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The Commons
Voices / Letters from readers

An accounting error, so to speak

Originally published in The Commons issue #425 (Wednesday, September 13, 2017). This story appeared on page E2.

RE: “Balking at biomass” [The Arts, Sep. 6]:

I should have known better than to include, in my review of the new documentary Burned, a sentence with the word “accounting” in it.

Specifically, the “faulty accounting” discovered by folks at Princeton University is that the carbon cost of cutting and chipping and transporting wood for biomass fuel is the only cost figured into the carbon accounting. Pollution from biomass burning smokestacks was not and is not being figured into the calculations.

As Mary Boone, director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity), said in the film: “The carbon accounting framework that they use only accounts for the emissions that are associated with harvesting and transport. But they would not count the [carbon dioxide] that’s emitted by burning it at the stack. And this was identified as the critical climate accounting error in the Tim Searchinger et al. paper, which was so important in getting this conversation started.”

Arlene Distler


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