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Author Topic: Biomass issues  (Read 1739 times)

Ned W

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Biomass issues
« on: April 17, 2015, 02:33:40 PM »
Apparently the shift from coal to woody biomass fuel, especially in the UK, is causing problems:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/04/16/3644889/woody-biomass-is-thicket-of-trouble/

These power plant conversions were sold based on the idea that they'd be burning scrap wood, residue from other forestry operations, etc.  Instead, they're leveling vast expanses of forest that would otherwise be accumulating biomass and sequestering carbon.

JimD

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2015, 06:31:43 PM »
Another huge problem with ideas like this is they fail to take into account one of the core issues of sustainability.  To maintain a sustainable system it must balance in terms of nutrients.  Calories/btu's out must balance with what comes in so to speak. 

If you take all the scrap/dead wood (not even counting mowing down all of the trees) out of a forest you will starve it eventually.  It is the same with growing crops.  Thus the need we have for a vast complex of artificial fertilizer manufacturers to provide nutrients for our industrial farming operations.

There is no solution in the direction of ideas like this unless the global population has returned to the Earth's carrying capacity.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Tom_Mazanec

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2019, 06:53:50 PM »
SHARKS (CROSSED OUT) MONGEESE (SIC) WITH FRICKIN LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

morganism

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2019, 12:57:36 AM »
U.S. Forests Are Being Clear-Cut to Supply Biomass Energy Industry, Report Finds

"Forests in the U.S. Southeast are being logged at four times the rate as those in the Amazon, according to the UN’s biodiversity report released last month."

https://e360.yale.edu/digest/u-s-forests-are-being-devastated-to-supply-biomass-energy-industry-report-finds

pdf report:

https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/global-markets-biomass-energy-06172019.pdf


be cause

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2019, 02:07:21 AM »
absurdely replacing local wood grown as biomass in N. Ireland as the devastation in America is being massively subsidized by the British tax-payer . Another of Cameron's follies ! .. b.c.
2007 + 5 = 2012 + 4 = 2016 + 3 = 2019 ...

Bob Wallace

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2019, 06:42:31 AM »
U.S. Forests Are Being Clear-Cut to Supply Biomass Energy Industry, Report Finds

"Forests in the U.S. Southeast are being logged at four times the rate as those in the Amazon, according to the UN’s biodiversity report released last month."

https://e360.yale.edu/digest/u-s-forests-are-being-devastated-to-supply-biomass-energy-industry-report-finds

pdf report:

https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/global-markets-biomass-energy-06172019.pdf

The company doing the harvesting says that the wood being turned into pellets is waste wood from lumber mills.  Here in the PNW we grow large amount of timber for lumber.  Less than 50% of a harvested tree is suitable for lumber.  Some of the waste is chipped for particle board.  The rest is burned in biomass plants or hauled to landfills.

Some 'entire' trees are likely turned into pellets.  Some trees have no useful lumber in them.  I recently took down a large black oak that looked like a mass of stored carbon.  Actually, it was rotten at the core and much of the 'stored' carbon had been converted to methane by the microbes that were eating away its insides.

Yes, clearcut harvesting is standard practice.  The cost of building materials would soar if we selectively cut only the best trees.  And a lot of junk trees would be left behind.  Best practice in a timber operation is to clearcut and replant.  The timber business is basically agriculture where we don't eat or make fabric out of the plants we grow but build houses and make furniture.

As for biomass putting more CO2 into the atmosphere that might be the case, but I question how much more, if any.  The larger issue is whether we end up with more or less carbon above ground. 

The trees harvested will be replaced with new trees that will suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and hold it out until they are harvested.  And when harvested will leave almost as much carbon buried underground in their now abandoned root systems as was hauled off to the mill. 

