Burning trees is now (somehow) carbon-neutral

Credit: PSNH/Flickr

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will now consider burning wood from cleared forests to be a carbon-neutral fuel source, adding it to the esteemed ranks of solar and wind power. Except it doesn't belong there. The thinking behind Administrator Scott Pruitt's latest anti-environmental move is that the carbon released into the atmosphere from burning trees is later reabsorbed by the trees that grow back. Many scientists argue, however, that this is a gross oversimplification of what's happening and that touting forest biomass as a renewable energy source will do more harm than good. For one, there’s no guarantee the trees will grow back—due to, say, fires or land development. And even if they do return, decades will pass before the forest ecosystem will mature enough to become a carbon sink. And, of course, wildlife habitat and our climate will deteriorate in the meantime. The decision is a one-two punch against conservation and climate action, and Pruitt issued the official policy “clarification” in a meeting with Georgia forest industry leaders, who will no doubt benefit from this misinterpretation of science. Shocking, we know.

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