Saturday, July 25, 2015

When Is a Tree a Tree, When Is It 'Waste', and Why Does It Matter for the Clean Power Plan?

"I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree," was the beginning of "Trees," a poem by Joyce Kilmer in 1913. Now, 102 years later, the very definition of a tree is part of a fight between the biomass industry and environmental groups. Kilmer, who was killed by a sniper in World War I, also understood fighting, but his poem still enjoys a life of its own. (Credit: Graphic courtesy of the Biomass Power Association) Click to Enlarge.
Some environmentalists contend that if EPA allowed states to burn material sourced from "whole trees" for energy as a way to comply with the Clean Power Plan, this could result in more, not fewer, emissions and speed climate change.

"What we need is a science-based, consistent system for evaluating the actual carbon impacts of different sources of biomass," Stashwick of NRDC said in an email.  "The science tells us that when power plants burn trees and other large-diameter wood, it increases emissions compared to coal for many decades, whether that biomass is called a 'waste' or not."

Scot Quaranda, communications director with the activist group Dogwood Alliance, calls the biomass industry's stance on forest "residues" and thinnings "hiding behind semantics, essentially."

"It starts to become disingenuous when you start to call them just 'residuals' or 'thinnings' or other things besides 'whole trees,'" Quaranda said.

The Dogwood Alliance, which aggressively lobbies against the growth of the biomass industry in the U.S. Southeast, has repeatedly published reports alleging the industry is already using large-diameter "whole trees" to manufacture wood pellets, while the industry has repeatedly responded that it only uses "low-grade" wood, "thinnings" and "residues."

The group argues biomass' growth in the Southeast will lead to large-scale clearcutting and widespread conversion of natural forests to plantations, activity it says will do more to harm the climate than to help it.  It and other environmental groups are worried EPA will take the side of the industry when it comes to biomass use under the Clean Power Plan.

"The EPA, they don't regulate sustainability in forests, that's not what they do, that's not their area of expertise," Quaranda said.  "To assume that that's going to be an easy thing to do is nonsense."

EPA mulls over how wood energy can be sustainable
So how will EPA draw the line between a "whole tree" and "waste"?

EPA ... leaders have hinted that they will accept at least some forms of biomass burning for energy as a way for states to comply with the Clean Power Plan.
But for now, it remains unclear how and when EPA will conclude how big, small, healthy or unhealthy a tree must be for its use as energy to count as "sustainable."

Read more at When Is a Tree a Tree, When Is It 'Waste', and Why Does It Matter for the Clean Power Plan?

No comments:

Post a Comment