The carbon we extract from beneath the Earth's surface when we use coal and other fossil fuels add to our problems and new oil wells don't take that carbon and put it back underground but bring even more to the surface.


kinbote

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2019, 08:42:33 AM »

<snip>

As for biomass putting more CO2 into the atmosphere that might be the case, but I question how much more, if any.  The larger issue is whether we end up with more or less carbon above ground. 

The trees harvested will be replaced with new trees that will suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and hold it out until they are harvested.  And when harvested will leave almost as much carbon buried underground in their now abandoned root systems as was hauled off to the mill. 

<snip>

Enviva has long claimed any criticism of their methods are misleading or false, claiming they only use an approximate 30% of wood for their processing while moving the rest on to other forest product markers, but so far I can see, they've not provided any evidence for this type of processing.  Not even something as suggestive as the imagery of natural wetlands being devastated and whole wood trees trucking into Enviva's plant in the links morganism provided that claims otherwise. Where are those trucks going? Maybe some inventory reports could be shared?

Regardless of their truthiness there, it's worth noting Enviva states on their website only 20% of the land they clear is replanted, leaving the rest to 'natural regeneration management(1).' Additionally worth noting that North Carolina has 'no laws limiting climate pollution, and virtually no authority to police which forests are harvested and whether they are replanted,(2)' so even verifying that minuscule amount of replanting is impossible.

There is also strong evidence these US biomass companies are anything but green in the production of these wood pellets: 'The EIP investigation found that the 21 U.S. wood pellet mills currently exporting to Europe emit a total of 16,000 tons of health-threatening air pollutants per year, including more than 2,500 tons of particulate matter (soot), 3,200 tons of nitrogen oxides, 2,100 tons of carbon monoxide, and 7,000 tons of volatile organic compounds. These plants also emit 3.1 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, according to the study.(3)'

Additionally, there is the study by OSU showing logging in is by far the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon(4). Also the report with tons of good information including the bit about 'carbon emissions from logging from 2006 to 2010 averaged 162 +/- 10 Tg/year (equal to 584 MMT of CO2), an amount greater than fossil fuel emissions from the residential and commercial sectors combined(5).' And finally, although many people may 'feel' like biomass is a good alternative, or stepping stone, to greening, some 772 scientists signed a letter to EU Parliament saying the exact opposite(6).

It's as if there is some uncertainty around exactly how much more CO2 savings we get with biomass vs coal, we get a green light to proceed, thinking, hey, it's probably better, right? We can all feel good and applaud those reports and tweets about the UK not burning coal for x amount of days. And maybe it is if we have a century or more to work this transition. But, from my perspective anyway, one has to put on some damn thick rose-colored glasses to view this as anything other than the EU outsourcing some of their carbon emissions by taking advantage of the US's 19th century environmental policies.

One last fitting quote: 'We have a little over ten years to cut emissions in half. They now like to do this smoke and mirrors fake accounting trick – other trees are not sucking up the CO2 – but that doesn’t compensate for emission(7).'


(1) http://www.envivabiomass.com/procurement/timber-reforestation/
(2) https://energynews.us/2019/01/02/southeast/in-north-carolina-wood-pellet-foes-see-opportunity-in-coopers-climate-order/
(3) http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/news/biomass-report/
(4) https://sustainable-economy.org/osu-research-confirms-big-timber-leading-source-greenhouse-gas-emissions-oregon/
(5) https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/The-Great-American-Stand-Report.pdf
(6) https://www.euractiv.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/01/Letter-of-Scientists-on-Use-of-Forest-Biomass-for-Bioenergy-January-12-2018.pdf
(7) https://inews.co.uk/news/environment/uk-drax-power-plant-burning-us-trees-wood-pellets-deforestation/



Bob Wallace

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2019, 08:54:31 AM »
I don't understand this part from reference (4) in your post...

