Oil on biomass: It’s a good thing

Who’d have thought: the American Petroleum Institute “gets” biomass and believes that state and federal governments need to do more for it – get their act together in taking advantage of this renewable resource and its long-term positive impact on climate change, the environment and the economy.

That’s what API said in its 2015 State of American Energy report. Governments need to resolve policy uncertainties on regulating biogenic emissions from biomass in support of the overwhelming science that shows the carbon benefit of converting waste materials to energy.

“Yet, the industry faces challenges both to the continued success of current facilities and the ability to grow. State policies often do not value the baseload capacity provided by existing facilities. Also, state renewable policies are an uneven patchwork of incentives that have different rules and widely varying values from state to state,” the report says.

We agree on all accounts. The Union of Concerned Scientists in 2012 identified 680 million tons of biomass available for energy and fuel, equal to 54 billion gallons of nonfood ethanol and biofuels, and enough electricity to meet 20 percent of U.S. energy demand by 2030. Bioenergy can provide a more stable energy future, improve environmental quality, and increase economic opportunities.

We also agree that “biomass development is…significantly hampered by federal tax policy …resulting in an uneven playing field for biomass (and) does not offer predictable, long-term incentives necessary for capital intensive, baseload energy projects like biomass.”

Biomass is uniquely positioned amongst renewables to provide immediate economic, energy and resource benefit, and long-term climate change benefit. Getting resource and energy policy aligned to take advantage of this will help ensure the viability of this industry and should be paramount on Capitol Hill as well as state capitols around the country.