Net Benefits of Biomass Power Under Scrutiny – NYTimes.com

Posted by Trish Riley, June 20, 2010

“…power generated by burning wood, plants and other organic material, which makes up 50 percent of all renewable energy produced in the United States, according to federal statistics, is facing increased scrutiny and opposition.

That, critics say, is because it is not as climate-friendly as once thought, and the pollution it causes in the short run may outweigh its long-term benefits.

In March, a $250 million biomass power project planned for Gretna, Fla., was abandoned after residents complained that it threatened air quality. Two planned plants in Indiana have faced similar grass-roots opposition.

In April, an association of family physicians in North Carolina told state regulators that biomass power plants there, like other plants and factories that pollute the air, could “increase the risk of premature death, asthma, chronic bronchitis and heart disease.”

Plant owners, they say, will inevitably be forced to seek out less beneficial fuels, including whole trees harvested from tracts of land that never would have been logged otherwise. Those trees, critics say, would do far more to absorb planet-warming gases if they were simply let alone.

“The fact is, you might get six or seven megawatts of power from residues in Massachusetts,” said Chris Matera, the founder of Massachusetts Forest Watch. “They’re planning on building about 200 megawatts. So it’s a red herring. It’s not about burning waste wood. This is about burning trees.”

“We’ve got huge problems,” Mr. Matera said. “And there’s no easy answer. But biomass doesn’t do it. It’s a false solution that has enormous impacts.”

via Net Benefits of Biomass Power Under Scrutiny – NYTimes.com.