Quote
Logging related emissions are not counted in the state’s annual inventory of greenhouse gases because the OGWC relies on a methodology that was “written by loggers for loggers” according to non-governmental organizations monitoring international meetings that birthed the accounting rules almost two decades ago. Rather than disclosing logging related emissions, these rules mask the damage by burying the information needed to isolate logging emissions within broad calculations of changes in carbon stocks on forestlands of all types and all ownership categories. The emphasis of the adopted rules is on  “carbon flux,” which is merely a measure of the ins and outs of carbon on the landscape during any given period. The assumption is that if the ins and outs are roughly balanced – something that can be achieved by regularly mowing a lawn, for example – then there is nothing to worry about and the forest sector as a whole is considered carbon neutral.

But regardless of carbon flux across the landscape, logging-related emissions are substantial and must be part of annual emissions reporting so that appropriate policy interventions can be designed to ramp such emissions down on par with other sectors being considered for regulation.

This, specifically...

Quote
The emphasis of the adopted rules is on  “carbon flux,” which is merely a measure of the ins and outs of carbon on the landscape during any given period. The assumption is that if the ins and outs are roughly balanced ... then there is nothing to worry about and the forest sector as a whole is considered carbon neutral.

But regardless of carbon flux across the landscape, logging-related emissions are substantial and must be part of annual emissions reporting

It sounds like the argument is being made that we must could the GHG emissions from timber production but we should ignore any GHG recapture/sequestering timber production might do.


kinbote

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2019, 09:17:44 AM »
I don't understand this part from reference (4) in your post...

This, specifically...

Quote
The emphasis of the adopted rules is on  “carbon flux,” which is merely a measure of the ins and outs of carbon on the landscape during any given period. The assumption is that if the ins and outs are roughly balanced ... then there is nothing to worry about and the forest sector as a whole is considered carbon neutral.

But regardless of carbon flux across the landscape, logging-related emissions are substantial and must be part of annual emissions reporting

It sounds like the argument is being made that we must could the GHG emissions from timber production but we should ignore any GHG recapture/sequestering timber production might do.

The authors are stating the OGWC are not accurately, or even attempting to, measure carbon emissions from the logging industry and are instead relying on self-reporting only from the logging industry to provide their own accounting. And this accounting has serious flaws that benefit the industry. As described here:

"Clearcutting and use of forest chemicals and fertilizers on industrial forestlands could represent Oregon’s second largest source of global warming pollution and are subverting the State’s climate agenda by making landscapes more susceptible to wildfires, landslides, floods and warm waters that kill salmon. And despite legal requirements to do so, the Oregon Global Warming Commission has failed to track and evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from forest practices or follow through on commitments to develop and promote alternative management techniques that can transform these lands from a net source to a net sink for atmospheric carbon. The key culprit: a flawed international greenhouse gas accounting protocol that lumps all forest owners into one aggregate “forest sector” and allows the timber industry to take credit for carbon sequestered on forests protected by non-profits, small landowners, and public agencies."

https://www.forestlegacies.org/press-room/1265-oregon-forestry-is-clearcutting-our-climate-future

etienne

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2019, 02:15:17 PM »
In Luxembourg, clear cuts are only allowed under specific circumstances, for example if there is an health issue with the trees.  Forests are usually not replanted, but the trees left behind should produce the seeds for the new forest.Replanting is very expensive and nobody knows what kind of tree will be trendy in 100 or 200 years. Since trees grow slowly, it doesn't change much if 20 years are needed for the forest to grow.

About biomass, I also had a discussion with somebody saying that home compost is not an optimal solution because composting creates heat, and that heat is lost. If you do it in an industrial context, you get heat, you get biogas, and you also get compost that can be used. Well, I don't trust too much the compost comming from industrial facilities and the truck picking up biotrash and the one bringing the compost back in a shop also create heat that is lost. It looks like the compost coming out of the biogas systems might be the next toxic waste. Even in my own compost, I find labels that were on the fruits, so imagine what can be in it if you collect organic trash from people who are not worried about it.

