Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Life Cycle Analysis’ tag

Determining the Benefits of Biomass-Based Energy

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There are two important points to consider here: 1.Establishing the appropriate methods for the Life Cycle Analysis, and 2. Determining the definition of “Waste.”

1. Life Cycle Analysis:

Will it really take three years for life cycle carbon emissions of biomass-based electricity to be established? It shouldn’t.

It’s important to be careful, but private, public, and academic researchers can provide clear, comprehensive studies in a much shorter time frame, certainly less than a year, unless we let them stick to the typical academic and government calendars where there are no deadlines or consequences for being slow.
Fortunately, some industry folks are optimistic about the recent ruling.

Bob Cleaves, CEO and president of the Biomass Power Association (BPA), the largest U.S. biomass trade group, said the decision “provides a lot of regulatory certainty at the moment.”

“Three years is a long time,” he told SolveClimate News. “During that period, projects that are viable and are ready to be permitted, will be permitted.”

Industry believes its arguments will win out in the EPA review process. “The science is very clearly on our side. Biogenic emissions are far different than fossil fuels, and they’re beneficial to the climate,” Whiting said.

To shorten this from three years to less than one, let the private firms involved produce their own studies. They’ll be fast, and tell the academics and bureaucrats that if they want to be a part of the conversation, and they will, they need to be close behind their industry counterparts, and they will again.

There will be different results produced, but it shouldn’t take three years to analyze these results objectively and decide what is the most accurate method of accounting.

2. “Waste”:

Another important issue is the common use of the term “waste” both for agriculture and forestry (really just another form of agriculture). When the term “waste” used, they are referring to biomass that is not directly used in the industrial processes, such as food, paper, or pulp production.

But these materials, such as corn stover (corn stalks and leaves) or wood chips, are essential to soil health, which is in turn necessary for the future production of the desired products, as well as for the health of the overall ecosystem.

In naturally occurring ecological systems, there is no such thing as waste, as all materials and energy are used in the processes and entities involved.

If all biomass, or waste, is removed from the soil and used for energy or any other purposes, this is not a sustainable system in the most literal definitions of the word “sustainability”: the ability to continue the process for generations to come.

Biomass-based energy provides much promise, so long as we realize that the Earth’s biomass serves essential purposes—namely the sustenance of life and other processes that guarantee clean, healthy air, water, and soil for generations to come—beyond our immediate needs.

No, it’s not simple, but it’s also not beyond our comprehension. We need to be thoughtful.

Relax, then let’s get to work. We can do this.

Is Biomass Clean or Dirty Energy? We Won’t Know for 3 Years

content by SolveClimate

By Stacy Feldman              Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:34pm EST

A recent study out of the University of Washington supported that pint of view. Called Unintended Consequences of the Tailoring Rule’s Treatment of Biomass,  a compilation of previous research, the study concluded that “new investment in bioenergy development will be discouraged and existing biofuel facilities may be motivated to shut down or use more fossil fuels.”

The resource is seen as a particularly valuable in Southern states, which lack wind and solar opportunities available in other states.

For Sheehan and other advocates, the game plan now is to try to put the industry a freeze on growth of the industry until 2014.

“We will be calling for a moratorium on all permitting for biomass plants during this three-year period,” she said.

Cleaves of BPA said “the idea of a moratorium has no basis in law” under the Clean Air Act, which “certainly doesn’t prohibit biomass plants from being constructed.”

Read the entire article here.