The Big Green Con

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If you have an interest in global climate change, please keep reading…

For those of you that don’t know what biomass and biofuel is; according to Dictionary.com, it’s “organic matter, especially plant matter, that can be converted to fuel and is therefor regarded as a potential energy source.” There’s an entire global industry devoted to harvesting and converting plants and trees into biomass power for energy and heat. In fact, in 2016, the U.S. Energy Information Administration claimed the biomass industry, which includes woody biomass, solid waste biomass and biofuels, was America’s largest source of renewable energy.

EIA-Report
Photo: eia.gov

There’s only one problem with biomass energy; it emits massive amounts of CO2. So much in fact, according to a report by Dr. Mary Booth of Partnership for Policy Integrity, to provide the same amount of thermal energy, biomass generally emits 50% more CO2 than coal and 150% more CO2 than natural gas.

Biomass is the “Mother Ship” of fossil fuels.

Using natural photosynthesis, biomass is mostly made of carbon, which is directly absorbed as CO2 from our atmosphere. Most of the ancient carbon within fossil fuels was derived from biomass. Essentially, biomass is the “mother ship” of all fossil fuels.


Biomass Industry: It’s Carbon Neutral Because We Said So

It’s hard to believe that America’s largest source of renewable energy comes from a smokestack. The biomass industry continues to be relentless in their pursuit of expanding their “green energy” empire. They’ve garnered a handful of deceptive talking points; asserting that biomass is a “carbon neutral” source of clean energy. The primary reason why they claim carbon neutrality, is because they can regrow trees to offset their carbon emissions.


It’s Time to Call Out Their “Junk Science”

First and foremost, regrowing trees doesn’t negate the scientific fact that the moment their CO2 emissions enter our atmosphere, they’re effectively working as a greenhouse gas and warming our planet. Secondly, biomass produces a cycle of perpetual carbon emissions (carbon debt) because the trees can’t be regrown as fast as they’re burned.

The biomass industry is using natural tree growth as their environmental prize.

To put it simply, if you burn a 40 year old tree in one day, it’s going to take about 40 years to absorb the same amount of CO2 in a new tree. Additionally, instead of the biomass industry being held accountable for only measuring the carbon offsets from their replanted trees, they often take credit for carbon regrowth elsewhere in adjoining forests, under the guise of “sustainable forest management.” This is flawed carbon accounting that the biomass industry chiefly uses to hide their actual CO2 emissions from the stack.

BiomassCarbonNeutral-Art
Graphic: Brett Leuenberger

Furthermore, let’s talk about “carbon neutral” utility-scale biomass energy. For instance, the McNeil Biomass Plant in Burlington Vermont, is a 50MW power plant that burns woody biomass for baseload energy. The McNeil plant can burn 76 tons of wood per hour, which in 24 hours is the equivalent of 3,648,000 pounds of wood per day. Let’s assume the wood is dried, which is generally a 1:1 factor compared to pounds of CO2. So we have a biomass plant that’s capable of producing over 3.5 million pounds of atmospheric CO2 per day; calling itself carbon neutral, clean energy. If the hypocrisy of that statement hasn’t sunk in yet, there’s more bad news.

Not only is the biomass plant emitting copious amounts of CO2, but now we’ve lost the ability of those precious fallen trees to sequester and lock up future carbon. It’s the proverbial “double whammy” for the environment. Now, I want you to visualize the McNeil plant’s carbon emissions in your head. Let’s take it out to a year, that’s (1,331,520,000) 1.3 billion pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere as “unaccounted for” green energy. Comparatively, in that same one year of time, how much carbon do you think the newly “replanted” trees have sequestered? Biomass is the worst of our anthropogenic emissions; emitting more atmospheric CO2 than fossil fuels, and removing vital forests that are already effectively sequestering carbon.

Biomass is the worst of our anthropogenic emissions; emitting more CO2 than fossil fuels and removing trees that are already effectively sequestering carbon.

When you sit back and think about it logically, it’s easy to understand how fast biomass CO2 emissions are stacking up in our atmosphere. Keep in mind the CO2 emissions are ongoing and cumulative. This is only one biomass plant that we’ve used as an example; there are thousands of biomass plants worldwide that collectively spew billions of tons of CO2, and greenwash it as clean energy.

My next post, we’ll talk about biomass affecting ocean acidification. Cheers.
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