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Heterogeneity in Preferences for Woody Biomass Energy in the US Mountain West

Campbell, Robert M., Venn, Tyron J., Anderson, Nathaniel M.
Ecological economics 2018 v.145 pp. 27-37
air quality, bioenergy, biomass, energy, forest health, forest management, forests, fossil fuels, mechanization, models, plant residues, wildfires, willingness to pay, wood, United States
Millions of acres of public forest in the US Mountain West are substantially degraded and are in need of restoration. Mechanized restoration treatments can improve forest health and reduce the likelihood of severe wildfire. These treatments produce some timber, and substantial amounts of forest residues that can be used to generate renewable energy and displace fossil fuels. Using the choice modeling method, this study investigates social preferences for generation of energy with woody biomass produced by restoration treatments on public forests in the Mountain West. Both multinomial logit and latent class logit (LCL) models are fit to the data and used to estimate marginal willingness to pay (MWTP) for increased amounts of woody biomass energy generation and important associated co-benefits and costs. Positive and statistically significant MWTP is found for the number of homes powered with wood, the extent of healthy forests, avoiding increases in the number of large wildfires, and local air quality. Significant heterogeneity was found in respondent preferences for the attributes. The heterogeneity can be explained in part by sociodemographic and attitudinal characteristics of respondents. The LCL revealed four classes of respondents with distinct preferences, revealing conflicting viewpoints toward forest management for woody biomass energy generation.