Journal of Environmental Law & Litigation : Vol. 26, No. 2, p. 367-434 : Defining Biomass as a Source of Renewable Energy: The Life Cycle Carbon Emissions of Biomass Energy and a Survey and Analysis of Biomass Definitions in States’ Renewable Portfolio Standards, Federal Law, and Proposed Legislation

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Title: Journal of Environmental Law & Litigation : Vol. 26, No. 2, p. 367-434 : Defining Biomass as a Source of Renewable Energy: The Life Cycle Carbon Emissions of Biomass Energy and a Survey and Analysis of Biomass Definitions in States’ Renewable Portfolio Standards, Federal Law, and Proposed Legislation
Author: Zeller-Powell, Christine Elizabeth
Abstract: Electricity generated from woody biomass material is generally considered renewable energy and carbon neutral. However, this has recently been criticized by scientists, who argue that the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission profile of bioenergy is nuanced and the carbon neutral label is inappropriate. An initial carbon debt is created when a forest is harvested and combusted for bioenergy. Because forests regrow over a period of years, life cycle analyses show that bioenergy generated from whole trees from forests may not reduce GHG emissions in the short term, as is required to combat climate change. State renewable portfolio standards and federal laws and proposed legislation designed to incentivize renewable energy typically define eligible forms of biomass that qualify for these incentives. Most of these definitions are very broad and do not account for GHG emissions from bioenergy. Federal and state laws should incorporate life cycle analyses into definitions of eligible biomass so that these laws incentivize biomass electricity that reduces GHG emissions in the next several decades.
Description: 68 pages
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/11913
Date: 2011


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