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Policy group urges FTC to investigate misleading green claims on biomass

CTBR Staff Writer Published 30 July 2014

Massachusetts-based Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) has urged the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate advertising claims by biomass power companies that the energy generated from their plants is environmentally friendly and green.

In a report submitted to the FTC, PFPI alleged that biomass power firms appear to routinely violate consumer protection standards and make misleading claims in advertising and promotional materials that their wood-burning power plants are clean and carbon neutral.

The complaint was based on an examination of green marketing claims by 17 biomass energy firms in the US.

All firms are found to have made at least one unsubstantiated claim on low emissions or environmental benefits.

The report found several instances of biomass firms claiming their plants as having negligible or even no emissions, even though biomass power facilities emit as much or more air pollution and greenhouse gases as coal and gas plants.

Citing the Environmental Protection Agency and other authoritative sources, PFPI noted that net lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions of biomass power plants can cross those from fossil fuels, and converting coal plants to biomass can reduce power output and increase carbon dioxide emissions.

PFPI attorney and the lead author on the report Kelly Bitov said: "Advertising of biomass as producing little or no pollution could mislead consumers into thinking that when they join a green power program selling biomass power, they're helping to reduce emissions and address the threat of climate change.

"While the FTC is clear that electric power companies must back up such environmental claims, we found that many biomass power companies appear to violate consumer protection standards."