Biomass Utilization Equals Jobs
On Tuesday night, President Obama in his State of the Union address announced his goal of sourcing 80 percent of America’s electricity from “clean energy” by 2035 as part of his plan to create jobs and improve the nation’s economy. Although he didn’t mention biomass, instead referring to wind, solar, nuclear, clean coal and natural gas, I think that was an oversight.
I say this not just because I am biased toward biomass-based power and heat, but because I believe it’s clean, renewable and the best way to create jobs. And, not just jobs but whole industries.
It allows people who own marginal land to make use of that land to plant purpose-grown trees or energy crops. It gives farmer and loggers a market for their residuals. It provides jobs and business opportunities for people who want to harvest or transport biomass to production facilities. It has led to a whole new line of equipment for the harvesting of energy crops, crop residues and forest residuals. It has created a new industry in the development of energy crops. I’m not even going to get into the benefits that the industry has provided to municipalities and farmers who now are creating their own power from landfill gas, organic waste and manure.
According to a Union of Concerned Scientists 2009 fact sheet, producing 25 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and biomass by 2025 would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, three times as many jobs as producing an equivalent amount of electricity from fossil fuels.
To get an idea of just what woody biomass harvesting provides for rural communities, check out the short video on the John Deere Construction & Forestry woody biomass website at http://woodybiomass.com. The video features an executive from a company that provides energy solutions, the mayor of a small community in Canada and a California state senator who talk about the jobs that are created by a strong, sustainable biomass industry. The video titled “Harvesting Stronger Rural Communities” can be found under the “Why Harvest It?” tab on the site.
It is still too early to tell just how Obama’s clean energy goal will be implemented and how much support it will receive from Congress, but if they are truly serious about putting unemployed Americans back to work they need to ensure that biomass is included in the mix of renewable energy sources.