The Environmental Protection Agency recently adopted new rules that have the potential to quash Oregon’s efforts to create renewable energy from biomass. Unless changed, next January the EPA will consider the emissions from burning biomass to be the same as burning coal and other fossil fuels. This decision will raise the cost of biomass energy conversion and eliminate most of the economic incentive to convert wood and agriculture waste materials to renewable energy. This is counter to our country’s renewable energy and climate mitigation goals and contrary to good science. Along with 100 other scientists, I recently expressed concern about this decision with members of Congress. Here are some of the key issues.
The carbon dioxide released from the combustion or decay of woody biomass is part of the global cycle of biogenic carbon and does not increase the amount of carbon in circulation. In contrast, carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels increases the amount of carbon in the cycle. The carbon released from burning fossil fuels has been long considered by scientists as separate from the global carbon cycle and adds to the total amount of carbon in active circulation between the atmosphere and biosphere. In contrast, the CO2 released from burning woody biomass is part of the “biogenic” carbon cycle where plants absorb CO2 as they grow and release carbon dioxide as they decay or are burned. This cycle releases no new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is why it is sometimes termed “carbon neutral.” True neutrality is a little more complicated in practice and depends on a number of factors. This complexity can result in public confusion.
The rest here.