A big-risk strategy was given by three federal agencies of the Trump administration — Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Energy (DOE) — who said that in order to create energy in a “carbon-neutral” way, they would be “encouraging” burning trees and other biomass.
The heads of these agencies sent a letter to Congress on Thursday, highlighting how they are carrying out a mandate from a law passed earlier this year for ensuring that policies “reflect the carbon-neutrality of forest bioenergy and recognize biomass as a renewable energy source.”
In the letter, the agency leaders said, “EPA, USDA, and DOE will encourage the use of biomass as an energy solution, striving for consistency across federal policies and programs.”
They continued, “Working together, the agencies can tap their respective expertise in harnessing the energy potential of this country, and their experience in protecting the environment and working with foresters, farmers and other land owners.”
The Trump administration characterized burning wood as environmentally friendly. However, the environmental groups and some scientists are at the odds. They rather believe that the process of creating any form of energy — electricity, steam or others — from wood, would release all of the carbon dioxide that the trees had previously removed from the atmosphere.
Earlier this year, a biogeochemist who used to lead the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, William Schlesinger wrote in Science magazine that burning wood is likely a net negative for the environment.
He said, “Trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and burning wood returns it. But recent evidence shows that the use of wood as fuel is likely to result in net CO2 emissions and may endanger forest biodiversity.”
For years, the forestry industry has been pushing for federal policy to consider biomass burning a renewable energy source, which could give some of the benefits enjoyed by wind, solar and similar energy forms.
Several companies often use sawdust and other waste to fuel operations, or turn the waste into pellets and sell them to other companies.
However, the Thursday letter from the Trump administration was cheered by the American Forest and Paper Association
Donna Harman, the group’s president, “More than seven years of policy uncertainty in this area jeopardizes our companies’ ability to invest in biomass and build and upgrade their facilities.”
He added, “Removing that barrier clears the way for future economic growth and job creation and helps ensure the U.S. is in step with global competitors. That’s a winning combination for everyone.”
While the Trump administration is considering one aspect of its latest plan, chances are that its latest strategy for producing energy might turn against the environment. Will the letter be approved by the authorities? Well, ideally, it should not.