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The Switch: Biomass

Pete Springer/OPB

The latest in our Switch series takes us to our own Pacific Northwest backyards, and looks at biomass as a source of electricity. Technically, this means generating energy from various organic materials. But the big discussion around here is about “woody biomass,” i.e. trees and byproducts from wood products manufacturing.

Greg Walden recently grilled Al Gore on why trees from National Forests aren’t considered renewable resources in the current cap and trade legislation. And biomass advocates say that burning wood can be cheap, clean, and efficient — if we manage it correctly. But some environmentalists worry that relying on wood for energy will lead to more logging than forests can sustain.

Do you live or work (or look for work) in a timber county? What would biomass electricity mean for your local economy — or your own bottom line?

How much emphasis should be on electricity generation? What about the generation of old fashioned — but still pretty efficient — plain old heat?

If much of our global conversation these days is about how we can wean ourselves from dirty-burning fossil fuels, how clean is burning wood?

And if biomass generation really does take off, can we grow trees fast enough to burn them?


  • Kyle Freres: Vice president of Freres Lumber
  • Kevin Boston: Associate professor in the department of Forest Engineering and Resource Management at Oregon State University
  • Doug Heiken: Conservation and restoration coordinator for Oregon Wild
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