Beetle-kill trees studied as potential fuel source

Nov 27, 2013

What if the vast stands of beetle-killed trees in the west could be turned into gasoline? A recently-announced federal project involving several University of Wyoming researchers is trying to answer that question.

Most biofuels are made of crops, like corn and sorghum, but this five-year, $10 million project will study whether dead trees might work just as well -- while avoiding competition with food sources.

Dan Tinker is a professor of forest and fire ecology at the University of Wyoming, and is in charge of the ecosystem assessment part of the study. He says it will be comprehensive -- from the logging through the conversion to gasoline.

"A big part of this is ensuring that the carbon balance is zero on this, if not a positive carbon balance," Tinker says. "And the same for the ecological assessment -- we want to be sure that there are no negative impacts to forest systems as a result of all of these activities.”

The test sites will be spread across the Rockies. Field work begins next summer in Colorado and Idaho.