How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal

“The biomass power industry is undergoing a new surge of growth in the United States. While bioenergy has traditionally been used by certain sectors such as the paper-making industry, more than 70 new wood-burning plants have been built or are underway since 2005, and another 75 proposed and in various stages of development, fueled by renewable energy subsidies and federal tax credits. In most states, biomass power is subsidized along with solar and wind as green, renewable energy, and biomass plant developers routinely tell host communities that biomass power is “clean energy.”

teesside biomass power plant

Promotional photo of BEI-Teesside, a planned biomass power plant in the UK. The volcanoe shape is well chosen if you consider the pollution that is produced by biomass power plants.

But this first-ever detailed analysis of the bioenergy industry reveals that the rebooted industry is still a major polluter. Comparison of permits from modern coal, biomass, and gas plants shows that a even the “cleanest” biomass plants can emit > 150% the nitrogen oxides, > 600 % the volatile organic compounds, > 190% the particulate matter, and > 125% the carbon monoxide of a coal plant per megawatt-hour, although coal produces more sulfur dioxide (SO2). Emissions from a biomass plant exceed those from a natural gas plant by more than 800% for every major pollutant.

Biomass power plants are also a danger to the climate, emitting nearly 50 percent more CO2 per megawatt generated than the next biggest carbon polluter, coal. Emissions of CO2 from biomass burning can theoretically be offset over time, but such offsets typically take decades to fully compensate for the CO2 rapidly injected into the atmosphere during plant operation.”

Read the report: Trees, Trash, and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal (PDF), Mary S. Booth, Partnership for Policy Integrity, April 2, 2014. Via biofuelwatch.