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Definition of Biomass in Bingaman Bill Excludes Renewable Resources
HEMPHILL, Texas, November 12 – In spite of the “shellacking” received by Democrats as President Obama mentioned during his press conference on November 3rd, following the November 2nd elections, it would appear that “politics as usual” still continue to stand in the way of energy independence, promoting job growth and stimulating a renewable energy economy, according to the American Loggers Council (ALC).
“On September 22nd, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced Senate Bill S. 3813 which basically omitted a huge source of renewable resources, woody biomass, from being considered as part of any renewable energy future if the definition included in the bill is allowed to stand,” according to Danny Dructor, Executive Vice President for the ALC.
“Woody biomass is not the cutting down of old-growth trees,” Dructor went on to say. “A sustainable biomass industry will keep our forests healthy and provide clean energy jobs in rural forest-dependent communities who are staggering under double digit unemployment.”
Throughout the U.S., the closing of mills has devastated small-town economies that once relied on timber harvesting. In Oregon, 30 percent of loggers are currently unemployed and many rural communities suffer from almost 20 percent unemployment, almost double the national average.
Timberland owners have seen the markets for their forest products disappear, and with the diminishing markets, comes the likelihood that those forest will be converted to other more valuable uses, including fragmenting the forests into real estate. “You can’t have sustainable forests without sustainable markets” said ALC President Matt Jensen. “Without those markets, it makes it difficult for landowners to continue to pay taxes and make the investments necessary to keep forest lands forested. Utilizing woody biomass from all sources of land ownership will ensure a sustainable fiber supply, promote forest health, and inject much needed funding into those rural economies that have the natural resources available to deliver to those new markets, all while helping the US to attain its goal of energy independence.”
The ALC urges Congress to change the definition of renewable biomass in the Bingaman bill to include woody biomass from all sources, the same as they did in the bipartisan 2008 Farm Bill. By harvesting biomass in compliance with federal, state and local laws, the nation’s federal and private forestlands will experience huge benefits in the prevention of catastrophic forest fires, preservation of wildlife habitat and the protection of critical water resources.
Whether things can turn around for the logging communities depends on the federal government. “They have to get serious about biomass,” said Jim Peterson, co-founder of the non-profit Evergreen Foundation, and publisher of Evergreen, the foundation’s periodic journal.
“One thing that’s important for people to understand is that forests grow; that’s what they do,” he said. “There will always be biomass, and the collection of biomass could keep loggers going forever.”