Pacific Institute completes GHG emissions study

By Timothy Charles Holmseth
The findings of a study conducted by the Green Power Institute, the renewable energy program of the California-based Pacific Institute, show that biomass-based renewable energy reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and makes a positive impact on the environment.

The study, titled "Bioenergy and Greenhouse Gases," was conducted by Gregory Morris on behalf of the institute and was released May 28 by Robert Cleaves, chairman of USA Biomass. "This latest research by Greg Morris finds that bioenergy production reduces greenhouse gas levels by enhancing forest carbon sequestration," Cleaves said. "Biomass electricity is produced from the controlled combustion of untreated cellulosic wastes, such as bark, orchard trimming, rice hulls and sugar bagasse."

The report concluded in part that, "Bioenergy production reduces atmospheric greenhouse gas levels by enhancing long-term forest carbon sequestration and reducing the greenhouse gas potency of the carbon gases associated with the return of biomass carbon to the atmosphere, which is in an intrinsic part of the global carbon cycle." In addition to the GHG reduction benefits of biomass-based fuel, the report pointed out the benefit of reduced fossil fuel use. However, Mark Maritato, principal of Alternative Energy and Environmental Consulting in North Waterboro, Maine, acknowledged fossil fuels will never be totally out of the picture. "We have to be a little careful here on giving the impression that fossil fuels are entirely out of the equation," he said. "[However,] any time you are using biogenic-derived fuels and not petroleum-based ones, you are offsetting the carbon that could have been liberated but was not." He also pointed out that better forest management practices encouraging optimal forest growth through active pruning and thinning will remove more carbon from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis.

The report also concluded that the value of GHG offsets expected to become available in the next several years should improve the competitiveness of energy production from biomass resources in the future. "Biomass should be recognized for the significant role it will play in providing a net reduction of the greenhouse gas effect," Cleaves said.