NRDC fact sheet lays out biomass basics, campaign calls for action to tell EPA our forests aren't fuel

Today NRDC and our partners are calling on all concerned citizens to learn about the risks of using the wrong types of biomass for energy and to tell EPA not to allow power companies to use the worst types of biomass—whole trees from our forests—as fuel for producing electricity. To help our readers learn more about the topic, we’ve released a new fact sheet on why burning trees for energy is destructive and my colleague Nathanael has written here about ways we can get biomass right and wrong and how you can get involved with today’s campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

If you love forests, please take action by telling EPA not to allow power companies to burn trees for fuel.

In a nutshell, here’s what’s going on:

EPA has clearly stated that “all carbon dioxide counts” towards determining whether large power plants must take reasonable steps under the Clean Air Act to reduce how much dangerous pollution they will put into the air. But powerful corporations in the electricity and forestry industries are pushing EPA to create a loophole in the law to keep emissions from burning biomass from being regulated like the emissions from coal or other fossil fuels.

As we’ve discussed here and here, EPA’s plan to exempt the carbon pollution emitted from plants that burn biomass for the next three years will create a powerful incentive for power plants to shift from burning coal to burning biomass—regardless of the actual impact on our climate. During these three years there will be no federal limits on burning even the worst sources of biomass. And because the supply of truly sustainable, low-carbon forestry wastes is extremely limited, expanding biomass power means burning more whole trees.

Our forests give us so much: habitats for wild animals, fresh air, clean water and places to hike and camp. Burning forests for energy puts all these valuable services in jeopardy and can contribute more to global warming and toxic air pollution than using even the dirty fuels like coal. That’s because just like coal, when trees are burned, the carbon they have accumulated over long periods of time is released. But unlike coal, living and growing trees continue to absorb carbon from the atmosphere if left alone. So burning trees means destroying valuable carbon sinks.

Now is the time to tell EPA that we support their authority to enforce Clean Air Act standards to reduce carbon pollution that harms human health and the environment, but that giving emissions from biomass energy sources a free pass and letting power companies mine our forests for fuel is unacceptable.

We here at NRDC delivered this message to EPA at a public hearing held earlier this month. Now it’s your turn. To take action, go to NRDC’s action center and tell EPA that our forests aren’t fuel.

About the Authors

Sasha Stashwick

Senior Advocate, Energy & Transportation and Food & Agriculture programs

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