Grassroots social and environmental justice groups,and concerned Vermonters, urged the House Committee on Environment and Energy to eliminate the eligibility of all biofuels for clean heat credits under the Affordable Heat Act (AHA). On Thursday afternoon, 30 community organizations and over 190 individuals submitted a letter to the Committee, as well as the governor and all members of the House and Senate, laying out detailed reasons why biofuels would not help Vermont reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and why current language in the AHA is not adequate to ensure that polluting heat sources are excluded from credits.
Biomass, liquid biofuels, and renewable natural gas (collectively known as ‘biofuels’) are false climate solutions that have been shown to increase greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil alternatives. Fuels like wood emit more carbon dioxide per unit energy than all fossil fuels, and the production of biofuels causes forest degradation and deforestation, harming one of the world’s most important carbon sinks.
“All biofuels are a climate disaster. We can’t be investing in the switch from one polluting fuel to another. We need real climate solutions like weatherization, energy conservation, solar and geothermal,” said Ashley Adams of Burlington, a member of Stop VT Biomass.
The letter presents a host of damaging social and ecological consequences that would come with the use of biofuels, including the degradation and destruction of forests, biodiversity loss, threats to clean water, human health impacts, and the diversion of funds that could be used to permanently lower heating costs through weatherization or electrification.
“Forests are Vermont’s most important carbon sink, protect water supplies, and safeguard biodiversity,” emphasized Zack Porter, Executive Director of Standing Trees. “We should not incentivize cutting them for inefficient energy production that threatens air quality in our communities.”
While the current version of the Affordable Heat Act includes a cap on carbon intensity values that some say would limit biofuels to only the cleanest sources, signatories of the letter were clear that the current guardrails in the bill are not enough to ensure that clean heat credits are actually low carbon.
“The carbon intensity caps don’t come close to addressing the harms of biofuels,” said Chris Gish, member of Stop VT Biomass. “They are far too lenient, don’t include wood, and can even be waived after 2030. And with the Seneca Meadows case, the PUC has already shown they will accept wildly inaccurate emissions estimates for biofuels.”
Signatories including Building a Local Economy (BALE Vermont), Rural Vermont, and Lake Champlain International also urged Vermont to account for biogenic and full lifecycle emissions in all state climate policy. Currently, the AHA does ask the PUC to include biogenic and lifecycle emissions, but most other policy, including the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Pathways 2.0 study and MACC analysis that the AHA is based on, do not account for biogenic emissions, a contradiction that could be resolved by including biogenic and lifecycle emissions in all accounting.
About Stop VT Biomass. Stop VT Biomass is a newly organized, all-volunteer group fighting to keep forests ecosystems healthy and combustion-based technologies out of Vermont climate policy.
About Standing Trees. Based in Montpelier, VT, Standing Trees is a community of forest defenders working to protect and restore New England’s public lands.
Categories: Press Release