Greenwire reported yesterday on a significant new science article on wood biomass energy carbon accounting that will soon be published in the Journal of Forestry. This new and extensive analysis of peer reviewed science was prepared by a prestigious group of forest scientists, several of whom served on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science Advisory Board appointed by EPA to inform its consideration of an accounting framework for biogenic carbon emissions.
The article sets forth four science principles that should be considered in development of an accounting framework. It also helps to clarify some of the confusion about biomass carbon accounting by reminding readers of well-established forest science conventions and norms that enable an accurate comparison between biomass emissions and fossil fuel emissions.
Just as importantly it provides rigorous scientific analysis that informs rather than insists on a particular policy direction.
How EPA approaches its forthcoming accounting framework is first and foremost a policy decision. Elements of the framework, including baselines, timeframes, geographic scale, the use and interpretation of data, reporting requirements, monitoring protocols and other features, are the substance of policy. It is the responsibility of EPA policy makers to apply science to its accounting framework in a way that reduces complexity, achieves efficiencies and helps to make implementation of the framework reasonable, fair and workable in the real world while achieving policy objectives.
Confusion can come from blurring the line between science and policy. For example unfavorable comparisons between biomass and fossil fuel carbon emissions often result from applying policy constraints in the form of time and space parameters to the science. Typically the science is not in dispute. Rather it is the policy parameters posing as science that are in dispute.
We welcome good science that informs good policy, and we are always pleased when that science comes from experts in the forestry disciplines. We encourage EPA to use the Journal of Forestry article and other relevant science appropriately to inform their carbon accounting policy. We are confident that by doing so EPA will produce an accounting framework that fully and fairly accounts for the substantial carbon benefits of wood biomass energy consistent with good science.