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Biomass backlash

Ecotrope | July 24, 2010 7:11 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:48 p.m.

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How clean and green is wood biomass? Here’s a new critique from Eugene Weekly that delves into Oregon’s unfurling debate over whether it’s actually carbon neutral to take wood from the forest and burn it to generate electricity.

Waste_wood_1

Tetris L

Photo of a waste wood pile in a biomass powerplant

The Seneca Sustainable Energy project in Eugene brought the issue to a head earlier this year.

Supporters of wood biomass argue that Oregon has abundant supplies of wood to fuel a co-generation facility, that new technology removes much of the harmful pollutants, and that it’s a step up in sustainably over burning coal or natural gas. Besides, they say, a lot of the logging slash and excess trees in the forests will burn anyway.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and dozens of others in Congress are pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to keep wood biomass in “carbon neutral” status. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden says the industry is good for the forests and good for the economy.

Opponents say there is still too much pollution coming from the plants and that supplying wood for the plants could leave forests starved for carbon.

But fueling this debate is a new system of renewable energy tax incentives – both in Oregon and nationwide.

The incentives steer energy production away from fossil fuels and into the forests. And they shave millions off the cost of developing biomass facilities. How sustainable is that?

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