To that end, ACORE's BCC is leading a major push by biomass stakeholders and cooperative environmental, wildlife and public interest groups to promote the adoption of a balanced, unified biomass definition able to be offered to the Congress that squares the four pillars that govern the use and incentives for biomass industries. These pillars are the biomass definitions included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 HR 6/Public Law 109-58), Title 26 Sections 45 & 48 of the Internal Revenue Code, Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (HR 6/Public Law 110-140) and the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (HR 2419/Public Law 110-234).
ACORE and the BCC, headed by Bill Holmberg is advancing this effort. Holmberg, a retired Marine Lt. Colonel and renewable energy/new wealth industry advocate, has a farseeing strategy for biomass, which must be anchored in a congressionally enacted, well-balanced and unified biomass definition. Holmberg is committed to ensuring that environmental, wild life and public interest groups are equal partners with the farmers, foresters, biomass industries and government officials in arriving at a balanced, unified biomass definition. The real enemy here is not the good intentions of the various stakeholders, Holmberg claims, but the squabbling, turf battles and unwillingness to compromise special interests in protecting natural systems and respecting economic reality. This reality should in turn serve stakeholders striving for a sustainable future. Such a biomass definition effort is seconded and scientifically framed by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), who from the outset has been in the forefront of research, teaching, advocacy and public service in the areas of renewable resource development, management and conversion into useful, environmentally sensitive products including liquid transportation fuels, electric and thermal power, wood and paper products, chemicals and advanced materials. Particularly, SUNY-ESF is a globally acknowledged expert when it comes to forest-grown and purpose grown woody biomass. In 2002, the Chancellor, State University of New York established SUNY-ESF as the site of its "SUNY Center for Sustainable and Renewable Energy based on SUNY-ESF's commitment to the environment including reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, enhanced energy security and freedom from dependence on foreign energy imports and the overall restoration of American science and technology leadership.
A balanced, unified, congressionally enacted definition of what biomass is an immediate action item. Over the past year, we've been watching our commercial biomass conversion operators and developers get whipsawed by ideological forces, who aim to lump biomass with coal with MACT and PSD/Tailoring Rules or to condemn biomass with pseudo science and mumbo-jumbo metrics, which flies in the face of decades of peer-reviewed research on carbon-neutrality and sustainability. End of the day, Congress must write the definition and biomass Capitol Hill allies, who are many, seriously need help crafting a unifying definition to resolve the tangents of the Farm Bills from 2002-2008, EPACT 2005 and EISA 2007 and to reaffirm biomass' rightful role in the national energy security and environmental quality of life scheme.
The focus on definitions with consistency and standardization was encouraged by the BCC and was validated in the industry in July 2010 as its top priority. To act otherwise any longer invites needless delay at a critical juncture for biomass. Consistency on suitable practices can proceed in a parallel path and might actually add further comfort with a uniform definition for biomass. Holmberg points out that biomass industries are now critical elements in the reindustrialization of America, generating millions of jobs and creating new wealth to pay down our debts while enhancing the overall environment and associated environment science and technology job creating opportunities.
The inconsistency in definitions was spawned in 2002. Jurisdictional differences by Capitol Hill Committees regardless of party exacerbates the problem. A recent study championed unilaterally has accelerated confusion characterizing biomass as the functional equivalent of coal. The definitional focus cross-cuts many federal programs, tax incentives and support, U.S. Environmental Policy Administration (USEPA) regulations, climate change policies and also is replicated in state or regional climate, energy, Renewable Portfolio Standards and grant programs. Ultimately, it defines efficiency, productivity in biomass project development to access capital with sensitivity to production, reliability and sound sustainability practices. Definition consistency is absolutely central to the progress and success of biomass at this juncture in the marketplace. Delay in crafting a balanced, unified, congressionally enacted biomass definition only counters the recognition of the central opportunity of biomass as a premium disputable renewable fuel resource for power generation and thermal applications and implicitly misdirects focus on to non-base load technologies -- with all their variability, backup, storage and cost consequences and operational challenges of frequency regulation.
Today, bio-energy industries provide about 50% of the renewable energy production in the United States, which in turn represents about 10% of our energy production. There are three major carbon sinks in the world -- forest biomass, soils and the oceans. As the oceans are being increasingly contaminated, their ability to absorb CO2 is diminished. Although a portion of such contamination comes from runoff from agriculture and forested lands, optimizing the care of wetlands, watersheds and riparian buffers will significantly reduce this runoff. These actions, coupled with best forest management practices including selected harvesting, thinning, and planting of trees, and far better care of our soils can lead to a more sustainable future for this nation. In short, sustainable, renewable CO2-neutral biomass is one of America's best bets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the future -while creating jobs and new wealth.
