Yet Another Anti-Biomass Study

Here is me stating the obvious: one thing that the U.S. cannot decide in regard to woody biomass-derived energy is whether or not it is carbon neutral.
By Anna Simet | May 03, 2013

 Here is me stating the obvious: one thing that the U.S. cannot decide in regard to woody biomass-derived energy is whether or not it is carbon neutral.

I think I’ve heard every argument on both sides, backward and forward, up and down, in a box, with a fox. I have also witnessed uninformed protestors sneak in and disrupt important industry meetings, meetings where sustainability, carbon neutrality, and things our industry can do to stop wild fires from burning down homes are topics of discussion (there’s obviously a lot to protest there).

Check out the latest sensational headline of a notice released from Greenpeace: “Burning Trees for Energy like Pouring Gasoline to Put Out a Fire.”

It bases its letter off of what it says is a peer-reviewed study, titled “Fuelling a Biomess.” I haven’t done any studies myself, but it’s probably safe to say that if it’s going to be read and/or respected at all by the other side of the argument, I wouldn’t title it in a way that induces eye rolling.

At least the Manomet study seemed to have a little neutrality.

Said Greenpeace, “The new study contradicts industry assertions that this kind of ‘biomass’ fuel is clean and carbon neutral. The science behind the report shows how using forests for energy can be worse for the climate than burning coal.”

What kind of science does it use? Whether or not trees absorb carbon isn’t debatable. It is not an assertion. It is a fact. From the time a tree is planted, it is absorbing carbon. When it dies, that carbon is released back into the air. A new tree is planted, and the cycle begins again.

On that note, I’ll let you check it out for yourselves. Comments welcome.



7 Responses

  1. Warren



    Yes, carbon is absorbed... But the biomass comes from the soil. The earth expands itself into trees and plants with the help of water and then it keeps itself alive through ongoing cellular respiration and photosynthesis. Coal is condensed, pyrolized plant matter with much more heat potential per pound. If you like burning soil, coal is the best solid fuel the earth has. This debate about carbon neutrality is not scientific at all, nor is it relevant. Even the most basic laboratory can prove that nutrition for a plant's growth comes from the soil and water it feeds on. The laboratory we need is the one that will figure out how to make business and government stop the confusing, politically and financially motivated double-speak. Burning waste is a great idea, especially burning methane producing waste. See for a good example. Stop promulgating bad theory as a basis for change, biomass is less efficient than coal, dirtier than coal and biomass plants are more expensive per unit of power produced. Admitting that, we should look for ways to make more power with less pollution, coal is biomass and biomass, the religion is really too invested in taking power away from capitalists and giving it to governors.

  2. Patty



    Has there been a scientific study published that proves biomass burns "dirtier" than coal? Warren, your arguments would be more convincing if you pointed to science, instead of directing us to your sales website.

  3. D. Suter



    Since when has greenpeace been a credible source for science backed information. Why the need for a rebuttle.

  4. David



    Rebuttal: We should all move into houses made of mud, have zero children, and wait for our carbon to push daisies while we long for the "good ol' days" of having ample energy. Oh, and no campfires either!

  5. Scott Wesley



    K... PATTY, but then I couldn't bring up a zero emissions system such as the one MP BioMass represents? Carbon nuetral just means production of a by-product that balances the carbon they are placing into our environment. Not bad at all...but a zero emissions, or an enthalpies system, where heat generated, creates energy and does so within a closed loop system, prevents any pollutants, even steam from leaving the system. MP BioMass has a bio source system which uses a thermal chemically processed reformation, that breaks down pollutants, converts to a syngas, and then is pressurized at lower temps, and infiltrated with steam to produce methanol, oxygen, and electricity. This all done in an internationally patented system. Yet the real key is our nano-membrane technology, that uses 17 bundles of tubes with 84 membranes per tube inter-spaced that run vertically throughout the system. Add spacing plates that run horizontally, and all is captured. Our first commercialized plant was in 2003, and we are in the process of building and working with the Saudi's on a 2.4 GWe system that will be completed in 2015. An ROI is guaranteed within 5 years or less, and we are insured/ and supported of its performance by the SACE Group. visit us at: for more information.

  6. Robert Gray



    2012 wildfires cost $2 billion to suppress and also cost the lives of 23 firefighters and half a dozen civilians. The $2 billion price tag, once the tally of cost to society, the environment, and the economy are tallied will increase to somewhere between $10 and $100 billion. Much of the material fueling these fires only has one cost-effective product stream - bioenergy - and even then it's marginal economics. The carbon neutrality issue as it applies to the pursuit of biomass removal for ecosystem restoration or hazard reduction is complex to be sure. In some cases it might be carbon neutral but in many others it won't be. However, the benefits of using this material in this product stream have so many other tangible benefits that we can't over look. If we don't exploit geothermal, or wind, or solar, the renewable energy sources most favored by the environmental community, there is no direct cost to society, the environment, or the economy. If we don't exploit the biomass contributing to wildfire threat there are very real costs.

  7. Bob



    I think Warren either skipped or slept through high school science. ALL terrestrial green plants take carbon dioxide from the air and give off oxygen. Nutrients and water are taken up by the plants from the soil. In temperate forests, over the the life cycle of a tree, more nutrients are leached out of the site than are taken up by the tree.They don't get carbon from the soil.


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