Biomass power releases 4% of the CO2 emitted by coal-power units, as long-term benefits of displacing fossil fuel emissions with sustainable wood production 'far outweighs any short-term impact,' according to University of Washington study

LOS ANGELES , August 16, 2011 () – The carbon dioxide (CO2) released by biomass power is just 4% of that emitted by coal-fired power, according to one of the conclusions of a recent life-cycle study, reported Biomass Magazine on Aug. 15.

The study, called Life Cycle Impacts of Forest Management and Wood Utilization on Carbon Mitigation: Knowns and Unknowns, was released by lead author Bruce Lippke, of the University of Washington’s College of Environment.

Burning biomass for energy is offset by sustainable growth in forests, even after accounting for emissions from any dead wood left in the forest, according to the study, Biomass Magazine reported.

Displacing fossil fuel emissions with sustainable wood production “far outweighs any short-term impact,” the study indicated.

The conclusions of Lippke and the study’s other authors are counter to what was found in some other studies, such as one done by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences in 2010, reported Biomass Magazine.

The Manomet study found that the carbon emitted per unit of energy by biomass power is initially higher than that of coal, and the carbon debt accumulates as the forest grows and recaptures carbon.

That study raises concerns about the release of CO2 from burning biomass compared with the slower emissions from decomposing matter on the forest floor, according to Lippke’s group, Biomass Magazine reported.

Others have opposed this viewpoint, including William Strauss, president of FutureMetrics, which found that burning biomass does not create a carbon debt but a credit of carbon that was previously accumulated.

On the issue of natural disturbance, the Lippke et al report states that there are higher risks in unmanaged forests than in managed forests. Biomass collected under forest management requires little energy and emissions are low, according to the study, reported Biomass Magazine.

The primary source of this article is Biomass Magazine, Grand Forks, North Dakota, on Aug. 15, 2011.

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