Biomass power companies often violate consumer protection standards with misleading claims that wood-burning power plants are clean and carbon neutral, according to a report an environmental advocacy group has submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) said it also sent the FTC a letter asking the agency to investigate the biomass power industry. The group said the industry makes misleading claims in its advertising and promotional materials, according to a news release.
PFPI based the complaint on an examination of marketing claims by 17 biomass energy companies that biomass power is “clean” and “carbon neutral,” comparing such claims to standards set in the FTC “Green Guides,” the agency’s guideline on how companies must substantiate advertising claims of environmental benefit.
The report, “Climate of Deception: Why Electricity Consumers Who Care About Global Warming and Air Pollution Need FTC Protection From Biomass Industry Greenwashing,” identifies multiple instances of biomass companies portraying their facilities as having negligible or even no emissions, although biomass power plants emit as much or more air pollution and greenhouse gases as coal and gas plants, PFPI said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency and other authoritative sources, net lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions of biomass power plants can exceed those from fossil fuels, and converting coal plants to biomass can decrease power output while increasing carbon dioxide emissions.
“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,” said Kelly Bitov, PFPI’s attorney and the lead author on the report. “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.”