Our governments should take note: some US Senators are wanting a moratorium on use of bioenergy as renewable energy under their Clean Power Plan. They believe that by claiming biomass power plants that burn forest ‘waste’ emit zero emissions, it could undermine the ability of the Plan to reduce emissions from the power sector.
Massachusetts has already eliminated renewable energy subsidies for biomass power plants after a study that found wood-burning power plants increase carbon emissions relative to fossil-fueled power plants, an effect that persists for decades. Jill
In a letter being sent today to EPA, Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Edward Markey (MA) call on EPA to enact a moratorium on use of bioenergy as renewable energy in the Clean Power Plan. The letter points out that by treating biomass power plants as if they have zero emissions under the draft Clean Power Plan, EPA risks undermining the ability of the Plan to actually reduce emissions from the power sector.
Massachusetts eliminated renewable energy subsidies for biomass power plants after conducting a study that found wood-burning power plants increase carbon emissions relative to fossil-fueled power plants, an effect that persists for decades. Noting the science-based Massachusetts standard, Bill Snape, Senior Counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, observed that “Two Senators with home grown experience on the perils of biomass have called for a needed national time out.”
Wood-burning power plants emit about 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, about fifty percent more than coal-burning plants. EPA has been engaged in a process to determine how to count carbon emissions from biomass, given the assumption that emissions from wood-burning are eventually offset by new forest growth. Although no framework for counting biogenic emissions is in place, EPA has indicated that the agency will likely permit states to use biomass power to replace coal under the Clean Power Plan, and that the agency will treat wood-burning power plants as having zero emissions, alongside wind and solar power.
Mary Booth, Director of the non-profit Partnership for Policy Integrity, said “Treating biomass as having zero emissions not only contradicts EPA’s own science, it defies common sense. We can’t reduce emissions under the Clean Power Plan by replacing coal with the only thing that emits more carbon pollution: biomass.”
The letter requests that EPA suspend eligibility of bioenergy as a compliance measure until the agency develops a way to account for biogenic carbon emissions under the Plan.
Download the letter here.