Where's the Unbiased Biomass Discussion?
I read a newspaper article this week that outlined two conflicting arguments, both from educated people, about a biomass power plant proposed for Port Townsend, Wash. It piqued my interest because I’ve often wondered what would happen if one biomass proponent and one opponent (both experts in their fields and neither tied to the concept either emotionally or politically) were to talk it out.
Unfortunately, this article didn’t satisfy my curiosity, through no fault of the reporter’s. According to her account of the forum, a former Harvard Medical School research scientist and a retired pediatrician politely discussed their differing viewpoints. But while the research scientist engaged in a technical presentation about how nanoparticles from biomass are not harmful to humans because we are also exposed to ultrafine particles that our bodies can handle from bacon and other foods, the pediatrician stuck to general statements about what he and the other opponents “believe” to be true about how the proposed plant will adversely affect the town. The research scientist discussed how the emissions controls on the plant will reduce pollution, and how the plant will contribute to air pollution no more than an existing nearby biomass plant contributes to its community’s pollution. Seemingly, the pediatrician had far fewer concrete data points figured into his argument.
Now, having said all that, I was not at that meeting. But the report does jive with what I’ve experienced from biomass opponents in the past. Not all, but many seem to blindly argue that our industry is devastatingly harmful, brushing off reasonable and fact-based reports that they are wrong.
My point is, I would really like to hear a back and forth between real experts in all areas relating to biomass, including emissions, sustainability, health impacts, and economics.
But even if a biomass opponent was converted to a proponent in a public discussion through the presentation of facts negating his/her propaganda, I’m not convinced it would turn the politically and emotionally involved critics.