Home Biofuels Good or Bad? An Essential Guide to Biomass Pros and Cons

Good or Bad? An Essential Guide to Biomass Pros and Cons

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Good or Bad? An Essential Guide to Biomass Pros and Cons
Good or Bad? An Essential Guide to Biomass Pros and Cons.

Over 70 percent of Americans say that 100% of our electricity should come from renewable sources.

What do most people think if when you say renewable energy? They talk about solar panels or wind farms. And yet, there are more types of renewable energy that don’t receive the same attention.

Biomass energy is the burning of wood, plants, and animals. This accounted for around 90 percent of the total energy in the United States until the mid-1800s.  

Biomass energy is increasingly promoted as an important energy source for the future. Do you want to learn more about the biomass pros and cons? Check them out below!

The 5 Biomass Pros

People sing the praises of biomass, but why? What’s so great about burning organic matter to produce energy?  

1. It’s a Renewable Source

Fossil fuels were formed hundreds of millions of years ago. That’s hardly renewable if we have to wait this long for more coal, oil, or gas to burn.

Plants, wood, and animals are always going through the cycle of growth and decay. In this sense, they’re renewable. 

You can plant certain types of tree, wait until they grow big and strong. After they die, they can be burned for biomass.

Sure, some organic matter takes more time than others, but the principle stands. This means that unlike other forms of energy, we can never really run out of biomass products to burn. We can always grow more!

2. We’re Running Out of Fossil Fuels

Why do we need to switch to renewable energy, anyway? 

The rate of expansion for the world’s solar and wind power is incredible. Despite this, renewable energy only makes up a fraction of the world’s total energy. Up to 80 percent of the world’s energy still comes from the burning of fossil fuels.

We don’t know when, but many experts think we’ll run out of fossil fuels to burn eventually. We need to increase reliance on alternative forms of energy.

Can wind and solar do it alone? Probably not, which is why biomass energy could play an important role in the future of energy. 

3. Help Fight Climate Change 

The problem with fossil fuels isn’t only that we’re running out of them either. They’re also the main contributor to climate change. 

The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, which causes dramatic changes in the global environment.

Many experts say that biomass is carbon neutral. The process of photosynthesis causes plants to absorb CO2 (a major greenhouse gas).

The burning of plants releases the CO2 into the atmosphere. However, this CO2 is subsequently re-absorbed by new plants, which the industry would have to plant to keep a sustainable fuel source. 

Therefore, this cycle ensures that no further CO2 gets released into the atmosphere to worsen the consequences of global warming. While it doesn’t do away with carbon emissions, it does attempt to keep them neutral in the long run. 

4. Burning Plant Waste Could Reduce Waste

Humans produce and waste too much stuff. A lot of our waste ends up in landfills

Instead of leaving plant waste to rot away, we could burn it to produce energy. This also reduces the amount of waste and eases the burden on landfill.

5. Biomass is an Abundant Resource

Look around you!

You probably have houseplants in your home and a wooden door. Even the human body itself could become biomass. Pretty much anything you see can be a source of biomass energy.

Biomass is an abundant resource. We can burn pretty much anything, and with the advancement of technology, we could learn how to produce material to burn that doesn’t release CO2.

5 Biomass Cons

It’s not all good. Biomass energy has many critics who claim that this energy source is bad for the environment. 

1. Burning Biomass Undermines Carbon Storage

Biomass includes trees and plants, which both store CO2. This prevents CO2 from releasing into the atmosphere.

When you burn biomass, the CO2 goes into the atmosphere. This doesn’t happen with wind and solar energy. 

The time required to grow more trees and plants in between allows CO2 to stay in the atmosphere. This contributes to the warming of the planet. Most people believe that we need a dramatic reduction in CO2 over the next decade to stop climate change from creating dire consequences on a global scale (more than it already has). 

2. Pollute the Air

The burning of biomass also releases harmful gases, notably carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides.

These pollutants are not greenhouse gases. Yet, they pollute the air we breathe, which causes harm to human health.

3. Expensive

You may think growing plants and trees aren’t expensive. But, there is a lot more to biomass energy production than the growing of plants. 

The power plants are costly to construct. The operating costs may also be higher than other energy options. There are also storage costs involved before the biomass products get converted into energy. 

This could make biomass energy more expensive compared with other kinds of energy production. 

4. Not All Year Round

We can’t grow biomass products to burn year-round. During the winter, most crops won’t grow unless countries work together to form biomass partnerships. Countries in one hemisphere would have to rely on nations in the other to produce biomass for them during the Winter and vice versa.

We could discover ways to create biomass products in a lab, but that will take time. 

Therefore, this could raise questions about how reliable biomass energy could be.  

Despite this, you can say the same about other kinds of energy. For example, wind energy when the wind isn’t blowing, or solar when the sun isn’t shining. It is important to note that using biomass to create partnerships between nations isn’t new. Many historians believe that trade between nations is one of the primary reasons we’ve yet to see another world war. 

5. High Water Consumption 

Water consumption of biomass products is costly and wasteful. 

Since running out of water is a real concern, this may not be the best use of it. Many countries around the world have a shortage of water; how would they be able to take advantage of biomass fuel?

Biomass Pros and Cons

Now you know the biomass pros and cons. Biomass may have the potential to become important renewable energy.

As fossil fuels are phased out, establishing a strong renewable energy foundation is essential. And yet, from high water consumption to the harm to human health, there remain doubts about the environmental case for biomass energy.

As must as we’d like to see a solution without problems, the reality is that we need to make some tough choices when developing an energy plan. Until technology advances enough to eliminate some negatives, we’ll need a variety of energy solutions to get us away from fossil fuels. Biomass is a part of that solution.

Do you want to know more about biomass heating systems? Check out our blog post to learn more about how you can adopt biomass heating systems. 

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