Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Biomass and carbon neutrality

A little while ago CPAWS put out a couple of media releases and I wrote a couple of blog posts that commented on the issue of carbon neutrality and burning biomass as a source of energy. These communications have given rise to some questions about what exactly my position on this topic is, so I am writing this post to clarify.

1. The forest industry in Canada has made a lot of progress using wood processing waste as an alternative source of energy in their mills, and this is a good thing.
2. In accounting for emissions and setting energy policy, it is important to take account of the emissions that do result in the forest as a result of biomass harvest. For example, the harvesting of trees reduces forest carbon stocks and this reduced carbon stock should be recorded as an emission when it occurs. It is true that these forests and much of the carbon will grow back over time, but not accounting for the emissions when they occur could lead to inferior policy choices that fail to optimize emission reductions in the near-term. What I was responding to was the indication from policy initiatives that, rather than accounting for these emissions, they would *assume* carbon neutrality (simply because forest carbon grows back over the long-term).

To be clear: I have no problem with the approach of accounting for all emissions at the time of forest harvest.

I would like to thank the readers of my blog that have asked me for clarification on this point. I hope this helps!

If you are interested to read more about CPAWS' thoughts on biomass and woody bioenergy, you can check out a factsheet online.

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