Canadian Biomass Magazine

Proposed U.S. legislation aims to power electric cars with renewable electricity from forest byproducts

March 22, 2024
By Canadian Biomass Staff

A parking lot with charging stations for electric cars. Photo: Getty Images

Legislation that would support renewable electricity from forest byproducts to charge electric vehicles has been introduced in the United States.

This week, Congressman John Garamendi and Senator Angus S. King, Jr. introduced the “Biomass for Transportation Fuel Act” (H.R.7609), with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Representatives Jared Golden and Ann Kuster.

This legislation would allow facilities generating renewable electricity from forest biomass like woodchips or sawdust to “finally” participate in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, which forces fossil fuel companies to subsidize alternative energy, according to a press release issued by Garamendi’s office.

“I have long supported a utility-scale subsidy for biomass electricity to incentivize proper forest management in fire-prone states like California. As western states face increasingly severe and year-round fire seasons, this will help to reduce the artificially high levels of biomass on our forestlands due to man-made climate change, drought, invasive species like bark beetle outbreaks, and years of mismanagement,” said Garamendi, a Democrat from California.


“Renewable electricity from biomass helps to reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a clean energy economy. While these measures alone will not solve the climate crisis or prevent all catastrophic wildfires, they are undoubtedly part of the solution. I am thrilled to partner with Senator King on the ‘Biomass for Transportation Fuel Act’, which supports good-paying forestry jobs in rural communities from California to Maine.”

Science-based management: King

King said that sustainable, science-based management is critical to preserving forests — but the practice often results in leftover, low-value timber that can pose wildfire dangers.

“Finding creative new incentives to keep this biomass off our forests’ floors is integral to the success of our state’s forest products industry and economy,” said King, co-chair of the Senate Working Forests Caucus who sits as an Independent.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program already includes forest biomass as part of the program, and the Biomass for Transportation Fuels Act simply requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fully implement that law and ensure that biomass gets the same treatment as other sources included in the RFS. A more efficient RFS approval process means forest producers are more easily able to dispose of low value timber through the RFS, turning it into alternative fuels. This commonsense legislation is a win-win that will create more renewable fuel and reduce a safety risk.”

EPA hasn’t approved a single biomass electricity facility under RFS

In passing the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Congress made electricity from renewable biomass — including waste-to-energy from separated yard or food waste — eligible under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the release said.

Despite years of Congressional urging, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has yet to approve a single biomass electricity facility under the program. Some pending applications for biomass electricity have been pending for nearly a decade, it said.

The “Biomass for Transportation Fuel Act” (H.R.7609) would:

  • Fully implement the eligibility for electricity generated from renewable biomass (including biogas) under the RFS program, provided by Congress in 2007.
  • Direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to approve the pathway for renewable electricity from biomass, only those feedstocks already eligible under the RFS (agricultural waste; forest byproducts; municipal/commercial food waste, etc.).
  • Make biomass (hazardous fuels for wildfires) removed from federal forestlands eligible under the RFS. Current law only allows for biomass collected from non-federal lands, including privately owned land, state or locally owned public lands, and tribal land held in trust by the federal government.

Endorsing organizations

The following organizations have endorsed the “Biomass for Transportation Fuel Act” (H.R.7609): RFS Power Coalition, Biomass Power Association, American Biogas Council, Waste to Energy Association (WTEA), National Association of State Foresters, American Loggers Council, National Alliance of Forest Owners, Business Council for Sustainable Energy, California Biomass Energy Alliance, Milk Producers Council (of California), New York Bioenergy Association, Michigan Biomass (Coalition), Associated California Loggers, Associated Oregon Loggers.

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