Category Archives: air pollution

[NEWS] Is Burning Wood for Electricity a Good Idea?

– by Robert McClure, May 3, 2017, Undark

woody biomass undarkThe idea that to generate electricity should be considered climate-friendly has been debated by scientists and politicians for years. Advocates, including many scientists, ask what could be more sustainable than burning trees? They drink in planet-warming gasses while growing, and give it back up when they are burned — a perfect closed loop with no net emissions. Critics, on the other hand — including other researchers — say the science is much more complicated than all that, and that when managed poorly, woody biomass power could be worse for the climate than coal.

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[OPINION] How Trump Could Save Coal With Wood Pellets

– by William Strauss, March 15, 2017, Biomass Magazine

CoalDemandforPowerGenerationChart-01_14894189956464-300x300-noupThe use of U.S.-produced wood pellet fuel blended with coal in large utility power stations could sustain coal mining jobs, create tens of thousands of new jobs in another sector that is experiencing significant job losses—the forest products sector—and stimulate billions of dollars of new investment in new U.S. manufacturing plants.

By supporting the blending of industrial wood pellet fuel with coal in pulverized coal (PC) power plants, policy will lock in the need for PC power plants, therefore guaranteeing significant demand for coal. This well-proven strategy, which is already in place in many other countries, can provide certainty for the need for U.S.-produced coal for decades, and certainty for U.S. coal mining jobs.

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[NEWS] Is Wood a Green Source of Energy? Scientists Are Divided

– by Warren Cornwall, January 5, 2017, Science

drax_daily-mail

Drax Biomass (Daily Mail)

It took half a century for an acorn to grow into the 20-meter-tall oak tree standing here in a North Carolina hardwood forest near the banks of the Northeast Cape Fear River. But it takes just seconds to turn the oak into fuel for the furnace of a European power plant.

A logging machine—a cross between a tank and a one-armed crab—grabs the tree with a metal claw. With a screech, a spinning blade bites through the trunk. Ultimately, the thickest bits of this tree and hundreds of others from this forest will be sliced into lumber. But the limbs from large trees like this, along with entire small or crooked trees, go to a specialized mill to be squeezed into tiny wood pellets. Shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, they will likely end up fueling a giant power plant in the United Kingdom that supplies nearly 10% of the country’s electricity.

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[OPINION] Biomass Energy Facilities Can Worsen Air Pollution

[Read the opposing view to this opinion piece, “Biomass Facilities Play Important Role in Improving Air Quality,” by Bruce Springsteen, Placer County Air Pollution Control District]

– by Jana Ganion, Energy Director, Blue Lake Rancheria

“Particulate matter pollution” — air-borne particles (visible and invisible) that seep into our lungs and environment — is now a proven, dire health hazard, and an environmental harm accelerant.

We can compare the crescendo of information around the health hazards of particulate matter air pollution to the public’s awakening to — and acceptance of — the health hazards of cigarettes. In the case of tobacco, we proceeded from physicians recommending smoking, to understanding that it absolutely causes cancer.

The certainty regarding the dangers of particulate matter air pollution has reached the same point: there is no doubt it damages health — from worsening asthma, to heart and lung disease, to shortened lifespans, and death.

Just type “particulate matter health” in your favorite internet search engine and glance at recommendations from non-partisan, trusted agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control, the Mayo Clinic, the World Health Organization, the Environmental Protection Agency , State of New York, and many others.

In an interesting recent article from the Wall Street Journal, “Does Poor Air Quality Hurt Stock-Market Returns?”, economist researchers from both Columbia University and University of Ottawa found that on bad-air days in New York City, when 2.5 micron particulate matter (PM2.5, invisible particles most dangerous to human health) were at high levels, stock market prices went down by ~12%. It seems that when people can’t breathe well, they get “risk averse.”

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[OPINION] Biomass Facilities Play Important Role in Improving Air Quality

[Read the opposing view to this opinion piece, “Biomass Energy Facilities Can Worsen Air Pollution,” by Jana Ganion, Blue Lake Rancheria]

– by Bruce Springsteen, Compliance and Enforcement Manager, Placer County Air Pollution Control District

California biomass power plants provide an alternative to the open pile burning of woody forest and agricultural wastes as a means of disposal. By utilizing this significant renewable resource for clean and efficient power generation, biomass power plants avoid the significant air pollution from open pile burning and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Presently California’s 22 biomass power plants, with individual capacity ranging from 10-50 MW, produce 530 MW of renewable and reliable baseload (24/7) electricity. Much of the biomass fuel for these plants is woody waste that is the byproduct of the sustainable management of California’s highly productive: (1) fruit and nut orchards in the Central Valley, and (2) forested lands through the foothills and mountains.

Fruit and nut orchard wastes include annual tree prunings and periodic removal of over-mature trees. Forest wastes – small diameter tree stems, tops, limbs, branches, and brush – are the product of fuel hazard reduction, forest health and productivity improvements, and traditional commercial harvest. Of concern is the pending increase in forest waste supply as land managers accelerate the scale and pace of fuels treatments to reduce the risk of high severity wildfire and to return forests to fire-resilient conditions in response to tree mortality (Stevens 2016) and the overly dense fuel condition resulting from a century of successful wildfire suppression (North et al. 2015, Dombeck et al. 2004).

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