[OPINION] Dear Congress: Burning Wood Not the Future of Energy
– by Editorial Board, April 28, 2016, Washington Post
Senators patted themselves on the back last week after passing a wide-ranging energy bill, a feat that seems amazing given the partisanship on Capitol Hill and the deep divisions between the parties on fossil fuels in particular. But the hype was too good to be true: The bill has at least one glaring flaw that must be changed before President Obama considers signing it.
There is a lot to like in the bill and the process that led to its passage. Lawmakers put aside major points of contention and moved forward with items they could agree on — or at least live with. The bill authorizes hefty increases in the energy research budget. It includes programs to make buildings more energy-efficient. It would harden the electrical system against cyberattacks and make the grid more capable of taking on new sources of renewable power. The bill would also speed approvals of natural gas export facilities, which will not please some environmentalists but is nevertheless a net positive step. In return, the bill gives environmentalists a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which directs federal oil and gas royalties toward preserving natural landscapes.
But the bill also would command the Environmental Protection Agency to “recognize biomass” — that is, plant matter such as wood harvested from forests — “as a renewable energy source” because of its “carbon-neutrality.” This is a rank example of Congress legislating science rather than allowing agency experts to make determinations based on facts, and the results could be very bad for the environment.