The Washington Post last week published an editorial questioning the EPA’s direction on new rules that would provide credits for alternative energy sources, including bio-energy and the use of wood pellets as a fuel source. The editorial contends that EPA’s position on bio-energy and the use of wood pellets as a fuel source would result in the mass exploitation of our nation’s forests.
The Washington Post’s argument is truly missing the forest for the trees. The EPA laid out a pathway forward for addressing biogenic carbon emissions that was not prescriptive in nature and that develops a power plant rule to reduce carbon emissions while recognizing regional flexibility with regards to how these reductions would be met. To say that the EPA has encouraged the use of bio-energy and thus the increased harvest of forests is simply not true. To go further to state that the impending result would be the harvest of 70 percent of our forests is a drastic overreach.
The reality is quite the opposite. Cutting off opportunities for private forest landowners to find new avenues for revenues won’t help preserve our forests—to the contrary, it makes us less competitive and may result in some landowners looking for other uses of their forests—including development. The U.S. Forest Service confirms that more demand for wood pellets are a source for energy will result in the planting of more forests. The study, which focused on the effects of the bio-energy marketplace on the inventory of forests (US Effect of Policies on Pellet Production and Forests in the U.S. South, 2014), fund that timberland area increases with an increase in demand for wood pellets as more plantations are established on marginal agricultural land.
Markets for forest products incentivize landowners to continue growing forests for their economic benefit. As a county, we benefit from all of the environmental services these forests provide. If we look at EPA’s framework the wrong way, we put at risk the necessary incentives to sustain our forest and their owners for the next generation.