For me, this biomass issues are the proof that degrowth and efficiency gains are requirements for a sustainable world. You just can't produce renewable energy as fast as the extraction rate out of the oilfields and  coal mines. Degrowth doesn't mean back to middle age, but to think for each energy use if there is a produced service (work, health, food, communication, storage, transportation, leisure, comfort...) and if the service is justified. Yes, comfort is a justified service, but it is sometimes difficult to put a limit between comfort and waste.

Bob Wallace

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2019, 06:08:08 PM »
I don't understand this part from reference (4) in your post...

This, specifically...

Quote
The emphasis of the adopted rules is on  “carbon flux,” which is merely a measure of the ins and outs of carbon on the landscape during any given period. The assumption is that if the ins and outs are roughly balanced ... then there is nothing to worry about and the forest sector as a whole is considered carbon neutral.

But regardless of carbon flux across the landscape, logging-related emissions are substantial and must be part of annual emissions reporting

It sounds like the argument is being made that we must could the GHG emissions from timber production but we should ignore any GHG recapture/sequestering timber production might do.

The authors are stating the OGWC are not accurately, or even attempting to, measure carbon emissions from the logging industry and are instead relying on self-reporting only from the logging industry to provide their own accounting. And this accounting has serious flaws that benefit the industry. As described here:

"Clearcutting and use of forest chemicals and fertilizers on industrial forestlands could represent Oregon’s second largest source of global warming pollution and are subverting the State’s climate agenda by making landscapes more susceptible to wildfires, landslides, floods and warm waters that kill salmon. And despite legal requirements to do so, the Oregon Global Warming Commission has failed to track and evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from forest practices or follow through on commitments to develop and promote alternative management techniques that can transform these lands from a net source to a net sink for atmospheric carbon. The key culprit: a flawed international greenhouse gas accounting protocol that lumps all forest owners into one aggregate “forest sector” and allows the timber industry to take credit for carbon sequestered on forests protected by non-profits, small landowners, and public agencies."

https://www.forestlegacies.org/press-room/1265-oregon-forestry-is-clearcutting-our-climate-future

Do you have a pair of "objective lenses" you can put on and read the last part of your post?

Quote
Clearcutting and use of forest chemicals and fertilizers on industrial forestlands could represent Oregon’s second largest source of global warming pollution and are subverting the State’s climate agenda by making landscapes more susceptible to wildfires, landslides, floods and warm waters that kill salmon.

Oregon's clear cutting is not being done for wood pellets/biomass.  It's done for lumber. 

I don't know much about how Oregon manages timber harvest but in California harvesting actually reduces wildfire risk.  Many forests are choked with dead small  trees, bushes, and other things that aren't found in old growth timber stands.  Forests were logged and left to regrow with no follow up thinning.  What I've seen around here is that after cuts are replanted crews go back in and thin in order to let trees mature and eliminate a build up of fuel.

Cuts are not permitted if they might cause landslides.  Streams are protected.  Trees are not cut along streams in order to keep water temperatures from rising. 

I've heard nothing at all about chemicals and fertilizer being used in the commercial timber industry in California.  There might be some fertilizer used in growing replacement seedlings.  And there's a technique of making 'seed balls' with tree seeds inside of a bit of clay and a very small amount of fertilizer so that difficult to replant areas can be seeded from planes.  But that is, I think, very uncommonly used.

Quote
The authors are stating the OGWC are not accurately, or even attempting to, measure carbon emissions from the logging industry and are instead relying on self-reporting only from the logging industry to provide their own accounting.

And the authors are refusing to acknowledge the carbon that is recaptured from the atmosphere by new growth.  Pot calls kettle black.

Look, I'm not on the biomass side or on the anti-biomass side.  I'm on the side of using all the data and not making stuff up.  I'm seeing what seems to be non-objective reporting.   And I also suspect there are no perfect solutions.  I think we have to concentrate on minimizing climate change.  If that means we make some other messes that might be the cost of not making the planet inhospitable for humans. 




kinbote

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2019, 11:56:09 PM »

And the authors are refusing to acknowledge the carbon that is recaptured from the atmosphere by new growth.  Pot calls kettle black.


