A Sustainable Biomass Plant Recycles Atmospheric Carbon

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), August 3, 2010 | Go to article overview

A Sustainable Biomass Plant Recycles Atmospheric Carbon


Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Carol Whipple

I couldn't disagree more with the July 27 column by Lisa Arkin of the Oregon Toxics Alliance, "Burning biomass to generate electricity is a dirty business."

The author plays fast and loose with the words "pollution" and "toxics," and above all misrepresents a scientific study requested by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and completed by the Manomet Study Center.

The Manomet study's authors say that using woody biomass sustainably to produce energy does not increase carbon in the atmosphere. And it has significant carbon benefits over fossil fuels, because it recycles atmospheric carbon.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide is a necessary component of our air, because without it trees or any plants cannot grow. It is essential to plant life. The concern today is not about the toxicity of carbon dioxide, but rather whether we have too much of it from burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas that long have been stored in our Earth's geology.

Unlike Massachusetts, Oregon has a large forest products industry that produces a significant amount of wood waste from making the wood products used by all. A portion of the waste comes from harvest operations, and some comes from mill residues. Manufacturers building these biomass facilities help themselves and others by using woody debris responsibly.

By using woody biomass to create a new source of electricity, we supply the growing energy needs of our community with a dependable, schedulable source of renewable electricity, displacing fossil-fueled sources. Some of these biomass plants make use of the same steam energy to both dry lumber and make electricity, further reducing the need for natural gas.

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