New science confirms that burning trees to produce power instead of coal may be a losing strategy for combatting climate change.
In my April 2012 Spectrum news article on the questionable carbon benefits of largescale biomass power generation, I identified a boom in exports of wood pellets from the U.S. Southeast to Europe, where they are fast becoming a crucial energy supply for power firms seeking to meet the European Union’s renewable energy and carbon reduction mandates.
Forbes Magazine greentech columnist (and friend) Erica Gies noted my analysis in a May 22 blog post, Massachusetts Addresses “Biomass Loophole” and Limits Subsidies, about recently-issued regulations that set higher standards for biomass power plants seeking state-issued renewable energy certificates. The regulations eliminate the presumption that biomass power is carbon-neutral and, instead, require some proof from power generators that their operations—including fuel harvesting—deliver environmental benefits. Gies describes the state move as “an important course correction to the ‘biomass loophole’ that wood from forests has enjoyed in many policy frameworks around the world.”
That was too much for the Portland, ME-based Biomass Power Association. In a comment, BPA representative Gary Melow criticized Gies for citing biomass critics in Massachusetts who successfully lobbied for the regulatory change. Melow asserts that their view on biomass is “not widely shared” and calls Gies’ piece “outdated” (among other bad names). In defense of biomass power’s carbon benefits he cites preliminary conclusions from an EPA expert review of carbon accounting that, according to Melow, “appears to have rejected the assertion…that burning biomass won’t help address climate change.”