Top US climate scientists call attention to ill-informed biomass energy legislation

2016-02-24-woodpelletsLast week, Dr. Philip Duffy, President of Woods Hole Research Center, led a group of distinguished scientists in a letter to US senators that addresses a major factual error behind an amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act. More than sixty other American scientists added their signatures to the letter.

The amendment would encourage the burning of wood pellets to replace coal for generating electricity, an action that the amendment claims as “forest biomass carbon neutrality.”

The letter’s authors, experts in the fields of energy, soils, ecosystems and climate change, argue that wood-burning power plants emit considerably more carbon dioxide than do coal-fired power plants. Furthermore, they note that to recapture the carbon emitted – from cutting trees, manufacturing pellets, and burning the pellets – the regrowth of forests would take decades to a century, time that is not available to halt climate change.

The legislation, say the scientists, “would in fact promote deforestation in the US and elsewhere and make climate change much worse.” And, they continue, “this amendment puts forest carbon in the atmosphere contributing to climate change instead of keeping it in living, productive forests that provide multiple benefits of water and wetland protection, flood control, soils protection, wildlife habitat, improved air quality and recreational benefits for hunters and all who enjoy being in the great out-of-doors.”

The letter cautions lawmakers that “Legislating scientific facts is never a good idea, but is especially bad when the ‘facts’ are incorrect.”

Along with dozens of prominent scientists, the letter’s other lead signatories were Tufts University Professor Emeritus William R. Moomaw and Cary Institute President Emeritus William Schlesinger.

Link to letter to senators: whrc.org/letter-to-the-senate-on-carbon-neutrality


WHRC is an independent research institute where scientists investigate the causes and effects of climate change to identify and implement opportunities for conservation, restoration and economic development around the world.