William Stewart, University of California, Berkeley, billstewart@berkeley.edu (Presenter)
Kathryn McGown, University of California, Berkeley, mcgownk@gmail.com


Certification schemes are often suggested to ensure that new products do not have serious negative side effects. While the increased utilization of woody biomass led to the various US EPA determinations on biogenic CO2 emissions, energy use is already the end use of 40-50% of US wood harvests and therefore not really a ‘new risk’. Third party certification based largely on published government reports has often been suggested as an unbiased and cost-effective approach. Our detailed analysis of potential negative impacts in California found no justification for most claims of serious potential environmental harm from increased use. A careful look at a often referenced 2006 government report with first approximations of carbon storage and carbon releases from harvested wood in the US highlights a number of serious over-estimations and under-estimations that are often central to the claims of serious climate risks when wood is used for energy. If the US EPA decides to utilize third party certification as part of any new sets of rules, they should also utilize a ‘trust but verify’ strategy to avoid outcomes such as those with initial acceptance of third party certification of flawed junk bonds in the 1980s and mortgage back securities in the past decade.