Biomass Makes No Cents



  • Your Governor


Dear [Decision Maker],

For many years, federal and state policies have promoted biomass energy--in particular, burning trees and other woody materials from the nation's forests in European and domestic power plants--as a "clean" and "renewable" source of energy. These policies, ranging from regulatory exemptions to tax credits, subsidies, and taxpayer-backed loans have facilitated a boom in bioenergy development in many parts of the country.

Whether fossil or biogenic in origin, once CO2 is in the atmosphere, it contributes to climate disruption equally. To reflect this reality, federal policy must no longer give generous incentives to this entire industry categorically. Instead, lawmakers and regulators must meet the challenge of credibly accounting for biomass CO2 emissions in both regulatory and incentive programs.

Emissions from the existing and emerging bioenergy industry are significant. Burning one ton of green wood emits almost exactly one ton of CO2, thus the tens of millions of tons of wood used as fuel represent a substantial transfer of forest carbon into the atmosphere each year. Biomass-fueled power plants also emit conventional air pollutants that harm public health, including particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, at levels comparable to fossil fuels.

Given the current exponential growth of the bioenergy industry and its environmental consequences, it is time to reexamine federal support for biomass energy. The operator of a 50 MW biomass power plant is eligible for millions in state and federal renewable energy subsidies that are direct cash payments--regardless of whether the plant's emissions worsen climate change rather than help address it. In an era of extreme fiscal constraint--and facing a climate crisis that demands immediate and effective greenhouse gas emissions reductions--we cannot afford to be spending scarce public dollars on "alternatives" that exacerbate the problem.

Biomass subsidy programs, including those administered by the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, must be eliminated or carefully reviewed and revised to ensure compliance with similar standards. The science is clear: the utility-scale expansion of burning wood for energy threatens our forests, our climate, and the health of our communities. Decisions about how to spend scarce public dollars should prioritize truly clean alternatives.

[Your Name]
[Your Address]


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