Rachel Smolker, July 22 – Having spent the past eight years or so of my life fighting back against large-scale commercial and industrial bioenergy, it feels good to finally see the tides turning, albeit slowly, maybe not always for the right reasons, and perhaps too little too late. But consider that in just the past two weeks there have been some remarkable signs that awareness is growing and policies may be slowly shifting. A few examples:
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the EPA, stating the agency has no basis for a three-year deferral that would have exempted CO2 from “biogenic” sources (ethanol, biomass, municipal wastes, landfill gases) from greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act.
The European Union Environment committee voted to cap the percentage that biofuels made from food crops can contribute to their overall target. They also voted to consider default value “ILUC” (indirect land use change) factors in determining the emissions from biofuel production. While these fall far short of the strong steps needed to stem the tide of destruction caused by EU bioenergy policies, they do at least reflect some glimmer of changing opinion.
A growing chorus of voices in the U.S. is calling to cut back the Renewable Fuel Standard. A Senate bill to repeal the mandate was recently introduced. Those calling for repeal may not have the protection of the environment in mind — they include American Petroleum Institute and their ilk, as well as livestock producers and grocery manufacturers contending with rising costs of corn and soy.
More locally, a long-fought battle against the “Pioneer” biomass incinerator in Greenfield Mass., ended in victory for residents who favor clean air and healthy forests over false solutions. Several other biomass incinerators in the state have already been halted or are on hold after regulations were tightened last year.