Jenny Blaker and Janis Watkins, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
Please ask your Supervisor to ban the local processing of forest biomass to bioenergy, and prohibit the export of local forest biomass for bioenergy.
On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump assumed the Presidency. The forest product industry almost immediately pushed a lobbying campaign to fully legitimize burning forests for energy. In 2016, industry scientists claimed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that burning forest biomass is carbon neutral. Independent scientists said burning trees for energy is dirtier than coal.
In 2018, Republicans passed legislation establishing biomass as a “carbon neutral” fuel. This act was implemented by successive EPA heads – disgraced Scott Pruitt and coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler – and MAGA stalwart Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, along with corruption-prone Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. Our nation’s climate policy was in thrall to industry.
Trump is gone but his biomass legacy endures. Nationally and locally we are told the forests can be burned for “renewable” biomass energy because this helps improve forest “health.” Neither statement is true. We cannot trust slanted industry studies and models that claim we need forest treatments. They cherry-pick evidence and make questionable assumptions to reach pro-industry conclusions. The influence of money is driving the narrative recommending large continuing forest “treatments” to provide “feedstock” for biomass energy generation.
For example, the Forest Service’s budget depends on making money on logging. Its strategy for the wildfire crisis focuses on “thinning” (logging) on public lands to prevent wildfire intrusion into communities, targeting 80% removal in some areas. Many other scientists dispute this is the best way to mitigate community risk. “Thinning” makes the forest hotter, drier and windier – and more susceptible to wind-driven fire. Still, the industry pushes for more forest “feedstock” to fuel experimental biomass plants sited in the forests.
In 2022, the State of California issued a Roadmap targeting over 1 million acres of forest lands annually for “treatment.” This vast initiative also targets Emerging Opportunities for Forest Biomass, including biofuels.