Viewpoint: Biomass Energy Requires Seeing the Forest Through the Trees
A response to the New York Times editorial board
The concept of biomass energy, the use of organic materials for energy, is easy to misunderstand. We as a society have a strong inclination to protect our trees, and have done an excellent job of doing so—almost too good. Biomass power as “burning trees,” as the New York Times referred to it in its April 20 editorial “An Energy Bill in Need of Fixes,” is a common but inaccurate description of biomass power. A true assessment of the science and reality of the carbon impacts of biomass energy requires much more nuance. The article states, “The underlying assumption is that the carbon emissions caused by power plants that burn wood are canceled out by the carbon absorbed by new and growing trees. But this is a dangerous misconception. Burning wood releases carbon almost instantly, whereas it will take years, if not decades, for new trees to absorb an equivalent amount of carbon.”
Seth Walker, Bioenergy Economist, and author of RISI’s North American Bioenergy 5-Year Forecast, and Global Pellet Demand Outlook.