Biomass Electricity Argued to Be Dirtier than Coal Power

New study says burning biomass for energy is way worse than burning coal

By Laura Sinpetru on April 5th, 2014 20:16 GMT

Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States got to feast its eyes on a brand new report dubbed “Trees, Trash, and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal.”

The study in question was pieced together by the folks at the Partnership for Policy Integrity, and it makes a case of how, according to evidence at hand, processing biomass for electricity generation is way worse for the climate than burning good old coal.

According to Eco Watch, the Partnership for Policy Integrity report is based on information collected while analyzing as many as 88 pollution permits having to do with the working agenda of biomass power plants spread across 25 of the country's states.

It says that, presently, biomass power plants in the United States get preferential treatment. More precisely, existing rules and regulations allow them to cause more environmental pollution than coal-fired power plants would ever be permitted to cough out.

More precisely, it is argued that, per megawatt-hour, biomass power plants produce more nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide than a modern coal plant sporting the same electricity output would.

As far as biomass plants running on wood alone are concerned, the report has found that such facilities emit 50% more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than coal plants do. Although this little inconvenience can be dealt with by regrowing forests, specialists say that it usually takes a few decades for the offsetting to occur.

The folks at the Partnership for Policy Integrity go to argue that, despite the fact that they affect the natural world more than comparable coal plants, even commercial waste incinerators, many biomass power facilities still benefit from state and federal clean energy subsidies.

“The biomass power industry portrays their facilities as ‘clean,’ but we found that even the newest biomass plants are allowed to pollute more than modern coal- and gas-fired plants, and that pollution from bioenergy is increasingly unregulated,” explains Mary Booth, director of the Partnership.

“The American Lung Association has opposed granting renewable energy subsidies for biomass combustion precisely because it is so polluting. Why we are using taxpayer dollars to subsidize power plants that are more polluting than coal?” adds Jeff Seyler with the American Lung Association of the Northeast.

By the looks of it, biomass plants are dirtier than coal-fired facilities due to the fact that they are rather inefficient. Their operators more often than not manage to bypass existing legislation concerning environmental protection by claiming that such facilities are minor sources of pollution and therefore there is no need to strictly regulate their working agenda.
Report shows biomass plants in the US cause more pollution than coal-fired ones
   Report shows biomass plants in the US cause more pollution than coal-fired ones
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