Biomass and the Carbon Fee Laser Talk

Question:  Should biomass carbon be subject to the carbon fee?

Answer:  No. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass is part of the living world’s carbon cycle. Plants use CO2 from the atmosphere to make biomass, and when they die, they decompose, returning CO2 back to the environment. [1] As long as biomass is used in ways that do not put more CO2 into the air than would occur under natural processes, the carbon contained in the biomass is carbon-neutral.

In the U.S., most ‘biofuel’ is corn-based ethanol which has a limited climate benefit. [2] But there are bioenergy technologies beyond corn ethanol that can use farm and forest residues and energy crops more sustainably. These include advanced biofuels methods [3] that could reduce CO2 from transportation – aircraft, ships, and millions of existing gasoline or diesel vehicles – by 60 to 90 percent. [4] Others foresee the potential replacement of natural gas in America’s pipelines with renewable biomethane. [5]

Furthermore, under H.R.763, fossil energy used in many stages of the biomass supply chain – e.g., fertilizer manufacture, electricity, transportation fuels – will be subject to the carbon fee, and thus those carbon costs will be reflected in the product price.

There are legitimate concerns that a carbon fee could unintentionally lead to land use practices that harm biodiversity or habitat protection. For that reason, H.R.763 mandates that the National Academy of Sciences study and report on the environmental impacts of bioenergy within 10 years of the enactment of the bill.

Without a proper role for bioenergy, decarbonization of our energy systems would be far more difficult. CCL supports the exclusion of sustainably sourced biomass carbon from the carbon fee,  but is also committed to ensuring that the policy does not encourage unsustainable or ecologically harmful use of biomass resources.

  1. “Terrestrial biological carbon cycle.” Wikipedia (17 Sep 2017).
  2. “Ethanol Vehicle Emissions.” U.S. Dept of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center (26 Mar 2018).
  3. “Advanced biofuels.” Biofuels for Europe
  4. Green, D.L. and G. Parkhurst. Appendix A: White Paper. In “Decarbonizing Transport for a Sustainable Future, Summary of the Fifth EU-U.S. Transportation Research Symposium.” pp. 30-60 (17-18 May 2017).
  5. Williams, J.H., et al. “Pathways to deep decarbonization in the United States: Revision with technical supplement.” SDSN-IDDRI., p. 14 (16 Nov 2015).

This page was updated on 10/27/19 at 20:37 CDT.

Send this to a friend

Hey friend,
Please check this out on

Biomass and the Carbon Fee,

I hope you find this useful.