They Got It Right

By Mistake

Several environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, Dogwood Alliance and Greenpeace, have collectively written a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, criticizing EPA for considering biomass as a possible compliance solution in the new Clean Power Plan.

First of all, we use the term “environmental” loosely because past actions on the part of these groups have displayed a disdain for the environment.

Remember 30 years ago when the forest products industry was thriving in the Northwest U.S.? Many of these same groups set out to destroy it. Their mission was to create so much legal chaos in the national forest planning process conducted by the U.S. Forest Service that the process would stall and force the forest products industry to get out of the business because they wouldn’t have access to the national forests for their harvests anymore.

This effort succeeded in driving out of business hundreds of small multi-generation family lumber operations and logging operations, forcing thousands of employees to roam the streets of the Northwest looking for work—many of them still are. It didn’t succeed in totally killing off the industry, mainly because people still liked lumber and plywood in their homes and buildings. It did allow the big corporates and larger private companies to take control of the industry because they had access to large corporate and private timberland holdings.

It also created huge forestland tinderboxes on government land, because when the lawsuits successfully bogged down national forest timberland management, the forests grew unwieldy, resulting in huge carbon emitting biomass explosions, otherwise known as forest fires, either brought on by a lightning strike or spontaneous combustion.

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From Left: Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief; Jay Donnell, Associate Editor; Dan Shell, Western Editor; Jessica Johnson, Associate Editor; David Abbott, Senior Associate Editor; David (DK) Knight, Co-Publisher/Executive Editor

The Forest Service continues to wrestle with it today, spending all of its money on fighting fires instead of managing forests.

And so when we hear that these groups purport to have some knowledge of carbon emission and biomass, we have our doubts. Environmental groups like these typically dabble in science, but then they run away from it when it begins to turn on them. They resort to baseless condemnations that will encourage continued donations from their members, who don’t have time to hold their leaders accountable.

But this time they got it right, almost. Their letter states: “Even if (biomass power) emissions are reduced by regrowth later in time, or if emissions that would have occurred later in time are avoided, the offsetting reductions are significantly delayed—on the order of years, decades, or more than a century. The emission reductions typically attributed to power plants that burn biomass are therefore uncertain, speculative and dislocated, and cannot be relied upon for the purpose of CPP compliance.”

These groups have managed to endorse the very point that they’re trying to condemn. Yes, emissions are reduced by regrowth. Yes, the offsetting reduction will occur over the years, decades and centuries.

Those are the very reasons why biomass “can” be considered as part of the clean power solution. Just because the benefits can’t be wrapped up in a nice little timeline package doesn’t mean it’s without warrant. After all, the carbon emissions discussion relies on the correlation of carbion dioxide concentration and weather temperature numbers over the past 400,000 years.