Sunday, November 18, 2012

LEED's seal-of-approval forests have illusory benefits

Harvested wood, Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Last month I wrote about the energy excesses of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Well LEED leads (sorry about that) into other blind alleys. Such as using wood approved by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). That sounds great on the surface--but could it be that LEED and the FSC are setting up a green monopoly?

Last week the National Legal Policy Center released a white paper on LEED and forestry.

Ninety percent of the FSC-approved forests are outside the United States. But hundreds of American cities stipulate LEED standards--which include use of FSC wood--on building projects. How will that wood get here? On ocean freighters mostly--which are powered by the fossil fuels environmentalists detest. And those FSC standards? They vary from nation to nation. And in some FSC forests--old growth trees are harvested.

More from Ken Boehm in Townhall:
Unfortunately, environmental activists and organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) seek to enforce a framework where only Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified timber gets recognized as environmentally sustainable. The USGBC's "LEED" program uses a point-based rating system for buildings that awards credits to FSC-wood. This bias means that most wood products procured from land certified in the U.S. are severely disadvantaged; FSC recognizes only about one-quarter of North America's certified forests. The other three-quarters of certified forests – recognized by groups such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and American Tree Farm System (ATFS) – are shut out of the competition, despite standards which are quite similar to those of FSC, and in some cases significantly better than the FSC standards.

The anti-competitive nature of the LEED system becomes more apparent after taking into account that hundreds of cities require LEED standards in building projects. Advocates of the FSC standard influence government agencies to promote the LEED, using taxpayer dollars to favor one certification program over another.
So what does this mean? The green mafia picks capriciously picks winners and losers. American taxpayers lose--as do domestic foresters--many of whom, as Boehm explains, are better stewards of the land than those foresters favored by the FSC.  And the peace of mind Americans may enjoy by funding "good wood" projects will be illusory.

Related post:

Green energy waste: LEED's a loser

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