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Wood Fuelled Biomass Burning
By: Chris Matera
CORE MESSAGE: Wood fuelled biomass energy is worse than fossil fuels for carbon dioxide emissions and similar for air pollutants. It threatens forests, rivers, and air quality and will worsen global warming impacts. Wood fuelled biomass burning is a false solution to our energy and environmental problems that diverts attention and resources from truly clean energy sources such as solar, geothermal, appropriately located and scaled wind and hydro, and most importantly conservation and efficiency.
Contrary to industry claims, wood burning biomass energy does not reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it increases them. Wood burning biomass power plants emit about 50% more carbon per unit of energy than coal. Additionally, wood burning biomass power plants produce similar or higher levels of other air pollutants such as CO, NOx, VOCs, and particulates as coal plants. Biomass power plants are extremely inefficient and operate at about 25% efficiency. This means enormous amounts of wood are required to produce tiny amounts of energy and in effect, 75% of the forest cut for biomass fuel goes up in smoke. Instead, achievable and economic conservation and efficiency measures, which cost a third of new energy, could reduce our energy use by 30%. Furthermore, already stressed rivers are often targeted to provide large amounts water to cool the plants.
In addition to the threat from large wood fuelled biomass power plants, a multitude of smaller wood fuelled heating plants are being proposed. While a smaller plant may have less local impacts, it does not take many "small" plants to create a big problem. More wood burning in small biomass plants is still a step backwards, and the cumulative carbon dioxide, air pollution and forest impacts of many small plants can easily supersede those of a few large plants.
Instead of moving backwards with more polluting and carbon emitting wood fuelled biomass burning, we need to move forward with genuinely clean energy sources such as solar, geothermal, appropriately located and scaled wind and hydro, and importantly and least expensively, conservation and efficiency.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in public "green" energy subsidies are being wasted on dirty wood biomass burning instead of going to genuinely clean energy sources such as solar, geothermal, appropriately located and scaled wind and hydro and conservation and efficiency.
Wood fuelled biomass energy emits more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than coal and other fossil fuels.
Wood fuelled biomass burning is dirty and emits air pollutants at levels similar to coal and other fossil fuels.
Enormous amounts of forest would need to be cut and burned to produce tiny amounts of power. Instead, achievable conservation and efficiency measures could reduce energy use 30%. Conservation measures cost about 1/3rd the cost of new production.
Public forests as well as private lands are targeted for large increases in logging to supply this wood. Clear cutting would increase.
Thousands of truck trips would be generated mostly on narrow rural roads, and millions of gallons of diesel would be burned each year to cut, chip and deliver the wood.
Wood fuelled biomass burning is not clean and not green, emits more carbon dioxide than coal, and should ineligible for receiving or benefitting from any "green", "clean" and "renewable" taxpayer subsidies and preferential legislation.
REGARDING BIOMASS BURNING AND CARBON
1. Timothy Searching Report, October, 2010 from Princeton "Fixing a Critical Climate Accounting Error"http://www.maforests.org/SCIENCE.pdf
Critical point that Biomass burning of existing forests is not carbon neutral and biomass carbon emissions have been accidentally left out of the carbon accounting process leading to incentives to wipe out forests that will greatly increase carbon in the atmosphere.
"Harvesting existing forests for electricity adds net carbon to the air. That remains true even if limited harvest rates leave the carbon stocks of re-growing forests unchanged, because those stocks would otherwise increase and contribute to the terrestrial carbon sink"
2. Keeton, et al, No Logging Provides Highest Forest Carbon Storage, Keeton: January 2010www.maforests.org/Keeton.pdf
3. Dr Eric Johnson, "Goodbye to carbon neutral: Getting biomass footprints right" July 2008www.maforests.org/Carbon.pdf
4. Chris Matera, P.E. Biomass Power Plant Emissions Carbon Calc
5. Dr. Mary Booth, Biomass Briefing:www.maforests.org/DrBooth.pdf
REGARDING BIOMASS BURNING AND HEALTH EFFECTS
Mass Medical Society Opposes Biomass:www.maforests.org/MassMed.pdf
Mass Medical Society Opposes Biomass, Part 2:www.maforests.org/Doctors2.pdf
Hampshire District Medical Society:www.maforests.org/HDMS.pdf
Physicians For Social Responsibility:www.maforests.org/PSR.pdf
Dr. William Sammons:www.maforests.org/Sammons.pdf