin 84 Brazil, Bolivia, Indonesia, China Cobalt 82 Zambia, Norway, Canada, Zaire Tantalum 80 Germany, Australia, Canada, Brazil Chromium 78 South Africa, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Russia Potash 74 Canada, Belarus, Germany, Israel Titanium — Russia, Japan, China Silver — Mexico, Canada, Peru, Chile Barium (barite) 65 China, India, Morocco Nickel 61 Canada, Norway, Australia, Dom. Republic Antimony 60 China, Mexico, South Africa, Hong Kong Petroleum (crude and refined) 53 Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Canada Magnesium compounds 50 China, Canada, Mexico, Greece Asbestos 46 Canada Zinc 41 Canada, Mexico, Peru, Spain Silicon 33 Brazil, Canada, Russia Gypsum 30 Canada, Mexico, Spain Aluminum 25 Canada, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil Cadmium 21 Canada, Mexico, Belgium, Germany Iron and steel 21 EEC, Canada, Japan, Brazil, South Korea Iron ore 18 Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, Australia, Mauritania Sulfur 18 Canada, Mexico Portland and masonary cement 17 Canada, Spain, Greece, Venezuela, Mexico Wood and wood products (total) 12 Canada, New Zealand, Chile Copper 3 Canada, Chile, Peru a Also significant import dependency for andalusite, arsenic, bismuth, caesium, copper, diamond (industrial), gallium, gemstones, germanium, ilmenite, indium, iodine, iron and steel slag, kyanite, lead, leather, lime, mercury, mica, natural rubber, nitrogen, pumice, pyrophyllite, quartz, rhenium, rubidium, rutile, salt, selenium, sodium sulfate, stone (dimensional), tellurium, thallium, thorium, vanadium, vermiculite, wool, yttrium, zirconium. b U.S. Department of the Interior. 1996. Mineral Commodity Summaries. Geological Survey and Bureau of Mines. c Data for wood, wood products, and wood pulp products are from U.S. Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory.
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might such demand affect efforts by developing nations to create adequate shelter for their expanding populations? These are but a few of the questions that should be addressed. Renewable materials, particularly wood, today occupy a position of great importance in the U.S. industrial raw materials picture. It is interesting to note that, on a weight basis, wood use in the United States roughly equals the combined use of all metals, all plastics, and all cement consumed each year. Corrim II: A Vision As a result of a series of meetings held in Vancouver, British Columbia, in November 1991, organized by Frank Beall, president of the Society of Wood Science and Technology, an effort to update and expand the NRC's CORRIM report was begun, based on the recognition that a better understanding is needed of how the global environment is affected by the production and use of various industrial materials. A steering committee was independently selected after the Vancouver meeting to pursue funding for a project assuming the name CORRIM II. This group adopted a mission statement, and it took steps to create a multiuniversity research organization to conduct and coordinate the work of scientists from across the nation. The scope and mission statement adopted by the independently formed CORRIM II Steering Committee is as follows: Conduct a quantitative analysis of material and associated energy flows and balances for a wide range of construction components and systems and packaging materials using renewable and potential substitute resources including recycled materials; incorporate life-cycle or "cradle to grave" considerations. Focus on evaluation of wood and agriculturally-based materials, and include in the analysis comparisons with impacts associated with producing and using steel, aluminum, plastics, concrete, and emerging composites. Examine the interchangeability of renewable resources and potential substitutes as the basis for materials. Survey new and emerging advanced composite materials to determine substitutability for more traditional materials. Assess the historical improvement in the yield of raw materials, efficiency of processing, recycling, and in materials properties and performance, and examine current and emerging technologies that will likely influence these issues in the future. Evaluate the environmental impacts and long-term sustainability issues associated with the use of each resource studied, including assessment from both domestic and global perspectives. Evaluations would include examination of international trade linkages and environmental implications of materials substitution, including transportation effects. Identify legislation and regulations that influence the development and
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use of domestic renewable and nonrenewable resources. Evaluate the environmental, economic, and other implications of public policy with respect to raw materials from both domestic and global perspectives. Members of the CORRIM II Steering Committee are listed at the end of this chapter. Summary The need for industrial raw materials in the United States and elsewhere is virtually never considered in the development of U.S. environmental policy. It is an extremely serious omission that bodes ill for both the global environment and the U.S. economy. Moreover, although it is critical that materials needs be addressed, there is today little information available on which to base decisions. Specifically, current scientifically based information about the relative environmental impacts of gathering, processing, using, maintaining, discarding, or reusing materials—in particular, wood and other organic materials—does not currently exist. A comprehensive study of environmental impacts of materials use, with a focus on wood and wood fiber products, is proposed. Corrim II Steering Committee1,2 Jim Bowyer, Director, Forest Products Management Development Institute, Department of Forest Products, University of Minnesota (Chair) Don Berry, Manager, Timber Resources, Trus Joist MacMillan, Boise, Idaho James Bethel, Dean Emeritus, College of Forest Resources, University of Washington Conor Boyd, Vice President, Weyerhaeuser Company, Tacoma, Washington J. Carrette, Director, Wood Products Division, Forestry Canada Raymond Cole, School of Architecture, University of British Columbia Ed Diekman, President, GFDS Engineers Irving Goldstein, Department of Wood & Paper Science, North Carolina State University Douglas Greenwood, American Institute of Architects, Washington, D.C. Susan LeVan, Assistant Director, U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin Bruce Lippke, Director, CINTRAFOR, University of Washington Con Schallau, Chief Economist, National Forest Products Association, Washington, D.C. 1 Several committee members have subsequently left the committee due to retirement or change in employment. 2 CORRIM II is an independently-formed steering committee and is not a committee of the National Research Council.
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Roger Sedjo, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C. Jim Shaw, President, Canadian Wood Council Ron Slinn, Vice President, American Paper Institute Warren Thompson, Dean, School of Forest Resources, Mississippi State University Ross Whaley, President, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry Peter Wrist, President & Chief Executive Officer, Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada References Arima, T. 1993. Carbon dioxide emission and carbon storage for building materials in Japan. Wood Design Focus 4(2):9–12. Buchanan, A. 1991. Building materials and the greenhouse effect. New Zealand Journal of Timber Construction 7(1):6–10. Meil, J. K. 1994. Environmental measures as Substitution Criteria for wood and nonwood building materials, pp. 53–60 in Proceedings, The Globalization of Wood: Supply, Processes, Products, Markets. Forest Products Society. National Commission on Materials Policy. 1973. Material Needs and the Environment Today and Tomorrow: Final Report to the President and Congress (June). Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. National Research Council. 1976a. Renewable Resources for Industrial Materials. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. National Research Council. 1976b. Renewable Resources for Structural and Agricultural Purposes. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Richter, K., and J. Sell. 1992. Environmental Life-Cycle Assessment of Wood-Based Building Materials and Building Products — First Results. Report 115/2. Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research. (August). Williams, R. H. 1991. Trends in the consumption of basic materials in the United States and elsewhere, pp. 26–34 in Proceedings, International Conference: Wood Product Demand and the Environment. Forest Products Research Society. World Bank — International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. 1992. World Development Report — Environment and Development. New York: Oxford University Press.