Biomass is often put forth as a green and renewable energy source without proper consideration of the health and environmental impacts. In truth, burning biomass, such as wood, results in high levels soot and carcinogenic material being released with comparatively little energy produced. These impacts stem from the low energy efficiency of many biomass furnaces and the physical nature of the fuel, which leads to high levels of local pollution when compared with alternative technologies.
The legitimacy of biomass’s “green” identity is further called into question when long-term sources are considered. Most biomass currently comes from waste-wood, such as saw dust, branches, or downed trees, but growing use of this fuel is putting pressure on the limited sources of these materials. What results is an incentive for companies to cut down additional trees for use as fuel, negating any environmental claims by threatening natural carbon sinks while releasing additional CO2.
I See Smoke PA is a new Clean Air Council program aimed at increasing public knowledge of and reducing emissions from biomass burning in the state of Pennsylvania. Our goal is to provide tools and resources for communities to improve their biomass regulations. Our webpage includes information on biomass and current issues, existing state and local policy, resources and fact sheets, model legislation, and ways you can take action in your community.