Biomass

Biomass is, literally, the biggest flaming crock in the energy business.

He should be consoled knowing that it is a renewable source
What is encapsulated by the hip term "biomass"?  Charcoal, wood (fellow treehuggers, conflicted much?), feces/manure, grass... anything with biological beginnings.  This "green" renewable represents the backward progress of modern mankind to hunter/gatherer technology.  This recent Atlantic article recognized the smog of Athens as the depression forcing biomass (wood) burning.

In essence, coal and oil are biomass.  Millions of years ago they were plants and plankton, and now they are well aged energy sources that, unlike fine wines or scotches that improve with age, we don't label as adoringly as we do biomass. So how is burning biomass cleaner than fossil fuels?  It isn't-- whether measured by CO, CO2, or particulate emissions.

Biomass is not only dirty like fossil fuels, it requires a lot of energy to produce.  In most production situations, biomass represents a net loss of energy, i.e., it takes more energy to produce than is gained from it.

On top of all of these things, biomass represents the replacement of food and water with this dirty fuel.  Internationally, there is a dire shortage of both food and water.  Biomass compounds this worldwide crisis by redirecting crop land into a dirty energy producer, and using massive amounts of water to do so.

Even worse, biomass has contributed to deforestation, exacerbating ecosystem changes and loss of habitat for many species.  Dependency on biomass has also been linked to climate change.

Yes, it makes little environmental sense, but plants are being built nationwide in the U.S. with tax subsidies because they help meet "renewables" portfolio standards.  They also make little financial sense, but that is where the host of state and federal tax credits or other incentives come in.

The world is deciding between harnessing the energy of the atom, developed by the smartest minds of the modern age (like Einstein), and reverting to the technology of a caveman.




9 comments

  1. I have never understood the bio-equivalency of burning in 30 seconds what took 30 years to grow. "Kinetics", anyone?

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    1. Arguably, fission releases in femtoseconds what has remained untouched for 4.6 billion years or so... not that we should care.  If we don't use it, it'll go to waste.

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    2. Or, consider breeder reactors which *create* fissile elements while producing energy.

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  2. Nothing wrong with using biomass-- if its biowaste from urban and rural environments. But purposely growing crops for energy by using fertilizers from fossil fuels is clearly not carbon neutral.

    The best way to use biowaste is to convert it into methanol which can be converted into gasoline or used by methanol power plants for electricity production.

    Marcel F. Williams

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  3. The point being that the Greens argue that the CO2 released in the burning is offset by that taken up by an equivalent amount of plant mass while growing.

    And emmissions other than CO2 are rarely discussed.

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  4. If we posit that the "greens" have a philosophical or religious agenda, then perhaps biomass makes sense. If they can get enough food production tied up in bio-mass energy boondoggles, it will push folks towards one of their tenets, which is that everyone should be a vegetarian. Drive up the cost of crops, feed for cattle will be one of the first things to go.

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  5. I have to disagree with your article - Biomass will benefit the environment, compared to traditional gases used for heating.

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  6. Thing is, biomass is supposedly greener than fossil fuels out of virtue of not adding to the total amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere. While fossil fuel is long buried under the ground and no longer part of the carbon cycle, trees and the like are already a part of it, so burning them doesn't add to the total amount of CO₂ currently in the atmosphere. I do agree that it's silly to burn food, though. Should stop that.

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    1. Sadly, burning trees and the like are worse than just adding CO2 to the atmosphere, it's destroying something that *removes* CO2 and other pollutants from the atmosphere. Like when you are in a forest, you know how the air smells so good? That is because plants actually remove pollutants. On top of that--trees, by existing, do not add carbon to the atmosphere- although burning them does. So it is doubly worse than burning fossil fuels. Save the trees! Feel their pain!

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