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Carbon Neutrality and Bioenergy: A Zero-Sum Game?


  • Sedjo, Roger A.

    () (Resources for the Future)


Biomass, a renewable energy source, has been viewed as “carbon neutral”—that is, its use as energy is presumed not to release net carbon dioxide. However, this assumption of carbon neutrality has recently been challenged. In 2010 two letters were sent to the Congress by eminent scientists examining the merits—or demerits—of biomass for climate change mitigation. The first, from about 90 scientists (to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, from W.H. Schlesinger et al. May 17, 2010), questioned the treatment of all biomass energy as carbon neutral, arguing that it could undermine legislative emissions reduction goals. The second letter, submitted by more than 100 forest scientists (to Barbara Boxer et al. from Bruce Lippke et al. July 20, 2010), expressed concern over equating biogenic carbon emissions with fossil fuel emissions, as is contemplated in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tailoring Rule. It argued that an approach focused on smokestack emissions, independent of the feedstocks, would encourage further fossil fuel energy production, to the long-term detriment of the atmosphere. This paper attempts to clarify and, to the extent possible, resolve these differences.

Suggested Citation

  • Sedjo, Roger A., 2011. "Carbon Neutrality and Bioenergy: A Zero-Sum Game?," Discussion Papers dp-11-15, Resources For the Future.
  • Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-11-15

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Burton, Diana M. & McCarl, Bruce A. & de Sousa, Claudio N.M. & Adams, Darius M. & Alig, Ralph J. & Winnett, Steven M., 1997. "Economic Impacts Of Climate Change On Southern Forests," Faculty Paper Series 24002, Texas A&M University, Department of Agricultural Economics.
    2. Brent Sohngen & Robert Mendelsohn & Roger Sedjo, 1999. "Forest Management, Conservation, and Global Timber Markets," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 81(1), pages 1-13.
    3. Ralph Alig & Darius Adams & Bruce McCarl & J. Callaway & Steven Winnett, 1997. "Assessing effects of mitigation strategies for global climate change with an intertemporal model of the U.S. forest and agriculture sectors," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 9(3), pages 259-274, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Favero, Alice & Mendelsohn, Robert & Sohngen, Brent, 2016. "Carbon Storage and Bioenergy: Using Forests for Climate Mitigation," MITP: Mitigation, Innovation,and Transformation Pathways 232215, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    2. Michetti, Melania & Parrado, Ramiro, 2012. "Improving land-use modelling within CGE to assess forest-based mitigation potential and costs," Congress Papers 124380, Italian Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AIEAA).
    3. repec:eee:forpol:v:85:y:2017:i:p1:p:192-200 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Alice Favero & Robert Mendelsohn, 2014. "Using Markets for Woody Biomass Energy to Sequester Carbon in Forests," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 75-95.

    More about this item


    carbon neutrality; biomass; wood biomass; bioenergy; carbon dioxide; feedstock; energy; alternative fuel; rational expectations;

    JEL classification:

    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q23 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Forestry
    • Q4 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy
    • Q42 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Alternative Energy Sources
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics

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