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Let the Data Do the Talking

Although not always successful, my goal is to let data drive my conclusions. Still, we all sometimes find ourselves in debates that are based more on passion and conviction than on data. But if the data are ignored because the conviction is strong, it may be dogma driving the conclusions.

Passionate debates are fine, but passionate debates that ignore data have no business in a scientific discussion. Further, such arguments frequently degenerate because one or both sides is not listening to the other.

During such emotional debates, I have been accused of being a shill for oil and gas, or of being a shill for biomass. In fact, in the debate I will discuss here, I was called both in the same thread! I am pro-biomass. I am anti-biomass. I love the environment. I want to destroy the environment. I am a Conservative. I am a Liberal.

The thing is, my world is not a black and white place. In the right hands, a screwdriver is a handy tool. In the hands of an enraged person, it can be a weapon. Same tool, vastly different outcomes, depending on how it is used.

Biomass is also a tool in which the outcome depends on lots of different factors. And even then the answers to the questions don’t always lead to the same conclusions for everyone.

Here is what I mean by that. People die in car crashes every year. So one reaction to that is “If you don’t want to die in a car crash, then don’t ride in a car.” That is true. That is one response.

But one must then consider the impact of that response:

  • “How would this impact your mobility?”
  • “Would you still travel places, and if so, how?”
  • “Is there a bike path that you could utilize, or would you give up your automobile only to risk your life cycling next to a busy highway?”
  • In other words, what secondary conclusions result based on the response to the initial question? But another approach is to reexamine the initial question:

  • “Why do people die in car crashes?”
  • The answer may be that most people die in car crashes due to very specific issues that can be mitigated. That is not to say that this will eliminate your risk of dieing in a car crash. But if I determine that 63% of the people who die in car crashes were not wearing seat belts, then I can always wear a seat belt and improve my odds of surviving a car crash.

    This is the approach I try to take with science issues. Frequently the answers to questions are not definitive, and instead depend on any number of conditions. And in the end there will still be disagreement. Some people may feel that a 1% risk is acceptable, but that may be 100 times too high for the next person on the very same issue.

    When someone is letting their emotions drive the argument, I try to get them to confront the data. If the answer is “It won’t fit”, then I either want to see that it doesn’t fit, or I want to measure it. This was the approach that I attempted to take with Joshua Frank, the author of – Burn a Tree to Save the Planet? The Crazy Logic Behind Biomass.

    Following my recent critique – Biomass is Not Crazy Logic – Frank dropped by and left a number of comments. Not everyone wades through the comments, and the comments are really not designed for prolonged exchanges. Further, these essays are often picked up and reposted without the comments. So I thought it might be worthwhile to extract some of the comments here. (The complete responses can be found following my initial essay).

    Frank’s argument can be distilled down to this: Citing Professor Tim Searchinger, Frank argues that burning biomass creates a net addition of carbon to the atmosphere. Burning biomass creates the danger that we will cut our forests down and inefficiently turn them into energy. Burning biomass creates emissions. Therefore, the burning of biomass is crazy, and it must be stopped.

    My response can be distilled down pretty easily. I actually agree with Searchinger that there are lots of factors that have to be evaluated in the biomass/bioenergy equation. Searchinger’s point is to show that the improperly used screwdriver can be a weapon. Frank then extrapolates that position to: A screwdriver is a weapon, and therefore we must stop the spread of screwdrivers.

    Frank cites Searchinger, but Frank’s extrapolations are subjective and qualitative. Numbers are missing from Frank’s analysis. Conclusions are sweeping and rigid. He argues that there is only one way to do biomass: The wrong way.

    In the real world, the burning of biomass can present the risks Mr. Frank cites. But where Mr. Frank goes wrong is that he believes that it must present those risks. That logic does not follow. Responsible management of biomass resources can have the opposite impact of what Mr. Frank suggests.

