The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Dogwood Alliance are calling the bioenergy industry on what it sees as four years of greenwashing, charging that a key biomass certification program “has led to increased carbon dioxide emissions, accelerated the loss of natural forests, and created negative impacts on local communities—the very results it was designed to avoid.”
In a report released this week, the two organizations argue that the industry-driven Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) undercuts efforts to address climate change and protect forests.
- Be among the first to read The Energy Mix Weekender
- A brand new weekly digest containing exclusive and essential climate stories from around the world.
- The Weekender:The climate news you need.
“The biomass industry is using a highly deficient self-policing program to justify its environmentally destructive practices,” said NRDC Senior Advocate Sasha Stashwick. “Biomass producers want policy-makers to think that burning trees to fuel power plants is green, but in fact it’s one of the worst things we can do in the fight against climate change.”
“The forests of the U.S. Southeast are vital to protecting rural communities across the region from the worst impacts of climate change, such as storm surge and flooding, and their destruction should not be rubberstamped as green,” added Dogwood Campaign Director Adam Macon. “Our local communities do not need more industrial forestry destruction; they need positive investment in standing forests that provide clean drinking water, community safety, and bolster and improve their health and quality of life.”
Stashwick and Macon point to multi-billion-Euro coal-to-biomass conversion subsidies in the European Union as a catalyst for “an exploding wood pellet export industry in the Southeastern United States, where trees are cut down, manufactured into pellets, loaded on ships, and sent abroad to burn for electricity.”
After scientists raised concerns about the impacts of logging on forest ecosystems and greenhouse gas emissions, industry set up the SBP in 2013 to certify products based on sourcing, carbon levels, and forest protection, NRDC and Dogwood explain in a release. But “the rapidly expanding biomass industry poses a serious risk to biodiversity in the forests of the U.S. Southeast, where the coastal plain has been recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot,” they note. “On-the-ground investigations have shown repeatedly that the most unsustainable practices, such as clearcutting of wetland forests, are being used to source the biomass industry.”
They argue that the program allows companies to produce their own risk assessments and choose their own verifiers and data sources, rather than relying on third-party audits, classifies biomass as “carbon neutral” without measuring smokestack emissions, ignores key aspects of forest carbon accounting, and sets a feedstock standard that “lacks concrete, performance-orientated thresholds and protections.”
Based on their analysis, Stashwick and Macon say it’s time to put the burden of proof on bioenergy companies that are claiming a climate advantage, rather than communities and environmental groups that have been documenting serious impacts of industrial forestry for years.
“Scientists have demonstrated that burning whole trees and other large-diameter wood increases carbon pollution compared to coal for many decades,” they write. “Public health experts explain that burning biomass emits myriad harmful air pollutants, with serious consequences for air quality and public health. Economists outline how biomass conversions are a bad investment compared to truly clean energy sources, such as solar and wind. Front-line communities tell us they don’t want biomass producers in their backyards.”
Leave a Reply