Scientists seek fair accounting of biofuel emissions

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From Green Right Now Reports

Ninety of America’s leading scientists have urged Congressional leaders to be certain that any climate/energy bill or regulation accurately accounts for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from bioenergy sources, including biofuels such as ethanol.

In a letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Majority Leader Harry Reid, and key Obama Administration officials, the group says that ignoring the carbon impact of bioenergy can actually lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions because not all forms of bioenergy produce less carbon dioxide pollution than fossil fuels.

“There may be a public perception that all biofuels and bioenergy are equally good for the environment and are all lower in carbon emissions than fossil fuels, but that’s not true,” said Dr. William Schlesinger, president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, one of the scientists who signed the letter. “Many produce just as much or more carbon pollution than oil, gas, and coal.

“If our laws and regulations treat high-carbon-impact bioenergy sources, like today’s corn ethanol, as if they are low-carbon, we’re fooling ourselves and undercutting the purpose of those same laws and regulations.”

Failure to properly account for bioenergy CO2 emissions could seriously undermine other efforts to address climate change, the scientists warn. “Many international treaties and domestic laws and bills account for bioenergy incorrectly by treating all bioenergy as causing a 100% reduction in emissions regardless of the source of the biomass. … Under some scenarios, this approach could eliminate most of the expected greenhouse gas reductions during the next several decades …”

The letter cautions decision makers about the basic mistake that biomass is “carbon neutral.”

“Clearing or cutting forests for energy, either to burn trees directly in power plants or to replace forests with bioenergy crops, has the net effect of releasing otherwise sequestered carbon into the atmosphere, just like the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. That creates a carbon debt, may reduce ongoing carbon uptake by the forest, and as a result may increase net greenhouse gas emissions for an extended time period and thereby undercut greenhouse gas reductions needed over the next several decades.”


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