Biomass FAQ

By KHADIJAH M. BRITTON  |  August 31, 2011

Under ideal conditions, it still takes 60 to 90 years for a biomass power system to be on balance with the carbon dioxide emitted in a gas thermal system, and, at minimum, 10 to 30 years to be on par with oil. This is not how long it takes to get to carbon neutrality — it's just how long it takes a biomass plant to match the pollution levels of our existing power supplies. That, again, is based on optimistic calculations, assuming these biomass plants achieved at least 70 percent efficiency.

However, the most recent regulations proposed by the state allow biomass power plants to burn at a mere 40 to 60 percent efficiency, and let biomass companies claim 40 percent of a wood harvest as biomass-eligible, as opposed to the 15 percent agreed upon in the initial regulations. With these numbers, biomass is unlikely to ever reach coal-level emissions, let alone achieve carbon neutrality.

Khadijah M. Britton is founder and CEO of BetterBio, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to empowering disenfranchised communities with information they need to lead healthy and successful lives. She can be reached at kmb@betterbio.org.

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