How is biomass burning better? |

How is biomass burning better?

John Darnow, Ph.D.Frisco

I read with interest the article about “Biomass: burning wood for heat” (SDN, Jan. 30), and as a scientist, and resident of the county, I’d like to make a few points, and raise a few questions.With respect to greenhouse gases, all fuels create greenhouse gases. So the substitution of one fuel for another has no inherent advantage in terms of greenhouse gases.Let’s factor in efficiency. A modern gas furnace squeezes out 90 percent efficiency and emits mostly carbon dioxide and water. What is the efficiency of the proposed wood furnace? Less efficiency means additional fuel is burned for a given amount of heat, with additional pollution. With the statement, “The environmental benefits weigh in heavily for (County Commissioner Bill) Wallace,” are there any data indicating that pine burns more cleanly (less environmental impact) than natural gas, or a coal plant with good pollution controls?I think the opposite is true. After all, why do Denver and other municipalities ban wood fires when pollution reaches certain levels?The biggest mystery of the article is it’s assumption that the burning of pine is better for the environment than conventional fuels. Mr. Wallace and writer Kim Marquis, can you explain how you arrived at this conclusion?The best approach to saving money, and to helping the environment, is to conserve, and to increase efficiencies. Does Summit County have an updated energy conservation plan in place? What about a cost-benefit analysis of installing a high-efficiency heating plant using conventional fuel?From a big-picture point of view, it seems that the county government wants to dabble in the energy business with taxpayer financing. If our neighboring counties are having such success with burning biomass, let’s sell or give them our waste pine.If the driving force with this issue is keeping the pine out of the landfill, surely we can find better environmentally and people-friendly uses for pine chips.

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