Biomass stays strong as source of renewable energy


The delay of a biomass project in Port Townsend is being billed as a major victory by environmental groups, but the reality is, biomass is a clean and renewable energy source with widespread support.

Port Townsend Paper Corp. expects to still finish a $55 million expansion of its biomass cogeneration plant, just in 2014 or 2015, a year or two later, because of legal appeals.

The biomass plant when constructed will provide an important source of alternative energy, mill officials said.

“We will continue to evaluate the co-gen project and other measures we can take to reduce our dependence on oil and ways to continue our progress with reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” the company said.

“The co-gen project would provide 25 megawatts of alternative green energy to the grid, which is the equivalent of more than half of Jefferson County’s electricity consumption [and] is enough to power 46,000 electric cars each year.”

Don Brunell, the president of the Association of Washington Business, points out in a column this week that the same state environmental groups who now oppose biomass supported it just a few years ago. The Sierra Club, Brunell adds, also supported natural gas and even took money (a total of $26 million) from natural gas companies as late as 2010. Now the Sierra Club says it opposes natural gas and we’re supposed to buy that?


The attacks on biomass are particularly puzzling. It enjoys broad support from state officials known for their commitment to environmental stewardship.

Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire touts biomass as “an incredible opportunity to heat our homes, power our cities and fight climate change.” Democratic Gov-elect Jay Inslee, who campaigned for Initiative 937’s passage, supported biomass energy throughout his congressional career and gubernatorial campaign. State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, also a Democrat, calls biomass a “very attractive, renewable alternative” to fossil fuels.

Democratic Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber made biomass a central focus of his state’s energy plan, citing its contribution to healthy forests, rural jobs and renewable energy. Even the Environmental Protection Agency reconfirmed the probability that biomass energy from sustainably managed forests does not contribute to climate change.

One by one, activists are targeting any energy sources that are more affordable and abundant than wind and solar. If their strategy works, it will drive the costs of energy up for families and energy-intensive business.

It is a story of the ever-moving goal posts or the hapless Charlie Brown who trusts in vain that this time Lucy won’t pull away the football.

It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.