Abstract: Last week, the environmental committee in the European Parliament voted to count more or less any wood as a carbon-free, renewable fuel that counts toward renewable energy targets. Already, European renewable energy mandates and carbon accounting rules have led to the development of large numbers of wood pellet plants across the Southeastern United States to fuel the burning of wood for electricity and to a lesser extent heat. In the past, biomass has filled most of the renewable energy standard. If wood fills 1/3 of the additional renewable energy, it would require an amount of wood equal to 100% of European wood harvest, which also roughly equals 100% of U.S. and Canadian wood harvest. There are large numbers of studies which find that harvesting trees for electricity, even to replace coal, will lead to additional carbon emissions for decades. The option to claim addition of wood as a “carbon-neutral” fuel also makes it possible for many coal-fired plants to remain in business.
In addition to the sheer amount of wood here, this principal would equally justify tropical forest countries in cutting down trees for bioenergy and claiming that as greenhouse gas reductions. Japan has already been moving in this direction.
In my talk, I am going to recount how we got to this point and opportunities to address the challenge. Seachinger slides: searchinger_bioenergy_step_princeton_november_2017.pdf )