The absence of a balanced, unified congressionally enacted biomass definition creates a "policy seam" were arise narrowly draw ideological claims, which "fly in the face" of the positive, verifiable and scientifically validated outcomes achieved by the American forestry and woodlot industries on land use, productivity, and carbon sequestration. One such recent study concurrently ignored the untold positive efforts of local, state and federal governmental organizations, environmentalists, wildlife and wildlife habitat proponents who are actively engaged to collaborate on optimized land use, best available agriculture and forestry practices, soil vitalization, and water conservation and management. The study also narrowly focused on only CO2 rather than all greenhouse gases and unilaterally disregarded all present and future bio-power essential contributions -- jobs creation; local economic development; generation of domestic "New Wealth" industries; energy/national security benefits of dispersed power production using nearby biomass; and keeping private forests and wood lots in biomass production instead of being sold off to development, just to mention a few.
Consequently, the Biomass Power Association (BPA) on June 11, 2010, specifically and publically reacted: "The Manomet study completely ignores waste wood fuels for the first 109 pages.addressing them almost as an afterthought on page 110: "All bioenergy technologies, even biomass electric power compared to natural gas electric, looks favorable when biomass waste wood is compared to fossil fuel alternative..." Because of such oversights, and the appearance that the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences' executive summary was crafted to gain public attention to the unfounded general conclusion that the use of forest biomass to generate electricity produces more CO2 that a coal-fired power plant. That misleading conclusion was enabled by the absence of a balanced, unified, congressionally enacted biomass definition and gained nationwide attention, particularly in Massachusetts; Oregon and New York at critical time for local bio-power companies and economic and environmental damage was done.
ACORE, representing the national goals of renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions encompassing all the renewable technologies, recently "seconded" the BPA remarks and refuted the findings that "forest biomass generally emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels per unit of energy produced" in the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences 2010 report, "Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study. ACORE was clear, they are committed to sustainable and environmentally sound agriculture, forestry woodlot bio-energy practices with ample protection for wildlife and their habitats. However, ACORE reasserted their belief this national value is best accomplished by unleashing the creativity and ingenuity of the American people who live and work the land in communities which comprise the biomass industry. ACORE argued that the farm and forest community determination to "do the right thing" should not be encumbered by excessive legalistic and bureaucratic obstacles or modeling systems that can not differentiate environmental dogma from true service to the land, forests, people, the environment and wildlife. This too must be coda for crafting a balanced, unified biomass definition.
There remain serious concerns throughout the biomass farm and forest community due to the national media attention of the flawed Manomet Study including imprudent headlines touting, "Biomass Worst Than Coal." However, the absence of a balanced, unified congressionally enacted biomass definition has been most recently noticed in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) activist application of the Clean Air Act, without legislative sanction, in their efforts including the PSD/Tailoring Rules, which "tailors" existing Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V Operating Permit programs and ends up treating biomass combined heat and power and power generation combustion exactly the same as coal, even though research-based science.including the USEPA's own research.proves CO2-neutral biomass per capita is a significantly lower greenhouse gas emitter than fossil fuels.
Likewise, USEPA's activist application, seemingly aimed at coal but unilaterally encompassing and treating biomass combined heat and power and power generation combustion exactly the same as coal, with boiler standards which are supposed to reflect the application of the maximum achievable control technology ("MACT"). ACORE's BCC asserts that USEPA should use a method to set emission standards that is based on what real world best performing units can achieve. USEPA should not ignore biases in its own emissions database, the practical capabilities of controls or the variability in operations, fuels and testing performance across many regulated sectors. The BCC asserts that USEPA's faulty methodology begins with pollutant-by-pollutant analyses that select a different set of 'best performing sources' for each pollutant. In other words, USEPA 'cherry picks' the best data in setting each standard, without regard for sources or feedstocks. The result is a set of standards achieved by a hypothetical set of 'best performing' sources able to maximize emission reductions for each hazardous air pollutant (HAP), rather than standards representative of actual performance of real sources. USEPA's approach produces unachievable standards. USEPA's approach will eliminate certain biomass fuels from use in industrial boilers. For example, in the case of biomass, wood feed stocks that have already have significantly lower hydrogen chloride (HCL) content, but may not be able to remove additional quantities to achieve the lower pro rata standards USEPA is proposing. This activist rule impacts a huge portion of the biomass industry and commercial operations.
