Forests On the Chopping Block In Energy Policy

Forests On the Chopping Block In Energy Policy

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As Congress debates how to build a clean energy future, one policy proposal threatens our nation’s forests:  The Renewable Electricity Standard.  While a Renewable Electricity Standard — which would require a set percentage of U.S. energy to come from “renewable” sources — would be an important step forward in many ways (for example, by promoting clean sources such as wind and solar power), the inclusion of biomass energy under the definition of “renewable” could be devastating.  Generating electricity from biomass requires the incineration of biomass, such as wood or grass.  Without restrictions on what types of materials can be used, this policy could lead to logging of our nation’s forests.  

The Waxman-Markey clean energy bill being considered in Congress includes some safeguards for forests, similar to that which those in the federal Renewable Fuels Standard for vehicle fuels, but these protections are under attack by the timber and logging industry.  The Renewable Electricity Standard may not be able to pass without the support of representatives from Southern states, and those representatives may demand that forests be logged to provide wood for electricity production.  Myths perpetuated by the timber industry have convinced some of these Southern lawmakers that biomass use would be required for their states to produce enough renewable energy in a cost-effective way. That’s simply not true. Every U.S. state has the capacity to generate plenty of affordable electricity from clean sources to meet a Renewable Electricity Standard.   

When creating such a standard, it is vital that we maintain strong safeguards for forests.  Healthy forests are a critical component of combating climate change, since they remove carbon dioxide, the key greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere.  Friends of the Earth and allies have written to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Global Warming Committee Chair Ed Markey supporting their inclusion of safeguards for forests in a Renewable Electricity Standard.

Letter to Reps. Markey and Waxman