    In the back and forth that ensued, Frank seems to be unaware that the issues he raises are known issues; that while he is bemoaning them as a reason to surrender, some are out there working on solving them.

    A perfect example of this was his frequent argument that “burning biomass creates particulate emissions.”

    JF: “Burning woody biomass produces PM25, the most deadly form of particulate matter. This is a serious public health threat. Even if you believe that biomass is carbon neutral, you cannot skate around this important, well-documented fact.”

    Regarding this issue that Frank kept trying to educate me on, here are some excerpts from a book chapter that I recently completed on Bioenergy and Biofuels from Woody Biomass:

    RR: The majority of the wood used for cooking is done over an open stove. This is an inefficient process, leading to excessive consumption of wood. Open cook stoves also result in particulate emissions. Excessive pollution from wood cooking has been identified as a risk factor in acute lower respiratory infection, the chief cause of death in children in developing countries (Smith 2000).

    So I am well aware of the particulate emission issue with biomass burning. But here was the next paragraph, in which I discussed mitigation of the particulates problem:

    RR: Modern biomass stoves have been developed that are much more efficient with respect to wood utilization. These stoves can mitigate some of the problems associated with cooking over an open fire. By operating more efficiently, the money spent for fuel, and/or the time spent collecting fuel is diminished, as less fuel is required. Because combustion is more efficient, the air pollution associated with open fires is also diminished. Due to the multiple advantages of moving to modern biomass stoves, a number of programs have emerged with the intent of disseminating these stoves to the developing world (Barnes 1994).

    In another section, I wrote:

    RR: As with wood for cooking, one disadvantage from using wood for heating is the high level of particulate emissions. Open fireplaces also suffer efficiency losses from heat exiting the chimney. The development of community advanced combustion systems (AWC) has the potential for allowing increased usage of wood for heating, because of increased efficiency and lower particulate emissions.

    So Frank is aware of a problem, but is unaware that this sort of problem can be mitigated if the framework is in effect to mitigate it. This problem has a solution, albeit many have not adopted the solutions. Frank only sees a problem.

    The biggest hang-up, though, was probably around energy balances. There was quite a bit of “it takes a lot of energy to cut trees down and haul them out of the forest.” Again, there were never any numbers associated with these kinds of comments (except for the ones I provided). I guess if you use phrases like “diesel-powered” a lot, you can infer that the energy balance is bad without ever having to crunch the numbers.

    As I told Mr. Franks, the various energy inputs in the logistical chain of taking a tree from the forest and getting it to a processing facility – or the energy inputs in the conversion process itself – are available and are used in life cycle assessments regularly. “A lot of energy” for me has numbers associated with the claim. So instead of arguing about “a lot of energy used to harvest and transport” and that no biomass process can overcome that, why not attempt to quantify that?

    Back to the chapter I just completed, I wrote a section called “Net Energy Considerations.” Here is an excerpt from that section:

    RR: When calculating the energy that one could extract from a resource, it is important to consider the energy inputs into the process, as well as the types of energy inputs.

    In that section, I spent a bit of time explaining that the net energy of a process can easily be negative, and those processes are not sustainable. I concluded that section with:

    RR: Consideration of energy inputs also highlights one of the shortcomings of biomass relative to petroleum: The energy density for biomass is much lower; less than half the energy density of oil. This is due to the fibrous nature of biomass, and the fact that the moisture content tends to be high. This has implications for recoverability of wood resources. In general, the lower the energy density of the feedstock, the closer it needs to be to the processing facility due to the energy required for transport. Economical technologies that can efficiently increase the energy density of biomass in the field are needed. Some are currently under development and will be discussed in this chapter.

    So yes, I am aware of the relationship that energy inputs have on the sustainability of the system.

    At one point Frank did actually use some numbers to show that it takes longer to grow a tree than it does to burn a tree:

    JF: “A large tree that took 20 years to go (GE trees would be less) may burn in 17 seconds (after chopped to fine pieces).”

