NPR just ran a radio spot and accompanying story provocatively headlined
Is Burning Trees Still Green? Some Experts Now Question Biomass
Elaborating on that premise, the piece notes that some scientists and environmentalists are challenging the "renewability" of biomass.”
“Experts”, “scientists”, and “environmentalists.” Sounds pretty serious right?
Spoiler alert: the only forest scientist quoted in the story offers a favorable take on the renewability of biomass.
Stranger still, the piece references a letter signed by 65 biomass opponents—a mix of forest and non-forest scientists, along with economists, policy scholars, and activists. But it completely ignores the work of NAUFRP, 100+ forest scientists from top universities who just this year reaffirmed to the EPA that responsibly produced biomass has clear carbon reduction benefits.
It’s bizarre that, even with this obvious sourcing omission, the only scientific “expert” on biomass NPR consulted spoke favorably about it, and yet we end up with a headline like “Is Burning Trees Still Green? Some Experts Now Question Biomass.”
NPR owes its readers and listeners better than this. That’s especially true given the most prominent anti-biomass source in the piece, John Coequyt, has a known history of colluding in less-than-reputable ways to grow the influence of his activist group.
It’s also a potential conflict of interest that NPR and Coequyt’s group are both recipients of millions of dollars in donations from the MacArthur Foundation. Given that NPR is currently facing serious controversy over whether its reporting was directly influenced by donors—and that the station’s own ombudsman called NPR’s disclosure practices “minimal to the point of being unhelpful”—the author and editors of this piece perhaps should have given this piece a more thorough scrub for balance and proper sourcing.
The dire headline and suggestion of some surging anti-biomass scientific consensus are simply not borne out by the story itself—even after some questionable sourcing decisions. NPR’s audience deserves better.