– by Robert McClure, May 3, 2017, Undark
The 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: Middlebury College Declares Carbon Neutrality, Thanks to Biomass
OPINION: Middlebury Biomass Not Carbon Neutral
– by Liz Gyekye, March 13, 2017, Bioenergy Insight
Photo: Bioenergy Insight
More than 125 academics have joined the International Energy Agency Bioenergy Technology Collaboration Programme (IEA Bioenergy) slamming Chatham House’s recent report on bioenergy, calling it ‘misleading.
The group of academics from across the world and the IEA state that the report “does not present an objective overview of the current state of scientific understanding with respect to the climate effects of bioenergy”.
They are urging the Chatham House author to “reconsider flawed policy recommendations.”
– by Matt McGrath, February 23, 2017, BBC News
Using wood pellets to generate low-carbon electricity is a flawed policy that is speeding up not slowing down climate warming.
That’s according to a new study which says wood is not carbon neutral and emissions from pellets are higher than coal.
Subsidies for biomass should be immediately reviewed, the author says.
But the industry rejected the report saying that wood energy cuts carbon significantly compared to fossil fuels.
– by Prachi Patel, January 26, 2017, Anthropocene
Many climate policies and models consider biomass carbon-neutral. The argument is that carbon emitted during burning the biomass is balanced out by the carbon that plants and trees sequester. But that understanding is flawed.
Biomass is indeed renewable, and burning biomass or biomass-derived fuels can offset fossil fuel use. However, cultivating and harvesting biomass, transporting it, and processing it for energy or to make liquid fuels all emits greenhouse gases. Exactly how the biomass is used—whether directly or turned into fuel—also makes a difference.
– January 24, 2017, Phys.org
To make biofuels, tiny microbes can be used to break down plant cells. As part of that digestive process, specialized enzymes break down cellulose—a major molecule that makes plant cell walls rigid. Scientists showed that an enzyme, from the bacterial glycoside hydrolase family 12, plays an unexpectedly important role in breaking down a hard-to-degrade crystalline form of cellulose. Surprisingly, the enzyme breaks apart the cellulose via a random mechanism unlike other hydrolases.
Breaking down cellulose is a major challenge in developing more efficient strategies for converting plant biomass to fuels and chemicals. The discovery of a specialized enzyme that is highly effective at breaking down rigid plant cell wall components could be harnessed to solve this challenge.