A Trump Administration May Not Mean Big Changes for Biomass


Since the election last November, everyone in the energy sector has wondered what changes will impact industry under a new Trump administration.

Earlier, we wrote about where the coal industry will go under President Trump. The verdict was clear: even with a pro-coal mindset, there probably isn’t a lot President Trump’s EPA can do to reverse the problems facing the coal industry.

Now, some are wondering the same for the still-young biomass industry. Since biomass is a renewable energy source that has benefited from government intervention and subsidization – and since Republicans have a decidedly anti-government perspective when it comes to renewables – biomass advocates have feared sweeping changes.

For several reasons, though, there may not be any big changes coming down the pipeline for biomass.

The main reason is how biomass is handled now. The industry does receive some consideration from federal agencies – the EPA ultimately decided to denote biomass as a carbon-neutral resource – but most of the advances in legislation for biomass have come at the state level.

This also includes how biomass is incorporated into a state’s carbon emissions plans. Even if the Clean Power Plan is repealed or defeated in court, which seems likely, states will still have the freedom to incorporate biomass as they wish in their overall energy plans.

Does a lack of enforcement or standards at the federal level mean fewer states will significantly invest in biomass? Yes, but the difference should be minimal. States are already seeing the benefits of biomass, and with or without a biomass-friendly EPA, they’ll continue to explore the options biomass brings to the table.

What’s encouraging is the diversity with which states are considering biomass. For example, South Carolina, California, and New Hampshire – three very different states culturally, economically, and politically – have all taken significant steps toward incorporating biomass into their renewable portfolio standards. In fact, they – along with Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota – have actually led the charge.

Plus, biomass cuts across ideological lines. Most states have rich biomass resources that can provide jobs, and if there’s anything that all politicians love, it’s the high profile they receive from being able to boast about job creation.

The final indication that the status quo will largely be preserved actually comes from the work of President Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. When he was in the Oklahoma state senate, Pruitt was the guiding force behind a resolution that called for promoting and developing alternative energy – which included biomass. The measure passed.

A Trump administration won’t be as friendly to biomass as the Obama administration in theory, but in practice, little will change.