    This must be a key concept for him, because he actually pointed it out three different times. At one point he referred to this as a fundamental fact. This leads him to the conclusion:

    JF: “Trees will be burned at a far quicker rate than it takes to replace them.”

    As a rebuttal to his “fundamental fact,” I point out that the tomato it took 60 days to grow is eaten in 5 minutes. Therefore, tomatoes are eaten at a far quicker rate than it takes to replace them and the eating of tomatoes must be stopped before they are wiped out?

    Frank made a number of other unsupported arguments such as:

  • JF: “Biomass in the US means deforestation in our national forests. Period.”
  • JF: “Almost 99% of biomass to electricity plants in the US are also burning coal or trash. That’s a huge problem.”
  • JF: “If we are going to promote biomass as a renewable, we are looking at large scale deforestation.”
  • JF: “Trees simply do NOT make for good sources of biomass for electricity. Woody debris is not a dense energy source like coal (I’m not suggesting coal is the alternative). That’s why, as you know, power plants are using other fuels with biomass to produce energy.”
  • JF: “There is no such thing as good forest management when profit is involved.”
  • It’s like arguing that red is the best color. Put some numbers to it and let’s measure it. Are 99% of biomass to electricity plants really burning coal or trash? What is the source of that claim? Or is that simply hyperbole over coal plants that have started to supplement with biomass?

    I kept wondering if he ever gave any thought to what would happen if we abandoned the use of biomass for fuel. I can tell you what would happen: In the U.S., the future would be coal until we run out of coal. (To be perfectly honest, that’s probably the case anyway). That is reality. Sure, there’s nuclear, but something tells me that this wouldn’t be his preferred outcome. In developing countries, it would eliminate the particulate emissions problem because huge numbers of people wouldn’t have any fuel for cooking.

    At one point Frank brought up the threat of genetically modified organisms (GMO). I pointed out that while my company doesn’t use genetically modified trees, I am not personally opposed to genetic engineering in principle. Nature has been genetically modifying organisms since the beginning of time, and everything we eat has been genetically modified. Every mutation (even those that aren’t expressed) is a naturally-occurring experiment in genetic engineering. This was his response:

    JF: If you are not opposed to GE (and no, cross-breeding and hybridized plants are not genetically engineered, stick to engineering because your biology stinks) then I can’t help you. GE is new to the cycle of evolution.

    That line of argumentation is certainly a tangent, but countless people are alive today as a result of genetic engineering. Incidentally, I appreciate his concern, but it isn’t my biology that stinks. I wrote that nature has been doing genetic modifications forever. That is a fact. Frank was the one who translated that as “cross-breeding and hybridized plants.” He may want to look into genetic mutations, because cross-breeding and hybridization aren’t the only things that have changed the genetics of our food.

    Ultimately when I continued to challenge his replies, it went the way emotional-arguments often go. Because I failed to yield to his subjective arguments, he concluded that I couldn’t be motivated by the science. So he threw out a couple of ad homs

    JF: You get paid to do it. Makes much more sense why you will not address the real dangers of biomass production.; You are motivated by factors other than hard science. Biomass = paycheck. I get it.

    – and then left. In light of what he actually wrote, I found the phrase “hard science” especially ironic. Maybe I misunderstood and he was simply complaining that the science is hard?

    For the record, I don’t get paid to promote biomass. I don’t get paid to write at all. I write because I like to, and I am focused on biomass because I think it is going to have to play an important role in our energy future. It can’t be the sole solution – and I have argued the point many times that it can only replace a small fraction of our fossil fuel usage – but every analysis I have ever done suggests that it must be a part of the solution.

    At the end of the day, I try to be practical. I frequently hear people suggest that what really needs to happen is to reduce the global population by 95%. My eyes just glaze over. Those are the sorts of things that are not going to happen by politics or decree. It is navel-gazing to sit around and argue about “solutions” like this. Better to focus on solutions in the context of what is likely to actually take place once the politics have been factored in.

