The other day, I read a thought provoking opinion piece on Biomass Energy written by Franz Matzner, Jeanne Roy and Lisa Arkin in the Oregonian. I encourage all of you to check it out.
The gist of the piece is that while burning wood for energy sounds like a good idea it is far from carbon neutral in the hear and now. To provide supply, we will take out the forest, and plant new trees. But those new trees will not take up the carbon for quite some time.
In other words, it is like draining an aquifer of all of its water today, even though it takes decades to replenish the aquifer and you know that during all of that time you will continue to draw.
The point is not that bioenergy is bad – it may be better (or worse) than other sources of energy. Frankly, our energy options are, for the most part, half or quarter choices. The best one of all is conservation.
I think the point is that we must honestly account for what we take from the earth and the timing of what goes back into it – and that we must look for real solutions rather than hiding the true costs of our use.
The challenge is to ensure that all biofuels, whether traditional or “next-generation,” are produced in ways that conserve our natural resources instead of subsuming natural areas, adding to water pollution and contributing to global warming.