Last year, during the Waxman-Markey "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009" (HR 2454) biomass definition debate, the SUNY-ESF academic and scientific leadership strongly advocated against one-sided and narrowly-drawn definitions of biomass as proposed in HR 2454; as did almost all of the national biomass community. SUNY-ESF said the bill's proposed definition was not in the best interests of the New York-Northeastern forest community nor the entire national forest community. The SUNY-ESF academic and scientific leadership reiterated that woody biomass is a substantial, CO2-neutral renewable resource that can be used as a fuel for a variety of sustainable and environmentally sound energy applications. They asked Congressional leadership to replace the HR 2454 definition with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (PL 109-58) definition as the "more perfect definition." As a more perfect definition, the definition of biomass in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (HR 6-PL 109-58) remains the clearest and most concise definition in public law. However, acceptable to SUNY-ESF, as an alternative starting point, was the proposed HR-2409 definition, in a bill to amend the Clean Air Act, "The Renewable Fuel Standard Improvement Act."
According to the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), use of non-fossil-based Woody biomass fuels for generating electricity and thermal power results in significant lifecycle reductions of GHGs, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2). Furthermore, the life-cycle global warming potential (GWP), which is a combination of CO2, methane (CH4), and oxides of nitrogen (N0x) emissions are significantly reduced using woody biomass. For example, given the state-of-the-art reactive catalyst clean-up systems for woody biomass combustion-gasification, using woody biomass has virtually zero net impact on NOx. Woody biomass contains significantly less sulfur than fossil-fuels, and consequently woody biomass fuels produce less SO2. Per NREL and scientific research at SUNY-ESF, Duke University and most other front-line universities, dedicated woody biomass fuels are carbon neutral or better. Likewise, woody biomass has significant lifecycle economic, energy and environmental advantages over coal, foreign petroleum and other non-base load heat and power fuel sources.
Research shows that sustainably harvested forest woody biomass can provide at least 368 million dry tons of wood per year. Nationally, the net annual forest woody biomass growth on over 200 million hectares of U.S. timberland exceeds forest woody biomass removals by almost 50%. In the north-central states, growth exceeds removals by 95%. This ratio is even greater in the northern forest of the northeast states, where growth exceeds removals by 125%. In New York State there are over 18.5 million acres of non-plantation, successional timberland with over 750 million tons of standing biomass. The net annual growth on New York timberland is more than 300%.
New York State has implemented a renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) with the goal of producing 25% of the state's power from renewable sources by 2013. About 19% of New York State's power currently comes from renewable sources, primarily hydropower. Projections indicate that base-load biomass combined heat and power will makeup almost a quarter of the new renewable power generated in the state, or about 2,300 MWe, by 2013. New York State's RPS has stimulated an increased level of projects to develop woody biomass feedstock from forests and purpose grown woody biomass energy crops. A biomass definition, which excludes new plantations of purpose-grown energy crops after the enactment date of an unchanged Waxman-Markey biomass definition, would derail base-load electricity and thermal energy from a CO2-neutral renewable resource in favor of non-base load renewable resources for ideological rather than scientific, environmental, or academic reasons and would bar the economic vitality, wealth creation and national security attributes of home-grown biomass.
The New York State forest products industry adds more than $7.7 billion to the state's economy each year and provides 72,000 jobs. Renewable energy production relying on base load woody biomass in New York promises to enhance economic vitality in the forest products industry. New value-added products and processes and enhanced heat and power processes from a biomass-based industry cluster offers to reverse the job loss and economic decline in upstate New York's farm and forest communities. A balanced, unified congressionally enacted biomass definition is the key to enhancing economic vitality in the farm and forest community nationwide.
The present and future challenges to the biomass farm and forest community are significant and will be exacerbated due to the absence of a balanced, unified congressionally enacted biomass definition. Without such a definition; gaining public, political and governmental understanding and support for biomass including marketplace acceptance and government policy/incentives and support is confused by the at least 17 extant unbalanced, non-unified, but often, Congressionally enacted biomass definitions crowding the landscape. Without a balanced, unified congressionally enacted biomass definition achieving specific policies in local, state, and federal legislation defining feedstocks use, processes, and market options is impossible.
