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Saturday 16 December 2017
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Biomass And Waste Fuel Generated 2% Of US Electricity In 2016

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Up to 71.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity were generated by waste fuels in 2016 according to new data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). According to the EIA’s annual electric power data, the fuels generated up to 2% of the nation’s total power.

Waste fuels are non-biogenic wastes. Biomass fuels are carbon-based, non-fossil energy. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass and waste fuels are organic, renewable materials. Nearly one-third of the biomass and waste fuels used in 2016 were wood solids from mill residue, logging, paper manufacturing, and discarded products made from timber.

Because much of biomass fuels come from discarded waste from other industries, biomass fuel has been considered an environmentally friendly alternative to burning fossil fuels. However, burning biomass fuels for power still releases greenhouse gas. When biomass and waste fuels are burned they release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas which emits radiation within the Earth’s atmosphere.

Despite the release of carbon dioxide, biomass energy is still considered better for the environment. The materials used for biomass fuel are typically plants, which absorb approximately the same amount of CO2 in their lifetime as what’s expelled during the burning of biomass fuel. According to the EIA, it’s this recycling of CO2 that makes biomass energy a carbon-neutral source.

The Energy Collective reports that nearly all fuels taken from wood (biomass fuels) are the waste from paper-related products. Up to 17% of documents printed in the U.S. are considered waste.

Consider the number of documents printed annually. American students are expected to write 5,000-word papers for their AP Capstone projects alone. When considering the number of projects a student will do throughout their K-12 education, their college education, and their later career, that’s a lot of paper waste.

Biomass and waste fuels use this paper waste in a renewable way. Up to 20% of waste-generated electricity was provided by municipal solid waste (MSW), or the waste taken from landfills.

Additional waste burned for electricity in 2016 includes a kraft pulping process byproduct called black liquor (27%), landfill gas (16%), biogenic fuels (5%), and biomass liquids (0.5%). According to Renewables Now, the U.S. derived the rest of 2016’s electricity from natural gas, coal, nuclear power, and non-biomass renewables.

While the use of biomass waste fuels for electricity is a step in the right direction for reducing greenhouse gases, sources of renewable energy are still needed. On Tuesday, November 28, the Trump Administration announced a proposal to remove the Clean Power Plan, which currently limits the amount of carbon emissions power plants are allowed to generate.

The proposal, which was criticized by multiple health groups and a former Virginia coal miner, could have a detrimental impact on the climate.

Just like clogged gutters can cause basement flooding, excess carbon emissions mean trouble for the environment and human health. However, regardless of the proposal, until biomass fuel is producing more than 2% of the nation’s electricity, the U.S. will still be facing agrowing carbon emission problem.