Letter to the editor: Energy policy must be based on science

The Sept. 3 article “Stung by setbacks, wood suppliers seek new markets and products to survive” rightly demonstrates how forestry markets are central to maintaining important jobs in Maine’s logging, trucking and sawmill industries – especially in the wake of pulp industry declines in the state. Forest bioenergy can play a role if used right, but Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King have taken a misguided approach to force the issue through scientifically indefensible legislation at the federal level.

The Maine senators have sponsored legislation that could allow trees burned for electricity to count as a carbon-free, clean energy source, just like wind or solar – and therefore receive incentives that are typically dedicated to these zero-carbon sources.

Forest bioenergy can have carbon benefits for the climate in some instances, but burning forest biomass to generate electricity is not carbon-free in all cases. Some types of biomass can play an important role in reducing carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels – for example, using industrial waste from Maine’s sawmills and pulp mills. Yet other biomass fuels – such as whole trees, which take decades to grow back and recapture carbon from the atmosphere – can pollute more than coal and worsen climate change. Energy policies must recognize that not all biomass energy is created equal.

The Collins-King approach fails to make these distinctions and could be used to set back efforts to address climate change. The senators should be on the side of science, and remove their damaging “carbon neutral” language from federal legislation.

Sami Yassa

senior scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council

Kittery Point

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