    This is how I view biomass. Frank can spend his time dogmatically arguing that it must necessarily be a disaster. But what is likely? It is more likely (in fact, it is certain) that we are going to continue down this path. Therefore, I think a much more productive use of time is to ask “How do we do it right?”

    References

    Barnes DF, Openshaw K, Smith KR, van der Plas R. (1994). What Makes People Cook with Improved Biomass Stoves? A Comparative International Review of Stove Programs. Washington, DC. The World Bank.

    Smith, K., Samet, J., Romieu, I., and Bruce, N. (2000). Indoor air pollution in developing countries and acute lower respiratory infections in children In: Thorax. June; 55(6): 518–532.

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    December 21, 2009 - Posted by | biomass, biomass gasification, climate change, global warming

    99 Comments

    1. Joshua wrote: Almost 99% of biomass to electricity plants in the US are also burning coal or trash. That's a huge problem.RR responded: What is the source of that claim? Or is that simply hyperbole over coal plants that have started to supplement with biomass?Looks like hyperbole to me. Looking at the Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005 xls linked from http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat2p2.htmlit seems to me that the most common biomass plant is one at a paper mill, using Black Liquor (which is the part of the wood that is not made into paper) and waste wood to make electricity to power the mill. (Seems to me like a good use of biomass that would never otherwise be carbon sequestering. Doesn't really matter that it currently provides less than 1% of US electricity.) Burning the biomass with coal or trash (MSW) seems less common. I can't say I had the patience to count it, but it was no where near 99% of biomass plants co-fired with coal or trash. Of course that was 4 years ago, but I doubt it has changed drastically.

      Comment by Clee | December 21, 2009

    2. "At one point Frank brought up the threat of genetically modified organisms (GMO). I pointed out that while my company doesn't use genetically modified trees, I am not personally opposed to genetic engineering in principle. Nature has been genetically modifying organisms since the beginning of time, and everything we eat has been genetically modified. Every mutation (even those that aren't expressed) is a naturally-occurring experiment in genetic engineering."Actually, there is a material difference between the two patterns. Ordinary evolution is the result of the interaction of two different mechanisms, spontaneous mutation and natural selection, with the former occurring far more slowly than the latter. Oversimplifying just a little, that means that wild feedback loops do not arise as an artefact of the system (mathematically, it has to do with whether there are rigidly coupled simultaneous differential equations). The same assurance is not present with GMO, where the selection is done by human intervention on a similar time scale; indeed, some systems are known to be made worse by that, e.g. with Pilot Induced Oscillation.

      Comment by P.M.Lawrence | December 21, 2009

    3. He made it sound like burning biomass with coal was a bad thing. Some utilities are burning switchgrass as a means of reducing co2 output. NRG Energy is growing switchgrass on 20 acres of land at its plant site. How can anyone not like that idea? If they didn't grow switchgrass,they'd keep growing grass that didn't do anything but look pretty.

      Comment by Maury | December 21, 2009

    4. Re: plants that have been modified over the past 50 years being different than genetic engineering – in many cases genetic changes were induced by using chemicals or radiation to randomly alter DNA.The old treat a million seeds and see what happens approach – it worked.The amount of anti-GMO smoke out there is truly a health hazard.

      Comment by Russ | December 21, 2009

    5. “Although not always successful, my goal is to let data drive my conclusions.”This called jumping to conclusions. Association is not causation How about systematic approaches like cause and effect, LCA, and industrial ecology?"Why do people die in car crashes?"The better question is what is the root cause of car accidents?My point here is that individual behavior is more important than data. If you work in a power plant you are trained to prevent accidents and use personal protective equipment (PPE). That same training helps you prevent accidents on the way home and at home. It is called the health worker syndrome. Workers exposed to radiation (a very small risk) live longer and healthier by mitigating larger risk. If the root cause of a forest health issue is too much small wood in the forest, the corrective action to solve that problems is find a use for that wood. If you can not find a good use the last resort is energy. You then match the technology to the solustion.If you are going to make electricity or wood pellets in the US your data has to show that the risk to the public is less than 1 in a million and the risk to workers 1 in 100,000. Furthermore, best available technology (BAT) must be used. So even if you show that PM2.5 limits will not be exceeded in your area, a particulate controls will still be required.To recap, find the root cause of an environmental problem. Use LCA to rank solutions. Then you need data show you are in compliance with regulations.

