Biomass Emissions Accounted for in EPAs Global Warming Regulation

Biomass Emissions Accounted for in EPAs Global Warming Regulation

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its Tailoring Rule on May 13, 2010, which outlines which polluters will be required to obtain permits for greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Starting in January 2011, industrial facilities that emit 75,000 tons or more of CO2 will have to obtain emission permits. In 2012, facilities with 100,000 tons or more of CO2 emissions will have to account for these emissions in their permitting titles as well.

To the great upset of the bioenergy industry, the Tailoring Rule does not automatically exempt bioenergy producers from this evaluation. Biomass energy, which is created from crops or “excess” wood, has long been assumed to be “carbon neutral”. The assumption was that the same amount of emissions that are released by burning biomass were sequestered by the biomass source during growth, therefore neutralizing the emissions.

The forestry industry claims that “woody biomass,” which ranges from wood waste from processing plants to cutting down whole trees (and thereby destroying forests), is a great source for bioenergy production. These industry proponents plan to raise our protected forests for the sake of “clean” energy. Cutting down trees for bioenergy will have the opposite effect and release CO2 into the atmosphere. A study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences confirmed that woody biomass is not carbon neutral. It actually creates an initial carbon debt, since burning wood for energy releases more CO2 than fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas. The study also found that burning whole trees for bioenergy would leave the atmosphere 3 percent more polluted between now and 2050 than burning coal over the same time period.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, 90 scientists have supported the Tailoring Rule, asking the EPA to use the best science available in accounting for greenhouse gas emissions. Friends of the Earth, along with the environmental community, have proposed a letter in support of the Tailoring Rule and utilizing the best available science to account for greenhouse gas emissions.

90 Scientists Letter