There is serious competition in the marketplace; particularly from the coal, oil and refinery industries for market share; and, food processors over feedstock costs and availability. Periodically, these industries join forces in all-out, direct and indirect, publicity and political attacks against biomass industries to advance their own interests. "Leveling the playing field," quantifying the externalities, and incentivizing is impossible without a balanced, unified congressionally enacted biomass definition. This is particularly essential in the debate surrounding the carbon neutrality of biomass. For example, most recently the Manomet Center study, which produced the false general conclusion that the use of forest biomass to generate electricity produces more CO2 that a coal-fired power plant. This canard was advanced in the absence of a balanced, unified congressionally enacted biomass definition. Notwithstanding that research-based worldwide facts refuted Manomet claims, this false claim resulted in Massachusetts drafting new regulations that will impose unreasonably harsh standards for biomass projects seeking to qualify for state incentives and New England ISO renewable energy contracts.
A balanced, unified congressionally enacted biomass definition would resolve the well intended but misdirected indirect United States land use theory, which theorizes that biomass used to produce energy in the U.S. causes land elsewhere in the world, with a focus on virgin forests, to be converted to food production. This is used as a powerful negative propaganda tool, but a balanced, unified congressionally enacted biomass definition would align biomass industries to harness the best farming and forestry practices, science and technologies to ensure the sustainable growth, harvesting, and use of biomass while enhancing the environment.
The national security, economic, community and rural development stakes are too high to foster a deficient approach to energy policy. We have serious national energy security issues facing us and our future. We assert that the absence of forest biomass in a solution-based and organized national energy policy merely endorses the status quo, including the mining of coal, tar sands and oil shale, and environmental and ecological tragedies like the BP debacle in the Gulf of Mexico, possibly spreading to the Atlantic Coast. Such national decisions must be rooted in meritorious science and not partisan propaganda, even if well intended, in support of the views of a few vested and ideological interests.
The leaders of this balanced, unified biomass definition for Congressional enactment effort are committed to sustainable and environmentally sound agriculture, forestry woodlot bio-energy practices with ample protection for wildlife and their habitats. They most strongly assert that a balanced, unified congressionally enacted biomass definition is the essential first step.
Appendix I -- Biomass Definitions in EPACT 2005 (Congressional Research Service, "Biomass Comparison of Definitions in Legislation-CRS 7-5700-Bracmort and Gorte-5/18/10)
Title II, Sec. 203(b)(I): "The term 'biomass' means any lignin waste material that is segregated from other waste materials and is determined to be nonhazardous by the Administrator of the EPA and any solid, nonhazardous, cellulosic material that is derived from -- (A)...forest-related resources...(B) solid wood waste materials...not including municipal solid waste (garbage), gas derived from the biodegradation of solid waste, or paper that is commonly recycled; (C) agriculture waste...(D) a plant that is grown exclusively as a fuel for the production of electricity."
Title II, Sec. 206(a)(6)(B): "The term 'biomass' means any organic matter that is available on a renewable basis, including agricultural crops and trees, wood and wood wastes and residues, plants (including aquatic plants), grasses, residues, fibers, and animal wastes, municipal wastes, and other waste materials."
Title II, Sec. 210 (a)(I): 'The term 'biomass' means nonmerchantable materials or Pre-commercial thinnings that are byproducts of preventive treatments, such as trees, wood, brush, thinnings, chips, and slash, that are removed -- (A) to reduce hazardous fuels; (B) to reduce or contain disease or insect infestation; or (C) to restore forest health."
Title IX, Subtitle C, Sec. 932(a)(I): "The term 'biomass' means -- (A) any organic material grown for the purpose of being converted to energy; (B) any organic byproduct of agriculture...that can be converted into energy; or (C) any waste material that can be converted to energy, is segregated from other waste materials, and is derived from -- (i)...forest-related resources...(ii) wood waste materials... But not including municipal solid waste, gas derived from the biodegradation of municipal solid waste, or paper that is commonly recycled."
Title XIII, Subtitle A, Sec. 1307, Sec. 48B(c)(4): "The term 'biomass' means any -- (i) agricultural or plant waste, (ii) byproduct of wood or paper mill operations, including lignin in spent pulping liquors, and (iii) other products of forestry maintenance...Exclusion -- the term 'biomass' does not include paper which is commonly recycled."
Title XV, Subtitle A, Sec. 1512 (r)(4)(B): "The term 'renewable biomass' is, as defined in Presidential Executive Order 13134...any organic matter that is available on a renewable or recurring basis (excluding old-growth timber) including dedicated energy crops and trees, agricultural food and feed crop residues, aquatic plants, animal wastes, wood and wood residues, paper and paper residues, and other vegetative waste materials. Old-growth timber means timber of a forest from the late successional stage of forest development."
