Bruce Lippke, University of Washington/CORRIM, blippke@uw.edu (Presenter)
Elaine Oneil, University of Washington/CORRIM, eoneil@uw.edu


Carbon policy discussions frequently advocate payments for growing forests longer, tax credits for producing ethanol, and requiring renewable energy use standards, while ignoring the unintended consequences that are counterproductive to their objectives. Basing polices on simplified models frequently omit critical impacts of one carbon pool on the others. Every stage of manufacturing as well as plant and animal growth modify carbon through many interacting carbon pools. Required is a scientific basis to understand the interactions between carbon pools in order for policy to avoid unintended impacts. Life cycle assessments (LCA) compare cradle to grave system impacts while economics is key to understanding how policy can contribute to or repress carbon mitigation and other non-market values. Economic incentives are generally designed for low leverage uses of wood that will more likely steal feedstock from better uses than reduce emissions. Higher leveraged opportunities are possible but are often avoided as they involve more complex interactions. Forestry’s primary opportunity to reduce carbon emissions depends upon sustainable growth and harvest uses to reduce emissions, not storing carbon in slow growing old forests subject to disturbances. Real policy conflicts between carbon and other environmental values exist, even though opportunity costs to produce non market values can be determined. We illustrate many counterproductive policy attempts in reducing carbon emission while also considering the most costly non-market ecosytem/habitat values. We provide a framework for avoiding unintended consequences. Numerical examples help to lay bare the real costs of alternatives.