Defending Biomass Energy

Energy and the Future

Tim Searchinger has a history of questioning assumptions and justifications put forward by proponents of biofuels.  His points are usually valid, or at least adds to the conversation.  In his latest article with Keith Smith in Global Change Biology, he questions two assumptions used in most lifecycle analyses (LCA) in regards to crop based biofuels.  These LCAs attempt to estimate or measure inputs and outputs from a system or process – in this case, the process of making bioenergy.  First, some basics: when plants grow they capture CO2.  When they are used for bioenergy, this CO2 is released again: this is net neutral CO2 (not including emissions from other aspects of growing and processing the plant).

” The problem is not that biofuels reduce GHG emissions, and land-use change increases them; the problem more accurately in such a case is that biofuels result in no positive land use or other market-based change that…

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One thought on “Defending Biomass Energy

  1. You say, in reply to point 1:- “But even if bioenergy is no better than fossil energy, at least it isn’t worse”.
    But it IS worse! …because the total amount of CO2 released in preparing and burning biofuels or biomass is almost always higher than the CO2 released by fossil fuels for the same amount of energy. It only APPEARS less if you ASSUME that the biological carbon content doesn’t count. That would only be a good assumption if the same amount of CO2 were additionally sequestered from the atmosphere in growing the biomass. However if the biomass comes from an existing field, that field was already sequestering CO2 before you decided to burn it. So there is no additional sequestration of CO2 and your assumption is wrong.

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