Adopted by the
Massachusetts Sierra Club, Oct. 24, 2013
The Sierra Club
opposes the unsustainable exploitation of forest ecosystems. The Sierra
Club has significant concerns over the production of energy from forest
or woody biomass, including the inefficiency of stand-alone,
utility-scale, wood-burning biomass energy production, the resultant
operational CO2 emissions, and the associated impacts on forest
ecosystems, air and water quality, and public health. We are
particularly concerned about the current surge in whole-tree harvesting
for pellet manufacture to fuel biomass facilities both in the United
States Europe and elsewhere. Claims of “carbon neutrality” by biomass
and industry proponents are not supported by current science and
modeling. The Sierra Club does not believe that significant biomass
power generation is possible without compromising soil and forest
health, nor are we confident that regulatory frameworks exist or can be
developed to prevent the unsustainable exploitation of forest ecosystems
for utility-scale biomass power generation. Regardless of the scale of a
facility, it is the scale of harvesting that is most relevant because
the impacts of multiple small-scale facilities could easily exceed that
of larger facilities. Neither scenario produces a desirable outcome.
A federal court recently court struck down EPA’s exemption under the
Clean Air Act of carbon dioxide emissions from industrial facilities
Native forests are a major source of fuel
for biomass energy facilities,
Harvesting existing forests for biomass
fuel, including pellet manufacture, adds net carbon to the atmosphere.
Net carbon dioxide emissions from bioenergy facilities exceed those
from fossil fuels for decades even when biomass is sourced from
fast-growing forest plantations
Energy resources provided by forest
biomass cannot be increased to provide a meaningful amount of energy
without significantly increasing carbon dioxide emissions.
Leading climate change scientists call
for immediate carbon dioxide reductions of 2 to 3 percent per year to
avert the worst impacts of global climate change.
A net carbon dioxide increase at this
time from biomass harvesting and burning may accelerate climate change
impacts and make it difficult or impossible to meet CO2
reduction targets of 80% by 2050.
A typical utility-scale, electricity-only
power station using forest or woody biomass as fuel:
Generates electricity at less than 25%
efficiency, or less than a typical coal-fired power plant.
Emits 1.5 times as much operational CO2
than coal per unit of energy generated.
Emits 3 to 4 times as much operational
CO2 than natural gas per unit of energy generated.
Has the potential for profound impacts
on local and regional air and water quality.
Burns over one ton of wood per minute,
requiring 13,000 tons of green biomass to generate one megawatt of
biomass power for one year, or 35 tons of green wood per megawatt
With unsustainable biomass harvesting
and consumption, can reduce the ability of remaining and
regenerating forest ecosystems to sequester carbon and destroy
important natural habitats by reducing the amount of nutrients and
woody debris available for recycling in the forest.
Be it resolved that
the Massachusetts Sierra Club hereby:
Opposes biomass energy generation
processes that contribute to the destruction of existing forests.
Opposes wood pellet
manufacture that relies on the harvest of whole trees.
Opposes any government incentive or
credit that could result the use of biomass as a fuel source for
anything but the most efficient, small-scale, low-impact and
electricity-generating biomass facilities whose fuel consists of woody
biomass extracted from forest ecosystems.
Opposes regulatory classification of
utility-scale woody biomass as “renewable” or “carbon-neutral”.
Encourages governmental and regulatory
entities to remove eligibility for Renewable Energy Credits and all
similar incentives or subsidies for utility-scale wood-burning biomass
Encourages full environmental review of
all proposed biomass facilities regardless of scale.
Will review on a site-specific basis
small-scale combined heat and power biomass-to-energy projects which
avoid inefficient transportation of fuel stocks by providing
distributed power directly to end users and on lands where they are
carefully monitored and designed as part of a sustainable system
similar to that required for Forest Stewardship Council certification.
Colnes, A., et al. 2012.
Biomass supply and carbon accounting for Southeastern Forests.
Biomass Energy Resource Center,