Biomass on NPR


The national media is starting to pay attention to the biomass phenomenon. Dozens of plants are being built across the country and the federal government is offering generous subsidies, but as this NPR story today notes, local opposition has also popped up in some cities.

The NPR story focuses much of its attention on two proposed biomass plants in Shelton, Wash., and toward the end of the story, it quotes a forest ecologist for what would seem to be a neutral take on the carbon impact of biomass plants. And yet the ecologist, Steve Hamburg, works for the Environmental Defense Council, an environmental group that can hardly be called neutral on the issue. It would have been more advisable for the reporter to also talk to someone on the other side of the debate, or better yet, a scientific expert with no horse in the race.

What is also interesting about the story is it has generated a large number of comments. One of the comments in particular reinforces the point that while some locals may be opposed to the plants, they are often very small in number and that most locals are happy to have the jobs and boost to the local economy.

Here is what “Alison Henslee” had to say:

One of our two remaining mills (out of 4) has sawdust decomposing in their yard; the smell isn’t pretty. They ship their biomass because we have no local means to dispose of it. Our landfill is already nearly full to the brim; they no longer take wood because they have to burn it on site. Our community used to be supported by loggers and millworkers; environmentalists and the economy have taken that away from us. Our unemployment rate is sky high and people are scrambling to figure out alternative ways to support their families. It’s hard when you are in a rural area and I don’t think some people grasp that…

…I think we should be open-minded and smart about using up biomass resources that are otherwise going to waste. Our county alone could withstand proper forest management for the next century to deal with dying timber due to bug infestation…byproducts of which could be used in a co-gen plant. But for now, here we sit and watch the trees die while there is no work.