Friday, March 16, 2012

The Nuts and Bolts – Why We Do What We Do

We came across this question in one of our groups on LinkedIn and found it especially prudent. We wanted to share his question and our thoughts:

Q: What is the main reason for Biomass to Energy efforts? Biomass processing technologies are different and some of them are quite complicated and not even commercially viable without government support. So what is the main driver for investing in that effort? Is it the idea of getting rid of different wastes (manure, MSW, etc.), to get cheaper energy, to be prepared for a future fossil fuel deficit or...

So many of us in the field tend to get bogged down in the specifics that it's good to be reminded of why we push for biomass energy in the first place.

This gentleman is absolutely correct that at the moment there are many different technologies (some of which are, indeed, quite complicated) and that many of them aren't economically viable without government support...yet. The reason for that is because we're still in the development stage of the industry. The original computer and cell phone were also incredibly expensive and today almost everyone owns both. So many people fundamentally believe in this industry that they are working to get to the point of economic viability...and that involves a lot of trial and error

The question of why we do it is a good one. At the end of the day, the answer can be simplified in two points:

1. To greatly reduce the amount of trash being sent tot he landfill as well as take advantage of energy value of idled waste streams (waste wood, chicken litter, etc.)

2. To reduce pollution - both the greenhouse gases that emit from landfills and from burning dirtier elements like coal (currently we are literally burying one source of energy and digging up another.)

There are a lot of other positive reasons to push for the growth of the biomass industry as well as the renewable energy sector as a whole such as job growth, finding a cheaper source of energy that what we currently use, etc. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to those two reasons.

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