Burning wood (biomass) for electricity can provide economic & waste management benefits, but it's generally bad to awful for the air & climate.— J. Milford (@Onegreystray) April 25, 2018
Shunning science, Congress told @EPA to treat biomass as carbon neutral. And that's what EPA is going to do. @POTUS @EPAScottPruitt https://t.co/qmkfvMDpPa
The Environmental Protection Agency just made a shocking declaration: Burning wood is carbon neutral.
According to the Trump administration, burning wood to acquire energy is as friendly as wind energy and solar energy despite the fact that burning trees emits carbon dioxide, a gas largely responsible for climate change.
The EPA administrator and a vocal denier of climate change, Scott Pruitt, met with Georgia forestry leader and stated the policy shift — which he termed as a “clarification” — on wood burning.
"Today’s announcement grants America’s foresters much-needed certainty and clarity with respect to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass,” Pruitt said in a statement. “Managed forests improve air and water quality, while creating valuable jobs and thousands of products that improve our daily lives. This is environmental stewardship in action,” the scandal ridden EPA administrator added.
Many scientists opposed Pruitt’s stance on biomass burning being carbon neutral. But what exactly does carbon neutral means?
Terming wood burning “carbon neutral” essentially means that the overall effect of carbon dioxide produced by burning wood is canceled when more trees are planted. These newly planted trees act as net absorbers or “sinks.” This phenomenon would support the agency’s claim if only it took the exact amount of time to grow back trees that were cut down and burned to create energy; turns out, it does not.
Shockingly, or not, many timber industry leaders do not see the policy as an immediate threat to world climate health.
“We are one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the nation, eager to strengthen the economy and boost U.S. job creation with the support of public policy that levels the playing field with competitors around the globe. This new EPA policy is an important milestone in implementing the Congressional directive to produce clear and simple policies and acknowledges the scientific record on the carbon neutrality of forest-based, renewable biomass,” said the president of the American Forest and Paper Association Donna Harman.
The net amount of carbon released and absorbed may be balanced over a period of 100 years but the immediate effects of wood burning could prove to hazardous for the environment.
William Schlesinger, who sits on the agency’s Science Advisory Board, told Science magazine in 2017, “If we melt Arctic ice in the next 20 years, that’s not going to come back,” which means that tress can be planted again but the time it takes for them to grow to cut back the damage done by burning biomass, it may already have resulted into irreversible impacts on world climate.
“Scott Pruitt’s scorched-earth approach at the EPA continues unabated ... Pruitt is once again rewarding his industry pals," said senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council Sami Yassa. “This will lead to more destruction of our treasured forests and more dangerous carbon pollution.”
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque