The passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 included mandates for the production of billions of gallons of "advanced biofuels" including 16 billion gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol by 2022. This is an important investment and technology development driver for this emerging industry. But it is significantly undercut by the restrictions on the sources of qualifying feedstock as defined in its Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).
This poorly conceived set of restrictions was added to the Act after prolonged negotiations without the approval or vote of the participants. According to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, there are some 10 million timberland owners in the U.S. - 92% of them are excluded from participating in the biofuels mandate because of the definition! Compare the before and after impacts of the definition on the state of California alone (see maps at right).
It has been the subject of debate and of several legislative attempts to excise or amend it, notably bipartisan legislation championed by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD).
Unfortunately the same definitions and restrictions have been included in the Waxman / Markey "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009’’ which seeks to establish a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) similar to the RFS.
The Society of American Foresters has published an appeal to its members to let their Representatives know their concerns about including these controversial definitions on this draft. Below is the text of their appeal.
SAF Member Action Alert: Biomass Energy
Action Alert--Attention all SAF members: The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy & Commerce has released a draft renewable energy and cap & trade bill. The draft bill would exclude federal lands and many private lands from producing biomass for energy counting towards a national Renewable Energy Standard. The Committee is moving quickly and plans to approve this bill in the coming weeks before Memorial Day.
The definition of biomass in this bill is prescriptive and would restrict biomass from public lands and a great deal of biomass from private lands, from counting towards a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). In turn, this would result in less energy from woody biomass rather than more.
Specifically, the Definition would NOT count biomass used to produce biomass energy from:
• ‘old growth’ or ‘mature’ forests (these terms are not defined)
• ‘plantations’ (planted trees) established after the enactment of the Act (again, term is not defined)
• Forests identified by a State Natural Heritage Program as rare, imperiled, or critically imperiled
• Any Federal Land, unless it’s near a structure or campground.
To read the definition click on this link to the draft bill and go to page 7 and 8.
The SAF website has a list of Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee who need to hear from you.
PLEASE CONTACT THEM (VIA PHONE OR EMAIL) AND LET THEM KNOW THE WAXMAN-MARKEY DRAFT BILL BIOMASS DEFINITION WILL NOT WORK. GO TO https://writerep.house.gov AND ENTER YOUR ZIP CODE.
KEY POINTS (FEEL FREE TO USE THESE POINTS OR USE YOUR OWN):
Wood is necessary to meet a renewable energy standard: If as a nation we are to truly meet renewable energy goals—whether electricity or biofuels—wood must be allowed to make its full contribution. Renewable forest biomass will account for up to 1/3 of the energy needed to meet the RES
We should promote rather than discourage the use of renewable forest biomass. Limiting renewable forest biomass harms conservation, consumers, and the climate. Foresters have the expertise to help landowners sustainably manage forests for wood products and biomass energy while still conserving the environment.
Federal lands must be included: Many Federal forests desperately need treatments to improve forest health, control insects and disease and prevent catastrophic wildfire. Biomass removal in these forests could help to create renewable energy while also improving forest health and allowing forests to act as climate ‘sinks’ rather than ‘emitters’ (through insect & disease infestation and catastrophic wildfire).
Different regions of the country contribute different strengths to renewable energy generation. For instance, some states have more wood than wind. Limiting forest biomass hamstrings some states from meeting mandates, thereby increasing costs to consumers and creating regional disparities in economic development.
Green jobs – Biomass energy plants create 4.9 jobs for each MW of installed capacity. One plant can inject $150 million in upfront construction investment with $20 million spent in the local economy each year.
Definitions of eligible biomass feedstock should put working forests on an even playing field with other renewable energy sources.
Sustainable forest biomass reduces greenhouse gases (GHG) because it is carbon neutral
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