2010 April 24: WA: Worse Than Coal! Biomass incineration coming to Washington State
Imagine populating Washington with coal-fired power plants that rain disease-causing pollutants on us—while stoking our Climate Crisis with huge amounts of carbon dioxide. Imagine this scenario with a fuel source even dirtier and more dangerous than coal. This is what the government of Washington State is doing now. It’s opening our state forests to biomass incineration.
Join us, please, in our fight against four Washington State biomass incineration pilot projects that will spew carbon emissions much worse than coal into our air. Join us, please, in our fight against two bills in the Washington legislature that will throw the full weight of state government on the side of biomass burning with its endangerment of our population. The WA Department of Natural Resources is already a key biomass incineration supporter and mastermind of the biomass burning pilot projects.
These projects and bills, if enacted, will throw open all state-owned forests to industry for gathering of wood—either fallen tree parts left from logging, or whole trees– to burn in biomass incinerators. But the effects of burning wood from our forests will be enormously harmful.
1. Biomass burning is dirtier than burning coal. Per unit of power generated, burning wood emits 1.25-3.0 times as much carbon dioxide (the most important greenhouse gas) as coal.
2. Biomass burning emits more particulate matter than coal, a pollutant associated with asthma, heart disease, and cancer.
3. Wood burning biomass incinerators typically increase ground level ozone. Burning biomass produces hundreds of tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), two ingredients of the ground-level ozone that causes asthma in children and exacerbates other pulmonary and cardiac disease problems.
4. Biomass energy is woefully inefficient, averaging only 26% efficiency. Thus, 76% of the energy in the wood burned is wasted. However, 100% of the wood burned generates pollution.
5. Newly planted trees cannot absorb newly-emitted carbon fast enough to avoid a significant increase in atmospheric CO2. According to the EPA, 50% of carbon emitted today will take from centuries to many thousands of years to remove from the atmosphere.
6. Biomass-produced electricity is NOT carbon neutral. Only ‘biomass loopholes’ in state and federal laws allow the federal Environmental Protection Agency to report carbon emissions from biomass incineration—worse than from coal—as zero. This defies common sense. What happens when a tree, or any wood, is burned? A pulse of carbon emissions, of course, much worse per kilowatt hour of energy produced than coal. Yet governments around the world—including Washington State– subscribe to the idea those carbon emissions don’t ‘count’. Federal and Washington State law deems electricity produced from biomass incineration to be “a renewable energy source”. So, all the CO2 from biomass burning is ignored and is not currently regulated.
7. Cutting and burning a tree is a “double whammy” for the environment. The tree is no longer taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and burning the wood produces an acute spike in CO2 levels.
8. Biomass incineration plants are ravenous. A single 50-megawatt biomass plant burns about 650,000 tons of trees a year, over a ton of wood a minute.
Our good friends in Massachusetts are leading a wonderfully successful fight against biomass burning in their state. They have gathered 103,000 state-wide signatures forcing the Massachusetts legislature to either vote on biomass incineration or put biomass burning on the state ballot in 2010. They have pressured their state government to suspend for one year the Renewable Energy Credits for all biomass incineration plants proposed for Massachusetts.
Time is short. Washington State plans for biomass incineration are ramping up. Join us now!