The March 5 editorial “Burning down the forests?” got a lot wrong about biomass. Biomass power in the United States uses residues and byproducts. Period. There is no market to sell “timber for fuel.” Loggers separate and sell their harvested fiber for the highest possible value for use in construction, furniture, or pulp and paper. The low-value tops, limbs and thinnings are sold to biomass power producers for a fraction of the other parts’ value. If there isn’t a biomass facility nearby, those materials are usually sent to landfills or burned openly.
There is near-universal agreement on the carbon benefits of biomass power from sustainably sourced forest waste. The scientists whose letter to the Environmental Protection Agency was mentioned in the editorial endorsed biomass from waste and residues as “truly low in carbon.” Missing from this discussion is the acknowledgment that this is exactly what the U.S. biomass power industry is doing. It’s too easy to imply a looming forest crisis that doesn’t exist. The EPA made the correct decision to describe biomass from residues as a renewable, carbon-neutral energy source.
Biomass is and will continue to be a crucial element to mitigate climate change.
Bob Cleaves, Portland, Maine
The writer is president and chief executive of the Biomass Power Association.