Almost no one would support massive clear-cutting of America’s forests as a way to slow global warming and promote renewable energy. Yet that is precisely what is destined to happen under the incentives created by current and proposed policies, at both the state and federal level.
The reason for this outcome, which would sharply increase greenhouse gas emissions while wiping out vast numbers of trees that today help draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, is a fundamental flaw in current carbon accounting practices. This Enron-style accounting makes a glaringly false assumption, that burning trees and other biomass fuels produces zero net carbon emissions.
This false premise was identified in 2009 but remains deeply embedded in both pending climate change bills in Congress and in the “renewables portfolio standards” being promulgated by state and federal agencies.
How bad would it be?
EWG calculates that the current goal of generating 25 percent of U.S. electricity from renewable sources by 2025 would require the equivalent of clear-cutting between 18 million and 30 million acres of forest. Sufficient amounts of other biomass fuels simply don’t exist in usable form. That amounts to leveling more than 46,000 square miles of forest – an area larger than the entire state of Pennsylvania.
By 2030, as utilities become more dependent on biomass to meet their renewable fuels targets, the devastation could encompass 50 million acres of forest.