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The Biomass Question

OPB | Feb. 22, 2011 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:54 p.m.

Like timber before it, some view biomass as more than just trees - it offers the promise of new jobs and a different approach to forest management. In the Northwest the process of converting energy from organic materials begins with wood, and as some lawmakers see it, ends with Oregon being a world leader in a new form of energy.

2011 has been a good year for biomass proponents so far. Oregon lawmakers from both sides of the aisle praised a three-year extension by the Environmental Protection Agency to allow biomass development to continue without tough restrictions. Governor Kitzhaber supports biomass as a renewable energy source, and has put the implementation of biomass high on his agenda. Negotiations have been going on for months about a plan to convert Portland General Electric’s Boardman power plant from being coal-fired to burning biomass.

However, not everyone sees biomass as a sustainable source of energy. Some worry that biomass leads to deforestation. Others have concerns that biomass may emit more greenhouse gasses than coal.

Oregon faces a $3.5 billion budget shortfall, but state officials see the renewable energy market - including biomass -  as something worth investing in.

Should more taxpayer money be dedicated to a future in biomass? What do you think are the promises and consequences of biomass? What should lawmakers consider about the science and ecnonomy of biomass?

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