Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new and dismal unemployment numbers. Although the national unemployment rate held at 9.6 percent, the country lost 95,000 non-farm jobs overall in September.
Luckily, President Barack Obama has made a firm commitment to creating new jobs in the green energy sector. During a speech on clean energy manufacturing in August, he said, “We expect our commitment to clean energy to lead to more than 800,000 jobs by 2012.”
Can we really expect those jobs to be created?
As I’ve written many times, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to implement greenhouse gas emissions regulations in January 2011, which will hit many sectors of our economy. After receiving widespread (and correct) criticism that they would burden far too many aspects of the economy with expensive and cumbersome regulations, the EPA “tailored” its rule in an effort to target only the biggest emitters.
However, the Tailoring Rule is just as burdensome as the original regulations and will not only impact jobs and the economy, but will also impact an important source of renewable energy that our country needs. The Tailoring Rule disregards long-standing science and policy — including the EPA’s own policy precedent — by requiring woody biomass producers to purchase the same expensive emissions permits as fossil fuel producers.
The Tailoring Rule is misguided policy because woody biomass simply does not deserve to be regulated like fossil fuels. For starters, woody biomass has long been considered renewable and carbon-neutral in the science and policy communities because foresters constantly replant trees — in fact, they plant 4 million trees per day in our country. These forests absorb 800 million metric tons of carbon each year, which equals approximately 15 percent of carbon emissions in the United States.
The EPA has always agreed. In 2007, they said that there is “scientific consensus…that the carbon dioxide emitted from burning biomass will not increase CO2 in the air if it’s done on a sustainable basis.”
If woody biomass producers are required to purchase the expensive pollution permits, we’re unlikely to see future investment in the industry. We’ll miss out on developing one of our country’s more affordable and reliable forms of renewable energy — and foresters will miss out on valuable investment that can be used to replant and maintain the health standards of our forests.
We’re also unlikely to see those 800,000 “green jobs” promised by President Obama. Without investment in the industry, we’ll miss out on jobs — especially in rural communities, where jobs are greatly needed. We’re also likely to see green jobs decline, as foresters will find it more economically prudent to sell their land to developers rather than maintain the forests and purchase the required permits.
In the renewable biomass industry, we have the opportunity to develop an affordable source of renewable energy while maintaining the sustainability of our nation’s beautiful forests, as well as create needed jobs in the green energy sector.
However, we’ll likely only see energy costs rise, forestland depleted, and a continued job leak if the EPA does not alter its misguided regulations on renewable woody biomass.
As an advocate for affordable clean energy, I urge President Obama to stick up for one of our best hopes for affordable clean energy — and his commitment to green jobs — and tell the EPA to change the Tailoring Rule.
Lance Brown is the Executive Director of PACE.