Improbable Senate Alliance Could Create an American Waste Biomass Energy Industry

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Freshman Democratic Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Jean Shaheen (D-NH) have been joined by Republican Senators Mike Crapo(D-ID) and Lisa Murkowski (D-K) in announcing breakthrough bipartisan support for a little-utilized form of renewable energy, with major implications for greenhouse gas reductions in the US in the American Renewable Biomass Heating Act.


Their legislation would expand the use of waste biomass in high-efficiency heating systems in commercial and industrial buildings, Brighter Energy reports, by expansion of 30% tax credits to exceed the $1,500 limit, and to extend past the current expiration date of 2013.

Previously both Republicans had joined the now routine minority filibuster to prevent  extending expiring renewable energy tax credits, not once but twice, both voted no on ensuring that when fuel is defined as renewable that it not hurt the environment, and both filibustered against tax credits for renewable biomass, in particular.

As currently passed, the limited, filibuster-hurdling smaller tax credit only really helps homeowners to install a small pellet stove in a home, because the 30% tax credit maxes out at $1,500 and even that only for just the next three years.

Expanding the low incentive and the limited time-frame would have a major impact because large commercial users require larger capital investment and longer planning times. This would create a US market for innovation in commercial-scale biomass heating systems, and reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas production.

Very innovative large-scale biomass thermal technology is already widely deployed in Europe and contributing to the low EU carbon footprint, jump-started by post-Kyoto cap and trade  incentives. Currently, the UK is eyeing our vast resources of renewable waste biomass.

To qualify for the proposed tax credit, waste biomass boilers and furnaces would have to operate at a 75% efficiency level or greater while providing space heating, air conditioning, domestic hot water or industrial process heat.

Just how incredible is this unlikely alliance?  Senator Murkowski (R-AK)  is the Senator filing a suit against the EPA for limiting greenhouse gas by polluters.  Senator Shaheen (D-NH) was shortlisted as VP by Al Gore during his run for president.

But yesterday Senator Crapo (R-ID) noted correctly that “prioritizing renewable wood fuels would help reduce US dependence on foreign oil” and would “help the timber industry and rural communities” and that “a third of building energy consumption is to generate heat.”

What are the implications for climate legislation? Only two more minority votes are needed to allow the majority to pass good renewable energy legislation in spite of the unprecedented and unethical recent misuse of the filibuster. Collins and Snowe of Maine have consistently sided with Democrats on environmental legislation, but unfortunately, the two other Republican YEA voters were voted out in 2008.

This alliance replaces those two lost votes, on at least one form of renewable energy.

Sadly, waste biomass is becoming an especially abundant resource across many states because our pine forests are dying, because the pine bark beetle now survives each decade’s warmer winter, as just one result of ecosystem destabilization, due to climate change.

Image: Flikr user earthrhythms

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5 thoughts on “Improbable Senate Alliance Could Create an American Waste Biomass Energy Industry

  • We at Green Power Inc for now over 2 Years built and operate a Full Scale System converting all forms of Waste which have Hydro Carbons in it, so nearly everything you throw away with the exception of Metal, Glass and stones into High Quality Fossil Free Fuels. The Fuel can be straight filed into cars and engines, Airplanes etc. no modifications needed. Now you will ask why is this not all over, because of one Bureaucrat in Spokane Washington Ecology Office as he stops us all the way. Other Countries are contracting with us, but in US we are still not allowed to operate full time. We had to lay people off and are asked to move manufacturing overseas, we don’t want to but the local Government actions may force us to do so, so we would lose here in US cheap local fuel out of waste and jobs as well. It feels very bad as we did not take any Government funding to build our system. Our system is ready at full scale and can be implemented anywhere in the world it can give countries fuel and energy independence out of local resources at a much lower price than regular fuel on the Market.

    • We have the solution we believe check us out at or on our website

    We did it without Government help and we have it working to prove our claim, on full scale not just lab scale ideas. Why spend billions of government funding to develop something when we already have it.

    Your Green Power Inc Team

    And Garbage we have all over the world enough to do it!

  • So after they cut down all the pines, what will they do?

    I know the trees are “dead men walking”… but what is the plan after those trees are felled and shredded?

    What do they plan to replant, because lets be honest, in large areas we’re going to see nothing but clear-cuts.

    The deal with getting these trees out of the area is to cut them NOW, April/May is the time frame when the beetles emerge and look for new trees.

    Once trees are removed the areas should also be treated with Verbenone pouches, present in sufficient concentration, verbenone signals incoming beetles that the target tree is too crowded to accommodate more beetles.

  • The problem with biomass is that you’re still burning it, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere and thereby contributing to climate change.

  • Hi,

    “would expand the use of waste biomass in high-efficiency heating systems in commercial and industrial buildings”

    There is no such thing as “waste biomass”. Biomass builds soil. A more accurate description is agricultural strip-mining.

Comments are closed.