      Comment by Kit P | December 21, 2009

    6. Clee, I know Kettle Falls does not use coal. Here is a link and you may enjoy looking around the site. http://www.industcards.com/biomass-usa-western.htm

      Comment by Kit P | December 21, 2009

    7. Altavista is a CHP that uses wood and coal. It happens to be the closest plant to where I live now: http://www.industcards.com/st-coal-usa-va.htm

      Comment by Kit P | December 21, 2009

    8. Not counting the 6 navy plants that I was qualified to supervise operation of I had supervisory responsibilities to a plant on each of these pages: http://www.industcards.com/nuclear-us-pa.htm http://www.industcards.com/nuclear-spain.htm http://www.industcards.com/nuclear-us-in-mi.htm

      Comment by Kit P | December 21, 2009

    9. The book, "Collapse" by Jared Diamond is good reading on this. He has studied societies that did, or did not adapt when needed. For contrasts; compare the Pacific islands, Tikopia and Easter Island; the Vikings and Inuit of Greenland; the Pueblo and Anasazi of the American southwest; the New Guinea highlands clans vs. the Mayans; etc. His most critical conclusion is that the collapse of a society is partly a result of the choices that society makes,not just the surroundings. This gives us a chance to overcome our current problems – if we choose wisely!

      Comment by DDHv | December 21, 2009

    10. "This called jumping to conclusions. Association is not causation … My point here is that individual behavior is more important than data."That's much too sweeping for me. Individual behaviour _IS_ data. Sometimes it's important to model individual behaviour. Sometimes it isn't. Example: traffic jams can be (and are) caused by individual reaction to the brake lights ahead; some successful traffic models have modelled individual driver behaviour, others model traffic jams as compression waves in a fluid ("jamitons"). It depends what you're trying to get out of the model. Some of the things we think are matters of arbitrary and detailed personal choice are quite nicely modelled by relatively gross high level parameters.Data is important … and so is the critical judgement of the practitioner who selects among competing models based on the data. Either one without the other may be a leap to conclusions. I doubt that's what RR was proposing (as any fairminded reader might have concluded).

      Comment by PeteS | December 21, 2009

    11. Happy Birthday R2!

      Comment by Dan | December 21, 2009

    12. P.M. Lawrence said: "Ordinary evolution is the result of the interaction of two different mechanisms, spontaneous mutation and natural selection, with the former occurring far more slowly than the latter. Oversimplifying just a little, that means that wild feedback loops do not arise as an artefact of the system"Is that a fair comment? Mutation and natural selection operate on different things (individual genes versus phenotypes), so I'm not sure it can be said that one happens faster than the other. Recent research suggests 150 germ line mutations in each human generation. That sounds like a lot of mutations to me. Natural selection may weed out grossly deleterious mutations immediately, but may also only kick in much later when selection pressure changes or the target population is small.Another point worth making in this context is that thus far genetic modification has had far, far less impact than introductions of alien species into habitats by humans (Hawaii being a good example among many).

      Comment by PeteS | December 21, 2009

    13. Maury-That is interesting about burning switchgrass with coal. I have long said the best biofuel is biomass that is burned at a power plant, and then the resulting electricity is transmitted to PHEVs.I prefer nukes and mini-nuke plants to all else, but hey, whatever it takes to decrease oil consumption.

