Biomass education for misinformed protesters

A handful of biomass protesters attempt to disrupt the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show, but their lack of knowledge about the industry can lead to an opportunity to educate.
By Ron Kotrba | January 13, 2011

“All your clear-cuts,

 All your lies,

We will never compromise.”

This was the phrase two misguided protesters who snuck into the Pacific Biomass Conference & Trade Show in Seattle chanted at the beginning of the keynote address given by Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, who announced to the hundreds in attendance his proposal for legislation that would establish Washington State Department of Natural Resources bio-jet fuel project.    

There seems to be a lack of understanding by these protesting individuals on what biomass represents.

Biomass is crop waste from agriculture, citrus peels from juicers, black liquor waste streams from pulp and paper mills, manure from livestock, municipal solid waste from cities, and yes, also wood waste from industry, and on and on.

The biomass industry does not represent clear-cutting forests to make power.

There is, however, a fraction in the industry that supports responsible, managed forest logging on private lands—plant, tend, cut, replant—like what the paper industry has been doing for a very long time. Not clear-cutting old-growth forests.

But a majority of woody biomass is waste in various forms that can, in the long run, do more damage in a forest if left there than not, as far as being tinder for forest fires and such. It’s called responsible thinning, not clear-cutting.

Green energy from biomass reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and is much cleaner than coal or oil.

Maybe these few individuals should promote positive messages like reduce, reuse and recycle; and take a look at what the biomass industry truly represents: reducing fossil fuel consumption and promoting domestic energy production.

Perhaps these protesters could have saved a tree or two if they didn’t use cardboard signs. If their response to this particular comment is that the signs were made from post-consumer recyclables, then my retort would be: Welcome to the biomass industry.