Report Ignites Debate Over Biomass As Climate Change Solution

A new report from Chatham House has reignited debate over biomass as a carbon-neutral form of energy. The report, Woody biomass for power and heat: impacts on the global climate, argues that biomass emits more carbon per unit of energy than most fossil fuels because wood is less energy-dense. Biomass’s claim to carbon neutrality rests […]

A new report from Chatham House has reignited debate over biomass as a carbon-neutral form of energy.

The report, Woody biomass for power and heat: impacts on the global climate, argues that biomass emits more carbon per unit of energy than most fossil fuels because wood is less energy-dense.

Biomass’s claim to carbon neutrality rests on the planting of trees to absorb and store released carbon from burning biomass. However the report, written by former US government advisor Duncan Brack, argues that replacement trees absorb and store less CO2 because of their young age, and the losses of soil carbon from disturbance of the forest can delay a forest’s capacity to act as a carbon sink for 10-20 years.

“While some instances of biomass energy use may result in lower life-cycle emissions than fossil fuels, in most circumstances, comparing technologies of similar ages, the use of woody biomass for energy will release higher levels of emissions than coal and considerably higher levels than gas,” the report says.

The report says even the use of forest residues instead of whole trees can result in net carbon emissions, particularly if slow-decaying residues are burnt. “In addition, removing residues from the forest can adversely affect soil carbon and nutrient levels as well as tree growth rates.”

From Ethical Corporation: http://www.ethicalcorp.com/report-ignites-debate-over-biomass-climate-solution

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