A friend who is a very knowledgeable energy conservation engineer disagreed with what I had posted on Dec. 19, 2018, saying some kinds of renewable energy being NOT really clean, so we need better definitions. This friend provided different information. In order to continue informing folks and stimulating better thinking, I am posting some of my friend’s information here.
Here is my friend’s rebuttal:
We should have a discussion about some of the energy projects in your alarmist and inaccurate energy article from grist.org. For example, it disses manure digesters, which are essential for turning dairy manure into methane which then is used to generate renewable electricity. This is one of the best climate projects there is. They can earn environmental credits from two sources: carbon offsets for the avoidance of methane emissions from manure ponds and RECs for the renewable electricity that is generated. Here is an article for more.
Biomass-fired renewable energy projects are also an important part of our renewable future. It is true we must ensure that the biomass fuel is harvested, collected and processed sustainably. Protocols for defining and ensuring sustainability are complicated but this is not new territory and most of these projects certainly are not the evil projects the grist article makes them out to be. For a wood-fired project to be renewable the fuel source must be from a sustainable source, such as forest products industry waste, urban wood waste, agricultural waste, or a quickly growing biomass fuel product like poplar — not a clear cut of virgin old growth like knee jerk articles would have you believe they all are. We must learn to discern between good projects and bad, to critically evaluate the fuel supply and other aspects of projects, and to oppose unsustainable biopower projects, but support those that are sustainable and cost effective.
Here is an article that addresses the complexities of this question well in a way that is easy to read.
This article gives this example of a poor source of biomass: “By clear-cutting forests, even if the land is replanted, the trees will not mature fast enough to handle the carbon released by the burned biomass. ”
And this example of good sources of biomass fuel sources: “If you take a responsibly sourced biomass fuel such as tree trimmings, landscape waste, and agricultural byproduct, the carbon released from a process like gasification is captured back by the trees and plants, continuing the cycle.”
It all comes down to the carbon cycle.
I hope you will retract the grist article. I get very frustrated with well-intentioned environmentalists that oppose biomass projects without understanding the principles of the carbon cycle and protocols for sustainability — and why sustainable biopower projects are an important part of our renewable future if we are to have any hope of averting climate disaster.
We need not to perpetuate simplistic thinking about biopower. Please help people think about the topic more deeply.
I appreciate my friend’s information. My intention was to help people look more deeply than the mere label “green” or “renewable,” and to figure out what really are the best alternatives to fossil fuels.
Sloppy thinking occurs across the political spectrum and regarding all kinds of issues. Let’s improve the quality of thinking whenever we can. Indeed, although my friend disagreed with what one link in my December 19 post, the other link in that post urged us to do better thinking and to devise better definitions of what is “green” or “renewable.”