Appendix II -- Biomass Definitions in EISA 2007 (Congressional Research Service, "Biomass Comparison of Definitions in Legislation-CRS 7-5700-Bracmort and Gorte-5/18/10)
Title II, Sec. 201(I)(I): "'Renewable biomass' means each of the following: (i) Planted crops and crop residue harvested from agricultural land...(ii) Planted trees and tree residue from actively managed tree plantations on non-Federal land...(iii) Animal waste and animal byproducts. (iv) Slash and pre-commercial thinnings that are from non-Federal forestlands...but not forests or forestlands that are ecological communities with a global or State ranking...(v) biomass obtained from the immediate vicinity of...areas...at risk of wildfire. (vi) Algae. (vii) Separated yard or food waste.
Title XII, Sec. 1201 and Title XII, Sec. 1203(e)(z)(4)(A): "The term 'biomass' -- (i) means any organic material that is available on a renewable or recurring basis, including -- (I) agricultural crops; (II) trees grown for energy production; (III) wood waste and wood residues; (IV) plants (including aquatic plants and grasses); (V) residues; (VI) fibers; (VII) animal wastes and other waste materials; (VIII) fats, oils, and greases.; and (ii) does not include (I) paper that is commonly recycled; or (II) unsegregated solid waste."
"The term 'open-loop biomass' means -- (i) any agricultural livestock waste nutrients, or (ii) any solid, nonhazardous, cellulosic waste material or any lignin material which is segregated from other waste materials and which is derived from -- (I) any of the following forest-related resources: mill and harvesting residues, precommercial thinnings, slash, and brush, (II) solid wood waste materials...but not including municipal solid waste, gas derived from the biodegradation of solid waste, or paper which is commonly recycled, or (III) agriculture sources."
Appendix III -- Biomass Definition in FCE 2008 (Congressional Research Service, "Biomass Comparison of Definitions in Legislation-CRS 7-5700-Bracmort and Gorte-5/18/10)
Title IX, Sec. 9001(12): "'Renewable biomass' means -- (A) materials, precommercial thinnings, or invasive species from National Forest System land and public lands...that (i) are byproducts of preventive treatments.(ii) would not otherwise be used for higher-value products...(iii) are harvested in accordance with...applicable law...(B) any organic matter that is available on a renewable basis or recurring basis from non-Federal lands or land belonging to an Indian or Indian tribe...including -- (i) renewable plant material, including -- (I) feed grains; (II) other agricultural commodities; (III) other plants and trees; (IV) algae; and (ii) waste material, including -- (I) crop residue; (II) other vegetative waste material (including wood waste and wood residues); (III) animal waste and byproducts...and (IV) food waste and yard waste."
Appendix IV -- Biomass Definitions in the IRS Code (Congressional Research Service, "Biomass Comparison of Definitions in Legislation-CRS 7-5700-Bracmort and Gorte -- 5/18/10) Title 26, Subtitle A, Chapter I, Subchapter A, Part IV, Subpart D, Sec. 45(c)(2): "The term 'closed-loop biomass' means any organic material from a plant which is planted exclusively for purposes of being used at a qualified facility to produce electricity."
Title 26, Subtitle A, Chapter I, Subchapter A, Part IV, Subpart D, Sec. 45(c)(3): "The term 'open-loop biomass' means -- (i) any agricultural livestock waste nutrients, or (ii) any solid, nonhazardous, cellulosic waste material or any lignin material which is segregated from other waste materials and which is derived from -- (I) any of the following forest-related resources: mill and harvesting residues, precommercial thinnings, slash, and brush, (II) solid wood waste materials...but not including municipal solid waste, gas derived from the biodegradation of solid waste, or paper which is commonly recycled, or (III) agriculture sources."
Title 26, Subtitle A, Chapter I, Subchapter A, Part IV, Subpart D, Sec. 45k(c)(3): "The term 'biomass' means any organic material other than -- (A) oil and natural gas (or any product thereof), and (B) coal (including lignite) or any product thereof."
Title 26, Subtitle A, Chapter I, Subchapter A, Part IV, Subpart E, Sec. 48b(c)(4): "The term 'biomass' means any -- (i) agricultural waste or plant waste, (ii) byproduct of wood or paper mill operations, including lignin in spent pulping liquors, and (iii) other products of forestry maintenance. Exclusion: The term 'biomass' does not include paper which is commonly recycled."