Friday, January 14, 2011

Footnote the preceding, They Still Don't Get It Div.

The term "biomass," while it is actually a more general term, is now most commonly used to refer to plant material which is burned to obtain energy. The Union of Concerned Scientists gives a pretty good rundown on that, although it does tend to gloss over potential real-world environmental impacts rather quickly by repeatedly invoking the phrase "if used properly." Even so, one thing biomass undeniably is, is a renewable energy source: You can always grow most trees or plant more switchgrass, for example.

However, that does not mean, especially if we're going to talk about "if used properly," that this can be regarded as good news:
Under pressure from some members of Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is easing up on regulating global warming pollution from facilities that burn biomass for energy.

The agency said Wednesday it needs more time to figure out whether biomass — including farm waste, sawmill scraps and forest thinnings — is really a green fuel. ....

The EPA said it would issue a new rule July 1 to exclude biomass from regulations requiring large polluters to reduce their heat-trapping pollution for three years. That regulation went into effect earlier this month.
The kicker here is that this came in response to a letter from something over two dozen members of Congress wanting the EPA
to reconsider its position on biomass because it can be carbon neutral if emissions are counted as something that would be released anyway when wood rots.
Say what?

Never mind for the moment a big industrial biomass energy plant, just consider one individual family's wood stove. Note I said stove, not fireplace, and yes I do know whereof I speak: I heated my home with wood as a sole source for several years. During that time, I might go through two to three cords of hardwood a winter. Now, one good-sized tree can provide about a cord of wood, so put another way, I burned through the equivalent of two or three trees each winter. We're supposed to accept that releasing that much carbon in a few months is the same, has the same impact, as releasing that same carbon over the decades it would take those same trees to rot naturally?

We're supposed to accept that, even though release of carbon via wood rotting is part of the natural cycle, the natural equilibrium of carbon release and take-up which the environment established over thousands of years and the very heart of the carbon part of the problem of global warming is the release of carbon faster than the environment can take it up?

Now multiply that by as many times as it takes to gear up to biomass for energy production and the answer comes out as say what?

The intent, apparently, was to
sway some votes for legislation aimed at delaying or blocking global warming efforts.
Yeah, I'm sure the practice of backing up and off will work as well as it has so far. Meanwhile,
Bill Carlson, of the USA Biomass Power Producers Alliance, said the decision was encouraging to businesses that have been uncertain over investing in new biomass plants. It would give time to settle scientific debate over whether biomass helps combat global warming or not, he said.
Oh, yeah, "more study." Yeah, that's what we need. Sure. I got news for you, Bill Carlson, there is no "scientific debate over whether biomass helps combat global warming or not." It can, "if used properly." And giving you a green light to ignore your emissions for three years - I should say, considering how these things usually go, at least three years - and doing without even considering issues of what type of biomass or how it is obtained, processed, and replaced, is not "using it properly."

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