Social Availability of Woody Biomass for Renewable Energy: Missouri Non-Industrial Private Forest Landowners Perspective
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The importance of bioenergy, particularly woody biomass, continues to gain significance in Missouri. Although physical estimates of standing wood have been used to assess and project total above-ground woody biomass, these estimates fail to explore its social availability. Over 85% of Missouri’s forests are privately owned, indicating that without the state’s private landowners’ acceptance utilizing woody biomass as bioenergy feedstock to the energy industry is impossible. Data was collected through focus groups and a mail survey, following the Tailored Design Method, to determine the states level of social acceptance towards woody biomass harvesting. Factor and cluster analysis were conducted to provide a current typology of Missouri’s Non-industrial Private Forest Landowners (NIPFLs) as well as analyze the impacts of dominant timber prices and government incentive payments. Ordinal probability regression models and a marginal effects analysis determined the percentage of socially available woody biomass feedstock in Missouri as a function of timber and biomass prices, subsidy payments, and demographic profiles. Although results indicate many landowners are not knowledgeable about woody biomass for energy, they are interested in learning more about its potential uses. Results also suggest that landowners will sell their timber and woody biomass if the prices are sufficiently high enough in those markets. Today’s market prices however are not deemed adequate to interest NIPFLs whose primary objectives include conservation/recreation rather than forest management considerations.