BPA CEO: Let's get the facts right on biomass

Posted June 17, 2010, at 9:52 a.m. CST

Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, addressed on a media call a misleading report released June 16 by the Environmental Working Group on biomass fuels. Cleaves emphasized that, contrary to implications in the report, the biomass industry -- particularly the BPA and its members -- does not advocate harvesting trees for energy production. Rather, the vast majority of biomass facilities utilize wood waste material and industry byproducts for clean energy production.

"The study has no relevance to how biomass power is generated in this country today and no relevance to how it will be generated in the foreseeable future," Cleaves said. "It uses misplaced assumptions, bad information and questionable carbon math in order to make a policy statement about a problem that does not exist."

The BPA is not aware of any facilities that use whole trees for energy. This is not an economically sustainable approach to biomass, as the costs of cutting down one tree far outweigh the potential energy benefits.

Cleaves also disagreed with the EWG's assertion that biomass power would be unable to meet the 2025 renewable energy goals without harvesting trees. He cited Southern Alliance for Clean Energy projections that clean energy could double in the country by utilizing waste wood biofuels from just four southern states.

Cleaves challenged the notion contained in the report that the federal government provides tax incentives for using whole trees as biofuels: "Both the production tax credit and the investment tax credit passed by Congress last year are only available for waste wood products and other organic byproducts-not merchantable timber," he said.

Finally, Cleaves highlighted the biomass industry's crucial role as the nation increasingly values clean energy. "Last night the President called for a constructive dialogue on changing our nation's renewable energy policy. We will never accomplish change in this country by engaging in tired rhetoric and environmental scare tactics. We welcome the debate but let's get the facts right."