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Biomass As with most states in the US, Kentucky relies heavily upon fossil fuels such as coal for energy production. Even though coal provides us with a very low–cost energy source, reserves of this non-renewable resource are diminishing and alternative fuels need to be identified. The use of woody biomass for energy production has gained much attention recently, not only for its potential as a low-cost supply of power, but also for the potential environmental and rural developmental benefits it offers. Not withstanding, utilization of a U.S. derived energy source is of great importance for offsetting our dependence on foreign fuels. According to the Kentucky Office of Energy Policy, Division of Fossil Fuels & Utility Services and the Kentucky Coal Association (http://www.coaleducation.org), there are 668,844 acres in Phase I, II or III bond release in the Commonwealth (1984-2005), some of which could potentially be utilized as biomass feedstock plantations. Establishment of biomass plantations on surface mine lands using the Forestry Reclamation Approach would 1) reduce the rate of CO2 buildup in the atmosphere by sequestering carbon and by decreasing the use of non-renewable fossil fuels such as coal and oil, 2) mitigate emissions and local impacts from fossil fuel power generation, 3) facilitate the restoration of degraded mine lands, 4) reduce social outrage for harvesting mature hardwood stands on existing forests, and 5) create quality jobs. All of these goals present opportunities for the citizens of the Commonwealth and are closely aligned with several recommendations outlined in Governor Fletcher’s 2005 Comprehensive Strategy. Based upon our current research, we believe that surface mined lands present an ideal location for establishing biomass/bioenergy plantations in Kentucky and that research on maximizing productivity on these sites via intensive forestry management practices will demonstrate this capacity. As such, we are examining techniques that will aid Kentucky in its pursuit to identify a renewable low-cost energy fuel for the future, while preserving and improving Kentucky’s environment, and promoting rural economic development.

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