Senators encourage unified federal policy on biomass

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 1, 2015-A bipartisan group of senators led by Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.,  are urging the USDA, EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) to uniformly recognize and support biomass energy as a sustainable and economically significant energy source.

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In a letter, the 46 senators emphasize that many states rely on biomass to meet their energy goals, and that the agencies should ensure federal policies are consistent. Additionally, there should be no question about the carbon neutrality of biomass derived from residuals of forest products in manufacturing and agriculture, they said.

Any policies that add “unnecessary costs and complexity” will discourage investment in biomass utilization as an energy solution, the senators said.

“Federal policies across all departments and agencies must remove any uncertainties and contradictions through a clear, unambiguous message that forest bioenergy is part of the nation's energy future,” the letter states. The letter was addressed to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, EPA chief Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., one of the letter's signatories, said in a statement that federal agencies need to remove regulatory barriers “that hinder forest biofuel production, which could be more widespread throughout the Southern states.”

According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, there are currently varying definitions of renewable biomass in energy and agriculture policies and in the tax code.

Distinctions between what is and what isn't considered “renewable biomass” cause confusion and frustrate the development of biomass markets, the institute says.

“What is needed is a universal definition that is flexible and functional and promotes feedstock diversification, ensures access for local and small-scale producers, and encourages improved land stewardship on all productive lands,” notes the institute.

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