Biomass energy may be China's answer to pollution

By Hope Deutscher
Web exclusive posted August 15, 2008 at 11:14 a.m. CST

According to a study published in AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, scientists say China could reduce pollution by as much as 45 to 60 percent by using biomass energy.

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment is a nonprofit organization of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that addresses the scientific, social, economic, and cultural factors that influence the condition of the human environment.

Despite passing ambitious and aggressive environmental measures, China's pollution and increasing fuel demand, as well as decreasing resources, are of great concern.

China has the highest sulfur dioxide emissions in the world and ranks second in carbon dioxide emissions. Imported crude oil has increased from 30 million tons in 1993 to 120 million tons in 2004. By 2010, the country is expected to reach a deficit of 100 million tons of petroleum and 4000 million m3 of natural gas.

In comparison, the United States spent 7 percent of their gross domestic product in 2001 on energy; China spent 13 percent.

According to the study, one solution to China's problems could be biomass energy, a renewable energy source that is derived from recently living organisms like plants and animals and their byproducts.

Biomass is also a clean energy with approximately 10 percent of contaminant materials as coal. The authors argue that the energy transformation efficiency, the effectiveness through which one energy is transformed into another, could be improved by 35 percent to 40 percent if advanced biomass combustion techniques are used.

China has begun making advances toward this goal, introducing a framework of energy development for the next 20 years. Currently only 14 percent of energy is commercialized biomass energy, however, it's expected to eventually reach 40 percent or more of all energy consumption. To help make the energy goals, the researchers suggest that public education on the use of renewable energy resources should be improved.

The study appears in volume 37, issue 2 of AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment. To read a synopsis from "Bioenergy: Future Direction of China's Energy and Environment Integrated Strategy?" click here: