Burning trees doesn’t fight climate change
Earlier in 2020 the movie Planet of the Humans put the spotlight on some outdated ideas about biomass electricity generation. Our Forest Defense team wrote this blog post to explain why we don’t support biomass a renewable energy resource. See more about our Forest Defense team here.
- There is still some debate, but consensus of most climate scientists is that tree biomass as a fuel source will result in increased CO2 emissions if we consider a time horizon shorter than ~60 years. Given the rate of climate disruption we cannot wait that long to hopefully restore the forests we burn today.
- When burned, wood emits more CO2 per kWh than coal.
- Theoretically, with a long timescale, burning trees for energy could be carbon neutral, but if we want climate-neutral wood to burn today for biomass we need to have planted the trees 40 years ago on otherwise unproductive land.
- There is an argument that waste wood and brush can go into biomass energy generation, but the high demand for biomass has spurred logging of whole trees for wood pellets, especially in the Southeastern United States. This logging and subsequent pellet production, shipping, and burning, puts CO2 into the atmosphere now when we desperately need to be decreasing overall CO2 emissions immediately.
- Some references for discussions of the CO2 emissions consequences of biomass can be found here, here, and here. This is a complex topic where there is still debate about whether there could be a role for biomass under some management schemes.