Is using trees for biomass a good idea?
I point this out not because I’m in favor of it, but because I think it’s a trend worth watching: the Klamath Falls, Ore., newspaper, The Herald and News is reporting on a project to use biomass–namely, thinned trees–to generate electricity.
Here’s what the article has to say about the greenhouse gas effects of the project:
A major wildfire would release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. But the controlled use of that same wood for lumber or electrical production would be positive in terms of "greenhouse gas" emissions. Future fires would not release the same amount of carbon dioxide, the wood that goes into building products stores carbon, and the biomass that goes into power production offsets the need to produce that energy from fossil fuels.
To be clear, I remain skeptical — but since I don’t really know anything about the specifics I’ll keep my mouth shut, and let wiser or more informed people speak.
But over the long term — and if future prices for natural gas are as high as they’re expected to be (link goes to natural gas futures contract prices) — I can’t help but think that the pressure for this sort of project will intensify. And that seems to be a cause for concern. Deforestation rates over the past 30 years have been high enough just to deal with demand for timber and wood pulp; adding electricity to the mix is, well, troubling.