Biomass Blunder: USDA Advocates Burning Wood For Electricity
It’s true, environmentalists can be a depressing bunch. Every day it seems like more reports surface about how harmful almost every action, purchase and decision we make is to the health of the natural world, which is why good news, when available, is significant.
Consider a recent post on the appropriately named Good Blog:
Which states could supply their own electricity using renewable energy alone? Most of them. Using data from the recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory report, the New Rules Project put together this map, showing the percentage of its own electricity needs that each state could generate with onshore and offshore wind power, hydroelectric and geothermal power, and rooftop photovoltaics.
This encouraging information only makes the topic of this post more confusing: The Department of Agriculture has proposed regulations that would expand a massive, misguided subsidy program that encourages the harvest and burning of trees for energy.
Burning wood for energy and heat is a very old, very dirty idea, and one that seems completely out of place in contrast to the promising growth of the solar and wind energy industries in the United States.
Nonetheless, the Center for Biological Diversity reports that “Dozens of large, dirty, wood-burning electricity facilities — staggeringly inefficient — are now being planned across the country. A single such facility would require increased logging on tens of thousands of acres of forest each year.”
Based on the flawed premise that any burning of wood is carbon neutral, electricity generated by burning trees and wood wastes — referred to as “biomass” — is counted as renewable energy by numerous state and federal programs intended to shift our reliance away from fossil fuels. Unfortunately, biomass burning is far from carbon neutral.
And while an area logged to fuel a biomass facility may ultimately grow back, it takes decades or even centuries for a forest to recapture as much carbon as is lost when it’s logged. Even worse, areas being targeted for this preposterous plan include some of the country’s most sacred old-growth trees, like Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
Please act now to let federal officials know that tax dollars should not go to the timber industry and power companies to subsidize actions that pollute the air, undermine climate solutions, and contribute to deforestation.
Sign the Care2 Petition to Reverse Obama Administration’s Approval of Tongass Logging!
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons - smcdevitt