There’s considerable debate as to the environmental value of burning for heat or power. I’ve written about it, and we hosted a Science Cafe NH in Concord about it. The conclusion is: It depends. Don’t clear-cut mature forests just to make chips for an electricity plant, but burning wood leftover from a pre-panned cut for combined heat and power is fine. In between, there’s room for debate.

Yesterday the EPA, which doesn’t have the environmental cred that it once did but still matters, weighed in, as reported by The Hill, a publication that covers Congress and the administration:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared Monday that burning trees is carbon neutral. The announcement, made by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during a meeting with Georgia forestry leaders, signals an administrative policy shift that will treat all burning of biomass as carbon-neutral “when used for energy production at stationary sources,” according to an EPA statement.

In New Hampshire, there is lots of argument over whether to continue subsidizing several wood-burning power plants in the North Country; the recently release 10-year energy strategy says they should end, but many legislators argue that the plants are needed to keep the forest-products industry healthy, and it’s the main economic engine North of the Notches. I don’t know whether the EPA ruling will affect that argument, since it’s all about money rather than the environment.


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