WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Congress heard encouraging testimony about using brush and small trees cleared out of overgrown western forests to produce energy.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said Thursday if the idea panned out, it would be a means of reducing the danger of wildfires in a cost-effective manner, creating jobs and boosting U.S. energy supplies.
Saplings and brush are seen as a primary fire threat; however they aren't useful for much and clearing them out of tinder-dry forests is both labor-intensive and expensive. They can, however, be processed into fuels such as ethanol.
The biomass idea isn't new; however it has yet to be determined if it is economically viable over the long term.
Walden said he hoped Wednesday's hearing would encourage action in Congress to get behind the development of the technology and infrastructure needed to support a biomass industry in forest areas.