Biomass Energy in The
Age Of Trump
For the biomass
industry, the way
forward is likely to
present more of the same
difculties as the past.
JOEL B. STRONBERG, Contributor
A new year is upon us and the
renewable energy community, like most industries impacted by federal energy and natural
resource policies, approaches the
coming year cautiously and with
some concern. Biomass energy
faced an uncertain future before
the U.S. elections in November.
Will its prospects improve as
President Trump begins his tenure as commander and chief?
It is possible to anticipate at least a portion of the future
through consideration of the past. For the U.S. biomass industry, the past has been one of harder times than experienced
by solar and wind; the way forward is likely to present more
of the same. Mother Goose may well have had the biomass
industry in mind when she wrote:
Wednesday’s child is full of woe, Thursday’s child has
far to go…. Saturday’s child works hard or a living...
Of all renewable sources of heat and power, bioenergy is
the largest contributor. Unlike solar and wind, bioenergy
draws from a ubiquitous pool of feedstocks — ranging from
forestry and agricultural residues to urban waste. According
to the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century “total
energy demand supplied from biomass in 2015 was approx-
imately 60 exajoules. The [global] use of biomass for energy
has been growing at around 2 percent per year since 2010.”
Residual by-products from farming, forestry and con-
struction are not the only stuff of biomass energy. Woody
and herbaceous plants, e.g. switchgrass, miscanthus, south-
ern pine, sugar cane and sorghum, are grown specifcally to
fuel the conversion process.
The value of biomass energy
is not just the power it produces. Unlike other renewables, biomass’ power comes in a variety
of forms. Wood pellets — primarily composed of forest and
agricultural residues — are
directly fred to generate electricity and/or heat. Biomass feedstocks can be digested anaerobically to produce methane. Liquid
fuels are also possible through
Bioenergy feedstock from forest
industry. Public Domain.