[OPINION] EPA: How Biomass Can Provide Carbon Benefits

– by Janet McCabe, Environmental Protection Agency, July 14, 2016, Wall Street Journal

03312016_EPA_EPABruce E. Dale’s July 11 op-ed “Old MacDonald Had a . . . Climate Offender” paints a picture of the Clean Power Plan—and the underlying science—that is far from reality.

First, EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is stayed while legal challenges proceed, applies to power plants, not farms. Under the program, states determine their own strategies for cutting carbon emissions from power plants, including the opportunity to use qualified biomass in place of fossil fuels. The agency recognizes that a wide range of agricultural and forest biomass can provide carbon benefits, including controlling atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels. Contrary to Mr. Dale’s claim that this program creates an “unjustified carbon tax,” it actually creates a market for biomass and an economic opportunity for American farmers.

Second, his basic premise that biogenic emissions cannot contribute to climate change is out of step with the science. Peer-reviewed scientific literature reflects that all carbon emissions (both biogenic and fossil) once in the atmosphere drive climate change equally and endanger public health and welfare.

Mr. Dale also ignores the fact that determining how emissions from using biomass at power plants affects atmospheric carbon levels is a complex scientific question—one that must take into account the way biomass is produced and, in some cases, what would happen to the biomass if it is not used for energy. This is exactly why the EPA is in the midst of a very open and public process, working with the agency’s independent Science Advisory Board, to explore this topic.

We’ve invited input from all stakeholders to help find policy solutions that are based on sound science, provide states with a clear path for using biomass and protect our health and climate for future generations.

Janet McCabe

Acting Assistant Administrator

Office of Air and Radiation

Environmental Protection Agency


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