Saturday, November 30, 2013

41 Scientists Warn Obama Admin Against Burning Trees to Produce Electricity

Wood Pellets (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to enlarge.
This week 41 leading scientists sent a letter the the Environmental Protection Agency calling on the agency to use caution when determining what biomass — wood or plant materials — to use for power plants.  The letter states that burning trees to produce electricity increases carbon emissions and contributes to air pollution.  Burning other biomass, such as perennial grasses or harvest residues that can either regrow quickly or are not needed for other purposes, is quite different from burning forests.

While the biomass industry argues that since trees grow back they offer a carbon neutral form of energy, recent research shows that burning trees for electricity is highly inefficient. An analysis from the National Resources Defense Council states that, “By substituting trees for coal, power plants avoid fossil-fuel carbon emissions”:

“But trees are approximately half water by weight, which means they contain less potential energy per unit of carbon emissions than coal and other fossil fuels do.  In other words, to get the same amount of energy from trees as from fossil fuels, many more trees have to be burned, resulting in 40 percent more carbon emissions at the smokestack per unit of energy generated.  And even if trees are replanted immediately, it takes many decades for a tree to grow and absorb all the carbon released from the burning of just one tree.”

41 Scientists Warn Obama Admin Against Burning Trees to Produce Electricity

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