Biomass is generally considered a sustainable alternative to oil. Any organic material that will burn can be used as Biomass.
It is easier, cheaper, and cleaner than oil. It can be grown just about anywhere on earth, is fairly easy to collect and process, and can be renewed repeatedly. Oil is thousands of feet under the earth’s crust.
It is hard to get at, expensive to collect, expensive to process, and in limited supply. Reasons Biomass is BETTER Than Oil.
- We all produce and use Biomass.
- Biomass is nearly carbon neutral.
- Biomass fuels benefit our economy.
Biomass energy can accomplish everything we currently do with oil. In many cases, biomass energy has been part of our lives for years without us even knowing it.
If, as a society, we were to fully embrace biomass energy, we could make the US more energy independent, create a whole new economy, and reduce landfills. All of this while improving the environment and cleaning up our air.
What Is Biomass?
We All Make It. Believe it or not, biomass is already part of our everyday life. If you eat, you are producing biomass.
If you got a box from Amazon today, biomass. If you have wooden furniture in your home, you’ve produced biomass. Even if you had a drink after dinner last night, it created biomass.
Everyday Sources of Biomass
- Food Waste.
- Agricultural waste.
- Paper and Cardboard.
- Yard clippings and cleanup: Grass, leaves, branches.
All of these materials are considered garbage. All of these materials come from nature. All of these materials are full of wasted energy that could be harnessed to replace oil.
We All Use Biomass
Any heat production facility that is fueled by oil products was fired by wood first. Homes have been heated with wood since the discovery of fire. Steam engines were first powered by wood.
Distillation plants did, and in many cases still do, use organic matter to heat their stills. Alcohol, in some form, has been used as a clean source of energy for several hundred years.
Biomass Products Most Of Us Has Used
- Fire Wood.
- Pellet Stove fuel.
- Alcohol additives in gasoline.
If you use any of these items, you are already a fan of biomass fuels. None of these technologies is new. They have been used since before Biomass was a word.
Environmental Benefits: Carbon Neutral?
All plants are natural collectors of energy. Through photosynthesis, they collect carbon from the atmosphere and other minerals from the ground for their growth processes.
When plants die, the carbon and other fuels they have accumulated will be released into the environment as the plant decays.
By burning these as fuel we release the carbon into the atmosphere at a quicker rate than nature would. However, by growing the next generation of fuel plants, we are enabling nature to collect that carbon again.
Under ideal circumstances, we could potentially collect more carbon from the atmosphere than we put out through burning fuel.
Oil’s Limited Lifespan
Oil is made of organic matter that has decayed for millions of years under the earth’s crust. When hydrocarbons are processed and burned as fuel, the carbon and other chemicals are released into the atmosphere as exhaust.
For the most part, that is where they stay. Currently, there are no provisions for cleaning up the waste produced by burning fossil fuels.
While large-scale atmospheric cleanup is possible, there is no real incentive for anyone to do it. As we continue to burn hydrocarbons, the atmosphere gets more contaminated and oil supplies continually dwindle.
Environmental Benefits of Biomass vs Oil
- Biomass could be carbon neutral, or even carbon negative.
- Biomass would encourage large-scale agricultural development.
- Agricultural increase would help improve air quality.
- Oil combustion releases carbon into the atmosphere.
- No incentives for oil producers to clean up emissions.
How Biomass Would Benefit US Economy More Than Oil.
As we know, most of the world’s oil supply comes from places other than the US. This has kept the nation dependent on energy sources that may not be the most reliable or trustworthy.
It also means that the money we spend on oil is going to some other country. A Biomass fuel supply would enable the US to provide its own energy supply. It would also keep our energy dollars in the country.
Economic Aspects Of Biomass
A little over 20 percent of the energy consumed in the US is Biomass-derived. That small portion produces over $100 Billion in economic activity. The economic benefits are spread widely across the country.
The most obvious benefit is to farms that produce crops that can be converted into various fuels. Less obvious are businesses that recycle waste products.
Waste wood and paper pulp can be used as wood pellets for heating homes. Such activity not only provides a sustainable heating source but also reduces the volume and costs associated with putting such materials in landfills.
There are many such instances of waste materials being repurposed as energy products.
Materials That Can Be Repurposed as Biomass energy
- Crop residue.
- Forestry waste.
- Algae and sea weed.
- Wood processing waste.
- Municipal waste.
These are but a few of the materials that must be disposed of every day but could be turned into an energy source.
Simply by redirecting the trash truck away from the landfill to a processing plant, we become energy-dependent and clean up the environment. We would also improve our economy and create beneficial jobs.
The Economics of Oil
The oil industry is an ever-changing system. The US has been a net importer of oil since the 1950s. In the recent past, however, exports have caught up and even surpassed imports on a few occasions.
The trend leads some to suspect oil companies are chasing profit at the expense of national security. It also reinforces the fact that we rely on foreign sources for a portion of our energy requirements.
At present, the US imports about 8 million barrels of oil a day.
Oil Imports That Could Be Replaced By Biomass Fuels
- Canada = 4.1 million a day.
- Mexico = 550,000 a day.
- Russia = 540,000 a day.
- Saudi Arabia = 520,000 a day.
- Columbia = 280,000 a day.
These numbers fluctuate constantly. Other nations also supply us with oil.
No Perfect Solutions.
Energy is a complex issue. Oil has served the world well for over 100 Years. We know for a fact that it is in a dwindling supply.
We have the infrastructure and technology to stretch that supply a long way. At some point, it will end. Biomass technology has been evolving.
It is an energy source that is self-perpetuating and can leave the world in a better state of being. Perhaps now is the time to pursue the alternative over the standard. It will benefit us now, and into the future.