April 02, 2009

Wyden Urges End to Ban on Using Forest Waste for Alternative Fuels

Oregon Senator calls current policy "myopic"

Washington, D.C. - As a way of reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, Senator Ron Wyden is urging Congress to change "the current myopic policies" that prohibit the use of biomass taken from federal lands for renewable fuel.

"Right now, instead of being part of the solution to our nation's dependence on foreign oil, biomass from federal lands is allowed to build up in the woods or worse become fuel for catastrophic fires." Wyden said in testimony on Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee. "Instead of being part of the path to energy independence, biomass on federal lands is creating a problem for forest management and communities that border on federal forests."

Current law prohibits material such as small diameter trees, limbs and debris removed from federal forests through thinning or other efforts to increase forest health and reduce forest fires from being used to create alternative forms of energy.

"Nothing is more critical for our nation's energy security than ensuring that the billions of gallons of renewable fuels required by the Energy Independence and Security Act make their way into America's fuel tanks," Wyden told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety. "My concern is that this effort could literally run out of gas if important sources of renewable fuel are off-limits. But that's the situation we're facing today, because current law excludes the use of biomass from federal lands for renewable fuel."

Wyden has introduced legislation that would allow woody biomass from federal lands to become part of the solution to America's energy problems. The bill would:

• Expand the universe of biomass that can be used for fuel, helping pay for programs to reduce dangerous levels of dead and dying trees that fuel wildfires.

• Thin unhealthy, second growth forests, providing low-carbon fuels to address climate change.

Create jobs in rural communities in increasingly difficult economic times.