May 27, 2011

Open Letter Defending REAP and BCAP

Yesterday the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee voted to eliminate USDA BCAP and REAP funding - this in the name of frugality. Biomass Magazine's Lisa Gibson has written an excellent article that accurately depicts the situation. I encourage readers to contact their House Congressional Representatives immediately to express their desire to keep these programs intact.

Cutting these biomass production initiatives are very likely just the opening salvo in an attack by the new House majority Republicans to gut alternative fuel and climate change programs. Surprising, really, since the states most likely to be hurt by these cuts are traditional Republican rural strongholds. The outcome of these cuts would be even less market entry of technologies providing choices at the pump and power outlets, shrinking markets for agricultural and forest industry producers, and declining of products that can provide America with greater energy self-reliance.

Here's an open letter to my Congressman on the possibility that the House Appropriations Committee will progress with plans to cut REAP and BCAP funding:

I want to express in the most vigorous way possible my alarm that the House Appropriations Subcommittee has recommended the elimination of two USDA programs (REAP and BCAP) that are critical to the future national and energy security of the nation.

I am deeply involved with bioenergy issues throughout the U.S. because of my firm belief in the need to insure that next generations of Americans have the choice of alternative fuels at the pump. Fossil fuels are not only not renewable but are getting dirtier, more expensive, and unsustainable (economically, environmentally, and socially) all the time.

REAP and BCAP are small investments that will help propel the development of new energy projects that cannot be off-shored. At the same time they will enable rural communities to remain economically self-reliant at a time when too many of our resources are being underfinanced for proper management or, worse, plowed under to make room for urban sprawl.

I implore you to take a leading role in fighting this attack on renewable energy development on the false perception that it will "save money." That is penny-wise and "pound-fuelish" to the extreme.
technorati , ,

May 18, 2011

Carbon Accounting and the Titanic Analogy

In a Forest Business Network article May 15th, it was reported that:

The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today that they support the proposed rule to defer the regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from biomass for three years while the agency studies the science and policy of regulating biomass energy the same as fossil fuels.

I join NAFO in supporting this rule to defer, too, because carbon accounting has become an incredibly controversial issue between the bioenergy industry and those who seek to obstruct its emergence as an alternative to fossil fuel. Finding clarity on this issue appears to be a losing battle in Massachusetts but there is no reason for the federal EPA to compound their mistake of confusing fossil with biogenic carbon emissions.

I would like to offer an analogy that I think puts in proper perspective the difference between carbon accounting of biogenic feedstock sources (biostock) with those of fossil origin.

GHG emissions was not an issue during pre-Industrial times because the carbon cycle – which includes plowing and tilling of land and harvesting of timber – was closed loop. Whatever the fluctuations, the carbon content of the atmosphere stayed relatively constant.

The advent of the Industrial Age was characterized by the need for denser fuels. Cheap sources of dense fuels were found in subterranean geologic formations in the form of fossil fuels (carbon sequestered as coal and oil). The carbon cycle was violated (open looped) with carbon that had been sequestered for millions of years. Hence the carbon cycle gained input that had been successfuly sequestered. It is estimated that, as of 2009, the carbon content in the atmosphere is a full 39% greater than the pre-industrial levels. The rate of change is increasing (see breakdown of sources in the chart below). That increase from fossil carbon reintroduction to the atmosphere is what should be considered carbon positive.

Carbon accounting that measures biogenic emissions (wood and biomass) and compares it with fossil atmospheric impacts is like comparing the arrangement of deck chairs (biogenic) to the fatal impact of the iceberg (subsurface fossil) on the Titanic.

Fossil carbon is carbon positive and without mitigation, a climate and health threat that is within the authority of the EPA to regulate. Biogenic sources are carbon neutral and should be exempt from EPA comparative accounting.

I welcome comments that support or challenge this analogy.


technorati , , , ,