The White House Opposes Legislation That Claims Biomass is Carbon Neutral

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The White House has taken the right position regarding the myth of carbon neutrality of burning trees for electricity. In a statement released today in response to H.R. 2822 – Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, asserted that:

“The Administration objects to the bill’s representation of forest biomass as categorically ‘carbon-neutral.’ This language conflicts with existing EPA policies on biogenic CO2 and interferes with the position of States that do not apply the same policies to forest biomass as other renewable fuels like solar or wind. This language stands in contradiction to a wide-ranging consensus on policies and best available science from EPA’s own independent Science Advisory Board, numerous technical studies, many States, and various other stakeholders.”

Dogwood Alliance is pleased to see the Administration taking a position that is grounded in science and that recognizes the massive threat that a large scale-up in burning trees for electricity represents. Carbon Accounting sounds like a dense and wonky subject…and it is. But if the EPA and other regulatory bodies don’t get the math right when it comes to emissions from burning trees and the true value of our forests, then we will end up increasing greenhouse gas emissions instead of reducing them. Additionally, we will further harm the quality of life in our local communities by increasing air pollution.

It may seem that, given the renewable nature of trees and forests, this resource instead of fossil fuels is the right path, but as NRDC and others have shown, using whole trees for electricity can be worse than coal. Now is the time to invest more in energy conservation and renewables, like wind and solar, instead of an industry that is massively subsidized and impacting critical ecosystems.

Senators Warren and Markey are right to be calling for a moratorium on wood-based bioenergy in the Clean Power Plan. They recently issued a letter to the EPA, maintaining that by treating biomass power plants as if they have zero emissions under the draft Clean Power Plan, EPA risks undermining the ability of the Plan to actually reduce emissions from the power sector.

Dogwood salutes the leadership of these Senators and the White House in taking a position and looks forward to supporting more elected officials in recognizing the dangers of utility-scale use of trees for electricity. Southerners from Louisiana to Virginia are increasingly standing up to stop their forests from being burned for electricity here or in Europe and will continue to press local, state and national politicians to take the same bold step that the Obama administration has.

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