New Study: Biomass Worse Than Coal (Updated)


photo via flickr

Massachusetts has a law mandating a portfolio of renewable energy, including energy derived from wind, solar, and biomass. But a new study says that replacing coal power with biomass will actually increase the amount of CO2 emitted, throwing a wrench in the state's plan and casting some doubt over the utility of using biomass on national scale and the inclusion of biomass titles in the energy bills now being negotiated in Congress.The study from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences finds that the replacing coal power generation with that from biomass would result in 3 percent greater emissions by 2050.

From the AP:

Biomass has long been part of the state's portfolio of renewable energy sources, along with solar, wind and geothermal energy. The Patrick administration has already invested $1 million to jump-start four proposed wood-burning plants in Russell, Greenfield, Springfield and Pittsfield, as it tries to reach the state-mandated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Massachusetts Environmental Secretary Ian Bowles said Thursday the state is now rethinking that policy, including taxpayer incentives for wood-burning plants.

"Now that we know that electricity from biomass harvested from New England forests is not 'carbon neutral' in a timeframe that makes sense given our legal mandate to cut greenhouse gas emissions, we need to re-evaluate our incentives for biomass," he said in a statement accompanying the report.

The Waxman-Markey bill that passed through the House last year included language that would ultimately create a market for small-diameter trees, brush and forest slash to be used as biomass fuel. Some advocates want even greater federal incentives for biomass, such as woody biomass from federal lands to qualify as renewable feedstock for biofuels production.

Keep an eye on the Senate climate bill to see how biomass might be used and what incentives are given to it.


Annika Krystal of the Biomass Energy Journal sent me this on Aug 38, 2010.

We have posted a response to this report that shows not only that biomass is not worse than coal, but that the report itself says that biomass can pay dividends to the atmosphere and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report and recent EPA rulings are ignoring the line between fossil carbon and biogenic carbon. They dont account for biomass decay emissions that need to be added to the coal emissions when coal is used for power instead of biomass. The total emissions are much higher when the whole carbon cycle is used and not just measurements from the flue stack and the atmosphere.

I hope you take a moment to watch the video and correct this misinformation. We have invited the EPA and Manomet to our upcoming summit to address this issue.

More on biomass:
SCORE! New Biomass Cookstove Also Doubles As Electrical Generator ...
More Efficient Biomass Gasification Through Solar Concentrating Mirrors