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.

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  1. It is encouraging to read of the other side of wood burning. For years we have been told that wood is clean, green, carbon neutral and renewable. Very little of this is true—it is a dirty fuel releasing three times as much CO2 as natural gas along with powerful greenhouse entities–methane and soot. Then there are the carcinogens. I identified high levels of formaldehyde, benzene and polycyclic compounds in a typical wood burning area–and this on scratches the surface of the problem. The clear-cutting of our forests to feed monstrous power stations in the U.S, and Nova Scotia, Canada, is depressing as wood adds 50% more CO2 to the air than coal and three times as much as a natural gas power station Then more trees go to feed homes and power stations in Britain, Europe and soon, China, as well as for home consumption.
    About 20 municipalities have banned Outdoor Wood Boilers as they are a threat to neighbours’ health and lives. Like EPA wood stoves the emission reduction features are not effective and neither wood stoves nor OWBs have a place in urban areas. One of these days I will finish my article EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT WOOD BURNING IS WRONG.
    Canadian Clean Air Alliance .

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