USIPA Responds to CNN's Biomass Reporting

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The following was published by the US Industrial Pellet Association in response to CNN's incomplete and inaccurate portrayal of the biomass industry, America's privately-owned working forests, and the rural communities that support the global forest products industry.

We are deeply disappointed by CNN’s portrayal of the biomass industry, which plays a crucial role in the fight against climate change by keeping millions of tons of fossil fuels in the ground while contributing to the broader sustainable forest economy. 

All mainstream analyses show that sustainable bioenergy is one of many technologies that are essential to meet net-zero goals and keep global temperature rise below 1.5C. 

However, solving the climate crisis will require more than rapid and far-reaching transitions to decarbonize the global economy. Above all, it requires unprecedented levels of cooperation that can only be achieved through honest debate that is guided by science and respects the communities and people climate policy is meant to help.  
The space for open minds and honest dialogue is made smaller and more difficult by one-sided climate reporting that lacks any pretense of objectivity, omits key facts, presents half-truths and stacks sources with a single point of view. 

We are proud of our contributions to mitigating climate change, welcome constructive engagement with all stakeholders and will continue to correct false narratives around our industry. On this point, the CNN report particularly misinforms its audience in three key areas that are worth addressing in more detail. 

Scientific Support

CNN portrays the scientific community as being in uniform opposition to biomass, citing a number of critical academics. However, it purposefully excludes assessments by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the world’s leading authority on climate science. The IPCC is unequivocal that sustainable biomass is an essential solution for mitigating climate change and a key technology in its modeled pathways that limit global temperature rise below 1.5C. 

Moreover, CNN spoke with a lead author for the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report for Agriculture and Forestry. Though that interview lasted more than an hour, CNN chose not to include comments from this expert. 

The IPCC’s assessment was recently affirmed in a landmark report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which designates bioenergy as one of “seven pillars of decarbonization” alongside hydrogen, electrification and energy efficiency. The IEA projects that by 2050, bioenergy will account for 5% of total electricity generation.  

Forest Impact 

CNN presents biomass as a dominant, game-changing industry wiping out forests and forest ecosystems across North Carolina, and the entire US Southeast. The data, however, shows the complete opposite. 

The US Department of Agriculture monitors changes in America’s forests through its highly-sophisticated Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program that includes more than 300,000 ground plot stations. Assessed each year, the USDA data shows that forest area in Eastern North Carolina increased by more than 87,000 acres between 2010 and 2018. Overall, forested area across the US Southeast has remained stable over the past 70 years while forest carbon stocks have more than doubled. 

These beneficial trends are due in large part to strong markets for forest products, like biomass, that incentivize millions of private landowners across the region to manage and maintain their forests versus converting them to other uses. 

Further, strict sustainability criteria ensures the EU only sources biomass that makes a positive contribution to the climate and healthy forest ecosystems. These criteria were designed to guarantee compliance with sustainable forest management laws and principles (e.g. legality, regeneration, protection of sensitive areas, minimization of biodiversity impacts; and maintenance of the long-term forest productivity) and that the carbon impacts of bioenergy are properly accounted for under the Land Use, Land Use-change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector. 

Read More About Forest Resources and Sustainability

CNN also repeatedly shows photos of clear-cut forest tracts with the heavy implication that they were harvested for the sole purpose of producing biomass. In reality, only a minor portion of a timber harvest is typically used for biomass. Across the US Southeast, biomass accounts for just 3% of all wood fiber harvested each year. 

Community Impact 

The biomass industry is committed to ensuring our operations have a positive economic and environmental impact in local communities. Our production facilities comply, and in many cases exceed, all state and federal regulations. The industry has also invested more than $2 billion across the Southeast over the past decade, and provides more than 5,000 direct jobs. We are proud to support rural communities that are in critical need of economic investment and meaningful employment opportunities. 

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Source: Forest2Market