Facts Matter

The United States Industrial Pellet Association and many of its members are making new waves on social media through Twitter, Facebook and other mediums to cut through the white noise and spread the message that #factsmatter.
By Seth Ginther | January 28, 2016

Over the past several months, you will have noticed an increased social media presence by the United States Industrial Pellet Association and many of our members through Twitter, Facebook and other social networking mediums. If you have been following along, you know that we have adopted the hashtag (#factsmatter). We chose that hashtag as a beacon of our messages on Twitter because it’s emblematic of the necessity to cut through all the white noise out there and continue to advance our case based on facts, data and evidence. 

John Adams, the second president of the United States and one of our nation’s Founding Fathers, once said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Our detractors in the extreme environmental NGO community should take heed of President Adams’ words. No matter how hard those groups try to distort the facts to their needs, and no matter how passionately they do it, facts and data-driven evidence will continue to win the day. 

Accordingly, we have taken to social media to actively and openly call out proprietors of misstatement of fact, innuendo and uninformed opinion as it relates to our industry.  It appears that policy makers, scientists and academics, both here in the U.S. and in Europe, are also pushing back on those who distort the facts, or cannot provide data-driven evidence for their assertions. 

Early last summer, USDA’s acting chief economist, Robert Johannson authored a blog post supporting biomass for energy based on the facts. In it, Johannson states, “[a]n industry that can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increase forest growth and create jobs sounds too good to be true.  But that is the reality of the emerging wood pellets market in the Southern U.S.  That conclusion is supported by independent academic assessments of wood bioenergy, including a recent study that specifically focused on European pellet demand conducted by researchers at Duke and North Carolina State Universities. Those researchers found that increasing demand for wood pellets resulted in more forest area, more forest investment, large GHG reductions and little change in forest carbon inventories.”

Similarly, U.K. Secretary of State for Energy Amber Rudd felt compelled to openly push back to the Natural Resources Defense Council in November penning an open letter to the president of the NRDC, in which Rudd cites U.K. support for biomass for energy is based on evidence. NRDC and other extreme organizations have long distorted the actual facts on forest markets and sustainability. In the letter, the Secretary of State says, “[E]vidence shows that economic factors also make it unlikely that forests would be cut down for the sole purpose of biomass—it would not be affordable for a forester to do so.  High-quality wood such as saw logs and timber production command a significantly higher market price than residues, which makes high quality wood unattractive and unaffordable for use as fuel. Therefore, market forces, both here and abroad, should mean mixed use of wood continues, with only lower-value and low-quality wood residues being commonly used for energy.” 

In December, the European Commission concluded that U.K. support for the conversion of Lynemouth power station from coal to biomass complies with EU state aid rules based on the evidence presented to the commission. The commission found that the project will further EU environmental and energy goals. In its press release, the commission states that its investigation also did not find any evidence of market distortion in the global wood pellets market…and it is satisfied that the measures will not lead to undue distortions of competition in the market for other wood-based products.

Independent academics and scientists are also using data and evidence to support the benefits of biomass for energy. In a peer-reviewed research paper co-authored by Dr. Madhu Khanna (who is also the chair of the EPA Scientific Advisory Board on Biogenic Carbon), a team of leading scientists, found “across different scenarios of high and low pellet demand that can be met with either forest biomass only or with forest and agricultural biomass, we find that the GHG intensity of pellet-based electricity is 74 to 85 percent lower than that of coal-based electricity.”

Again, the leading scientists’ conclusions were based on evidence.  Indeed, the authors went to great pains within the research paper to point out that the extreme environmental NGO backed “studies” showing increased carbon emissions with the use of biomass for energy distort the data, facts and evidence. Dr. Khanna and her co-authors state, “these [eNGO] assessments were…based on commercially unlikely scenarios involving the use of whole trees for biomass and foregoing high-value uses for timber…”

Noted American author Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “[i]f a man will kick a fact out of the window, when he comes back he finds it again in the chimney corner.” Said another way, facts matter and the more factual data we as an industry put out there, the harder it is to ignore. Join us as we band together and continue to put the facts, data and evidence forward. Facts matter and so does your participation. Follow us on Twitter @pellets4energy and like our Facebook page. 

Author: Seth Ginther
Executive Director
U.S. Industrial Pellet Association
804-771-9540
sginther@hf-law.com