Friday, July 1, 2011

Is the EPA targeting green energy now?

November 9, 2010 by Shawn Millerick  
Filed under Energy & Environment

Environmental policies like cap-and-trade remain controversial, but policymakers of all stripes agree on the imperative to find alternative sources of energy. Reasons given range from concern about climate change to national security, but they all lead to the same conclusion – that the pressure is on to find clean, affordable, and plentiful alternatives to fossil fuels.

While energy alternatives like solar and wind catch flack for being prohibitively expensive, one of the most promising sources of both renewable energy and green jobs is wood waste biomass. 90 percent of the wood products used to produce biomass energy are by-products of forestry that would otherwise decompose and release harmful greenhouse gases. Wood waste biomass has been widely recognized as a carbon-neutral energy source by experts both in the U.S. and internationally, and has the potential to compete with oil and coal in terms of ease and cost of production. Problem is, biomass is coming under fire from the EPA through a set of arbitrary new rules, according to a recent op-ed in the Worcester Telegram.

Congressional inaction on climate legislation has prompted the Obama administration to start pushing some reforms through via the EPA. One of these reforms is the new “Tailoring Rule,” which essentially relegates renewable biomass producers to the status of large-scale polluters by forcing them to comply with draconian Clean Air Act regulations, even though the EPA lists biomass as a “clean energy resource” on its own website.

New Hampshire and the rest of Northern New England are ideal locations for biomass development, with plentiful forests already producing the by-products needed for biomass fuel. Our rural and heavily forested areas, like the Great North Woods, generally have among the highest unemployment rates in the state due to declining paper and lumber industry jobs. The rapidly expanding biomass field has already pumped millions of dollars and thousands of jobs into NH and its neighboring states, and since private-sector companies are responsible for the majority of biomass development, these are real, permanent jobs that are in danger of being lost through excess of arbitrary bureaucratic regulation.

Americans (particularly New Hampshirites) made it painfully clear in the midterm elections that they want to see economic and job growth, not more business-strangling regulations. The administration is shooting itself in the foot by choosing this time to pick winners and losers in the alternative energy sector at the expense of tens of thousands of new jobs, many of them in the nations’ most economically depressed areas. Renewable biomass has science and sustainability on its side, and even has a stamp of approval from Sen. John Kerry himself. If that isn’t enough for Obama’s EPA, then what is?

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