Biomass had so much promise. But now it’s about to go up in smoke. Only a few years ago, energy production from biomass had one of the brightest, most promising futures in both the U.S. and Europe. The EU’s 20/20/20 Renewable Energy Directive set a sizable proportion of the 20% renewable energy goal to come from biomass. It looked like biomass was the perfect answer to the renewable energy puzzle. The problem no one anticipated was the smoke.
The trouble for biomass as a public energy source, as opposed to an industrial fuel, started in Massachusetts. In 2010, under then-Governor Deval Patrick, biomass was to become a key component of the state’s renewable energy policy, and it seemed like a slam-dunk. But then public opinion started asking about the smoke. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that biomass was “carbon neutral”, which meant that burning wood would add no more carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere than could be reabsorbed.
What would become known as the Manomet Report officially turned the theory of biomass’ carbon neutrality on its head. The report concluded that cutting down native forests for biomass would not only significantly increase the amounts of carbon dioxide in the environment, but that using forest biomass for energy was more damaging to the environment than using coal or natural gas. That was enough for Gov. Patrick. With public opposition stronger than ever, his office agreed to recommend much stricter standards for biomass plants, effectively killing their use in the state.20/20/20 Renewable Energy Directive, biomass carbon neutrality, biomass pressure, biomass public perception, biomass renewable energy, carbon neutral biomass, Deval Patrick, forest biomass, Manomet Report, public energy sources