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Talking biomass at DEMO 2012

The first day of presentations of the DEMO International 2012 conference provided an unexpected discussion of the validity of biomass as a long-term energy solution for not just Canada, but countries around the world.

September 19, 2012
By Andrew Macklin

During the pre Demo conference session, held at Loews le Concorde in Quebec City, entitled “Forest Biomass and its Potential,” Evelune Thiffault of LFC CFS NRCan presented on the subject of Harvest of forest biomass and bioenergy: danger or solution? Her presentation began by exploring some of the current data regarding the concentration of CO2 in the air, and the critical threshold that intergovernmental experts believe we are fast approaching. As a result, several environmental groups like Greenpeace have released reports that biomass, as a fuel source, will do more harm than group. According to the research presented by Thiffault, that may not be entirely wrong.

Thiffault explained that certain types of biomass provide a stronger solution for carbon neutrality, and that not all biomass is the same. For example, the burning of slash, waste wood and other wood residues provide an environmental impact that possesses greater carbon neutrality since it is using unused wood products for energy. However, the analysis also showed that, as you begin looking at cutting down certain species of trees for biomass, the length of time it takes to replace those trees created a carbon debt. There is a point where the use of certain forest products for biomass is actually harmful, much like some of the aforementioned reports had suggested.

However, there was an overriding point about the use of biomass that was made clear as part of her presentation: any kind of biomass is better than using fossil fuels. Regardless of whether or not whole trees should be chipped for biomass use, any type of short-term or long-term woody biomass used was far more carbon neutral that any fossil fuel currently used. Renewable fuels, even long-term, are a much better alternative than non-renewable fuels.

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