BPA requests apology for misleading report

By Lisa Gibson
Posted June 11, 2010, at 10:49 a.m. CST

The Biomass Power Association is requesting an apology and a clarification statement from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for misinformation communicated in a study released June 10.

"Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study" examines biomass energy in the state of Massachusetts, but bases its analyses on new forest biomass instead of the waste wood most biomass plants use or propose to use. It's a subject of grave concern for the members of the BPA who do business in 20 states, according to Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the BPA. "The report issued by Manomet on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has generated both a lot of interest, but also a tremendous amount of confusion and misinformation about a very, very important issue for our industry and that issue is carbon impacts from utilizing biomass in the production of electricity," he said.

In response to the study, Cleaves emphasized four major principles of the BPA and its members that guide operations: only sustainable fuels that do not contribute to land-use changes and offer much lower greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels are used; members do not promote harvesting of forests for energy; members fully support use of wood waste and byproducts from sustainable forestry; and members support the use of nonforestry waste from the agricultural industry. The Manomet study completely ignores waste wood fuels for the first 109 pages, Cleaves said, addressing them almost as an afterthought on page 110: "All bioenergy technologies, even biomass electric power compared to natural gas electric, looks favorable when biomass waste wood is compared to fossil fuel alternatives."

"It assumes, we think, that in order to support the growth initiative in Massachusetts, that the chopping of trees has to occur to produce an adequate amount of fuel to support these facilities," Cleaves said of the study. But that's not the fuel used by existing or proposed facilities in the country.

"We want the commonwealth and Manomet to issue a statement immediately, recognizing that this study is not about waste wood and waste materials and organic residues that are not generated solely for the purpose of producing energy," he said. "to issue a study like was done yesterday and baldly assert that biomass is less carbon friendly than coal is flatly misleading, irresponsible and not an accurate portrayal of our industry."