March 05, 2009

Wyden Opens the Door for New Biofuels

Washington, D.C. - In a step that will encourage America's energy independence and improved forest health, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced legislation today that would open the door for biomass from federal lands to become a source of fuel for cars and trucks. Biomass is a renewable energy source derived from trees, plants, animal and agricultural waste, and other organic materials. Wyden's legislation would lift a Clean Air Act restriction on the use of biomass from federal lands for biofuel production in the Renewable Fuels Standard. Wyden's provision would provide protections for old growth and forests in national parks, wilderness areas, and other environmentally sensitive areas, while allowing the harvest of non-commercial slash and thinnings from National Forest and BLM land at sustainable levels.

"This bill will keep sensitive areas that need protection from being harvested, but it will open up our dangerously overstocked forests as a whole new marketplace for rural jobs," said Wyden. "Biomass energy production can be an answer to our energy needs, to our need to employ people in rural communities, and to the urgent need we have to safeguard communities by reducing the threat of wildfires."

Oregon's forests offer a wealth of options for biomass harvest, such as the dry understory of forest materials that chokes the state's forests and increases the dangers of wildfire to local communities. Wyden's bill would help alleviate such fire danger and provide job opportunities to rural communities that are struggling with the state's high unemployment rate.

In the 110th session of Congress, Wyden offered a proposal for public comment called the Oregon Forest Restoration and Old Growth Protection Act which includes provisions to increase biomass production for forest health and economic growth. Wyden plans to introduce legislation later this year based on his earlier proposal.