The first Oregon article is a study showing carbon emissions from logging are high. The second says the logging industry in Oregon has extremely loose standards for showing what qualifies as their own carbon recapture methods. I'm not understanding how you've read the authors are dishonest or 'refusing to acknowledge the carbon that is recaptured from the atmosphere by new growth.' They are saying the industry, given the current existing accounting methodology, allows them to use carbon recapture from any already existing forests, not associated with anything the industry is involved with. If I cut down X acres of forest, it's still a net carbon sink as there are tons of other forests out there, and therefore I don't have to replant or manage that land in anyway. Maybe your agree with that, maybe you do not, but for me, it seems like a very vague policy to trust any industry to, not just logging.

My points in sharing the two Oregon articles were to suggest the environmental footprint of the logging industry in the states is much larger than usually understood or reported and that US regulations allow the logging industry keep that reporting murky. Perhaps California does indeed have better logging management regarding the environment. I will have to trust your feelings on that, but lacking evidence elsewhere, and as regulations are lax or non-existent for reporting in other states, it often falls upon persons outside the industry to investigate and verify any industry claims. So when mentioning morganism's links, and providing others, it provides a groundwork of evidence, both circumstantial and, yes, actual studies, to suggest both that Enviva is not being entirely forthright in their accounting, and the logging industry itself has no legal reason to be forthright and may not be as green or carbon neutral as we feel or assume.

Relegating any criticism, particularly those that are tangential to the overall debate, as non-objective or dishonest, and then dismissing the entire argument as therefore fraudulent derails any further possible conversation. Nevertheless, before I happily go back into lurker mode where I belong; for the sake of clarification, I'm not attempting or expecting to provide any discussion-ending evidence for why biomass is bad or good in any dualistic form. It's a complex issue with lots of smarter folks than I arguing about it. If you feel the goal is only minimizing climate change, then you have an arguable position. My opinion, as I expressed above, is I agree with those who say time is running out. We do not have time to merely minimize, and half-measures like biomass are ultimately not helpful and, on the contrary, play a role in the ongoing delusion we can transition to green without any, or minimal, impacts to our consumer culture and lifestyles.
Worse still, there is compelling evidence to suggest the carbon sink associated with wood pellets might be not nearly as deep as we thought or hoped. I positively feel those are worth investigating and verifying, versus merely trusting the industry to self-report. In a more perfect world, those investigations would have taken place before, or alongside the ramping up of biomass production, but, here we are.
So, while I hope you're right, I believe we should act as if you're not. And with that, I'm sneaking back into the voyeuristic forum underbelly!

Bob Wallace

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2019, 12:17:58 AM »
Quote
Relegating any criticism, particularly those that are tangential to the overall debate, as non-objective or dishonest, and then dismissing the entire argument as therefore fraudulent derails any further possible conversation.

In no way have I attempted to dismiss the argument.  I'm calling for including all the data, not just the data that suits one side of the argument.
----

As for not replanting, that is an accepted forest practice in some circumstances.  Often one or more 'mother trees' are left high on a slope that would be difficult to plant with seedlings and the seeds from those mother trees spread their seeds over the next year or two which restart the growth.  I don't know how regrowth is encouraged in southeastern forests, I've been gone from that part of the country for a long time.  But when I did live there replanting with seedlings on the pulp plantations seemed to be common practice.  In the mixed species of the Appalachian area I think the forest was left to reseed itself.  But that was many years ago. 

etienne

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Re: Biomass issues
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2019, 09:01:03 AM »
I don't know the exact eata, but my feeling is that in Luxembourg, less than 50% of the trees are removed when cuts are done. Of course the % of removed biomass is higher than the % of trees because older trees are cut.