From Australia to Massachusetts, biomass energy falls out of favor
The Australian government disqualifies biomass energy from native forests as “renewable” energy, Massachusetts restricts biomass eligibility for the state’s RPS, and a new study highlights the global role of forests in combating climate change.
What do Australia and Massachusetts have in common? Both governments have cutting edge energy policies that acknowledge the drawbacks of biomass energy – showing that biomass energy is truly an emerging threat to forests worldwide, but that sane policy responses are possible.
As Massachusetts enacts regulations restricting the eligibility of biomass power for Renewable Energy Credits under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard based on its excessive carbon emissions, the Australian government too is challenging the labeling of biomass as “green” energy. Australia’s “Multi-Party Climate Change Committee Clean Energy Agreement”, devised to “reduce carbon pollution as part of global efforts to combat climate change,” excludes any biomass from native forests from qualifying as a renewable energy source, stating:
The Renewable Energy Target regulations will be amended to exclude biomass from native forest as an eligible renewable energy resource. This includes products, by-products and waste associated with or produced from, clearing or harvesting of native forests, subject to appropriate transitional arrangements for existing accredited power stations.
Further highlighting the global nature of burning forests for energy, a new paper published this month in Science reveals the role forests the world over play in combating climate change (download the paper here)
The paper, authored by an international team of climate and ecosystem scientists, is entitled “A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World’s Forests”. The study concludes that deforestation worldwide accounts for 2.9 billion tons of carbon released into the atmosphere each year—more than one-quarter of human-caused emissions.
It is becoming increasingly clear, as co-author Dr. Pep Canadell states, that
"the capacity of forests to make a difference for climate protection is much bigger than we thought. This is because the emission flux from cutting the trees down and releasing the carbon into the air is two to three times what we had been saying in the past.“
The implications of this study for biomass energy are clear. Deforestation causes emissions and degrades carbon sequestration, just as the Massachusetts “Manomet” study concluded – the very study upon which Massachusetts’ new biomass regulations are based.
The drumbeat of evidence against biomass power is becoming louder and louder. When will policy-makers listen?