BIOMASS AND CLEAN ENERGY
Weyerhaeuser Priorities in Clean Energy Policy
Changing EPA Tailoring Rule’s Treatment of Biomass Greenhouse Gas Emissions
In 2010, EPA treated biomass emissions the same as fossil fuel emissions in its greenhouse gas tailoring rule. This sudden and unexpected shift in federal policy penalizes the forest products industry, which supplies much of its own energy needs with biomass.
- U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives , Governors and many others weighed in with EPA and the Administration, requesting that EPA reverse its actions on biomass.
- In January 2011, EPA announced plans to move away from its problematic treatment of biomass. They have begun to move forward on a number of actions, including:
- An expedited rule-making to defer greenhouse gas regulation of biomass emissions for three years. We are working with NAFO in provide comments on this draft rule .
- Complete a two-year study of biomass carbon emissions, followed by additional rule-making on biomass before deferral period expires
- We support this action by EPA, as it moves the agency back towards recognition of biomass emissions as carbon neutral.
- The prevailing view in the science community is that biomass emissions are carbon neutral because carbon emissions from biomass energy recycles through the atmosphere. Trees take in carbon as they grow. When renewable biomass is burned for energy, the stored carbon dioxide releases back into the atmosphere. Biomass growth in new and existing trees reabsorbs the carbon.
- In the U.S., data indicates the forested land area is stable or increasing with forest carbon stocks growing. This means that U.S. forests in total are removing more carbon from the atmosphere than is otherwise emitted or lost.
Role for Biomass in Clean Energy Policy
Congress may consider policies that will drive investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and other clean energy technologies. We will work with Congress to ensure biomass – whether from our forests or our mills – will be encourage as a part of the broader energy policies. Priorities include:
- Broad Definitions for Forest Biomass, including trees and other plants, forest residuals, interplanted energy crops, and byproducts of manufacturing.
- Reliable Markets for Biomass. The economics of forestry favors the forest investment in the highest value forest products, such as saw logs, peeler logs and pulp logs. With biomass for energy as the lowest value product in the forest value chain, forest owners will not stop managing for higher value products in the long-term to supply low value biomass in the short-term. Policies must not disqualify certain types of forests or forest materials, as it results in costly and complex verification systems which will make a low-value product uneconomic to use.
- Recognize Existing Renewable Power: Policies that set-up new markets for renewable power must qualify existing renewable power such as the power generated and consumed onsite at forest products manufacturing sites. It should also provide credits for energy efficiency and cogenerated electricity, heat and power.
- Modify the Renewable Fuel Standard Biomass Definition to Include Energy Crops. The current federal RFS has restrictive definitions that will make it difficult to produce the significant amount of biomass feedstocks necessary to meet the volume requirements established in the RFS. The renewable biomass definition needs to recognize all types of forests and biomass feedstock resources, including energy crops grown on forestlands.