Finance, Geography, & Sustainability Speaker Series: Bioenergy Emissions: Are There Alternative Facts?

Bioenergy has entered the renewable energy strategy for addressing climate change. It contributes the largest fraction of renewable energy world wide, and is 60% of the renewable portfolio in the European Union. However, bioenergy is a high carbon emitting renewable with thermal carbon emission intensity comparable to coal. Yet the EU and most US states count bioenergy emissions as having zero emissions. The US Congress attempted to implement a carbon neutral amendment for forest bioenergy that is used in electric power generation. That was challenged by a group of 65 scientists and three scientific societies, and the energy bill failed to be enacted. The Paris agreement was facilitated by claims that bioenergy with carbon capture and storage could assure meeting the stringent temperature limitation goals although no such technology has been demonstrated commercially. There are at least four alternative means being used to account for bioenergy emissions, and they are contradictory. Are these ??????alternative facts??????? Resolving this disagreement and correctly accounting for bioenergy emissions is essential to developing strategies and creating policies and actions that will lower greenhouse gas emissions.