Burning Wood For Energy Ignites Debate Over Carbon Emissions In Missouri

On an average weekday, 16 tractor-trailers drive to MU’s combined heat and power plant and two or three to Columbia’s Municipal Power Plant, each delivering 25 tons of wood chips. To reduce reliance on coal, the MU Power Plant started burning wood chips in 2006, and the city followed suit in 2008, burning wood chips […]

On an average weekday, 16 tractor-trailers drive to MU’s combined heat and power plant and two or three to Columbia’s Municipal Power Plant, each delivering 25 tons of wood chips.

To reduce reliance on coal, the MU Power Plant started burning wood chips in 2006, and the city followed suit in 2008, burning wood chips in the summer and winter when demand for electricity is highest. MU also built a biomass boiler last year that burns only wood chips.

About 90 percent of the wood chips that go to both plants comes from sawmill residue within 100 miles of Columbia, said Hank Stelzer, associate professor of the MU School of Natural Resources. The other 10 percent comes from whole trees cut from forests within 50 miles of town, as well as residue from commercial harvests.

The Environmental Protection Agency lists biomass, including wood chips and other plant materials, as a type of renewable energy that can help eliminate greenhouse gases. There are questions, however, about whether burning whole trees from forests actually reduces carbon in the atmosphere.

Some people regard burning biomass as environmentally friendly because, unlike coal or oil, trees can regrow and recapture the carbon they release when other trees are burned. Others believe cutting and burning whole trees might not only reduce the size of sustainable forests but also increase the time it takes remaining trees to recapture carbon.

From The Missourian: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/a/175545/burning-wood-for-energy-ignites-debate-over-carbon-emissions/

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