The Carbon Neutrality of Forest Biomass


John Greene of Forest2Market notes that a properly-managed, working forest in which sustainability criteria are being followed, the total amount of carbon sequestered in the forest is never lowered and there is no carbon debt. And when compared to coal, the preferred energy source for generating electricity, forest biomass generates a fraction of the carbon debt.

This article by John Greene appeared on the Forest2Market website on August 2, 2015.

The world of environmental science, for better or for worse, can be construed as being a relatively subjective field. And because of this fact, environmental policies that flow from Washington are oftentimes ill-conceived and shortsighted. The White House’s recent policy statement rejecting HR 2822—a resolution that would label forest biomass fuels as carbon neutral, renewable resources—is a prime example of this disconnect.

One thing is certain when it comes to environmental science and the policy derived from it: carbon accounting, as it relates to the larger environmental conversation, is an extremely intricate concept. There is little agreement when it comes to standardized testing methodologies, measurement criteria, metrics, etc. That said, most would agree that the industrialized world needs to expand its energy portfolio in order to taper its reliance on fossil fuels, and biomass has an important role in that expansion. Even as technology continues to improve energy efficiencies, biomass has historically served as a reliable energy bridge—as Pete Stewart has written about in the past.

In its rejection of the House proposal, The White House noted, “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.”

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Source: John Greene, Forest2Market, August 2, 2015