      Comment by Benny BND Cole | December 21, 2009

    14. Ordinary evolution is the result of the interaction of two different mechanisms, spontaneous mutation and natural selection, with the former occurring far more slowly than the latter.Actually, there are plenty of examples of trans-species genetic modification occurring in nature. One example is the finding of viral fragments in our DNA. Also, Pete is correct; the rate of spontaneous mutation is 100 or so (plus or minus about 50) base pairs per person per generation. Lots of studies have been done on this that suggest that this is close to the limit of what humans can tolerate as a species. Were it not for modern agriculture and modern medicine, the vast majority of us would not be alive because of this.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 21, 2009

    15. The book, "Collapse" by Jared Diamond is good reading on this.Diamond is one of my favorite authors. I have read all of his books.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 21, 2009

    16. This called jumping to conclusions. Association is not causation Really? I don’t think anybody here had ever heard of such a thing. Of course you may be jumping to conclusions on the basis of reading two lines in an essay. Clearly you didn’t read most of it, given this comment:The better question is what is the root cause of car accidents? My only explanation for your comment is that you stopped reading the essay at that point so you could rush your comments in here. How else could you miss But another approach is to reexamine the initial question: "Why do people die in car crashes?"And then why would you go on to say “My point here…” and then go on to make the points I made in the essay? The only explanation that I have here is that you stopped reading right at the point you felt like you had something to criticize. Otherwise, your comprehension is very, very bad. Or maybe imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery…RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 21, 2009

    17. Happy Birthday R2!Thanks Dan. Not planning on spending my entire day answering comments here.Cheers!

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 21, 2009

    18. 1) You should run a full disclaimer that you work for a company that runs biomass facilities, including as you write, "Our Choren plant in Freiberg [sic], Germany."I may come back to the rest of your comments later, but two things. First, it is very common knowledge what I do. I am always upfront about that. And I do what I do because I think there is a serious need for this, but more importantly there is a need to do it right. I happen to work for someone whose motivations are altruistic, which allows me to pursue these things in a way that doesn’t depend on maximizing short term profits.Second, it isn’t Freiberg [sic]. There are two cities of that pronunciation in Germany. One is more famous, but the location of our facility is indeed in Freiberg, which is near Leipzig and Dresden.You have also worked for Cononco-Phillips in my hometown of Billings, Montana. So you do have a past connection to an oil company. Is this how you prefer to argue? What exactly do you believe the relevance is? By the way, check your own [sic] above. “Conoco-Phillips.” But does this impact your ability to address my arguments in some way? I don’t care about your affiliations. I will address your arguments. RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 21, 2009

    19. I kept wondering if he ever gave any thought to what would happen if we abandoned the use of biomass for fuel. I can tell you what would happen: In the U.S., the future would be coal until we run out of coal.Coal is also a biomass fuel. Only it's biomass metamorphosed by 75 million years (or so) of heat and pressure.Carbon atoms and CO2 molecules are fungible. A CO2 molecule captured in a giant fern 75 million years ago and now embedded in coal is no different than a CO2 molecule captured in an ear of corn in July 2009. Once released back into the atmosphere they are indistinguishable, and both have identical greenhouse effects. (A CO2 molecule from corn doesn't sidle up to a molecule from coal and say, "Say, where have you been for the last 75 million years?") Any individual CO2 molecule has no idea whether it came from ancient and transformed biomass such as coal or oil, or from some recently grown biomass.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 21, 2009

    20. “Individual behaviour _IS_ data.”Let me see if I understand PeteS correctly. While I make a choice most of the time to go to work before the rush hour, I have noticed that may people using cell phones during rush hour at the busiest intersection in town. We can model the number of people who are distracted and conclude from the data that driving while distracted is okay because the accident rate is acceptable.Critical judgment is not about selects among competing models based on the data it is about making the right choice based on real world knowledge. Observations not models tell you if you have an environmental problem.Again let’s look at the PM2.5 issue. I have seen models claiming a certain number of deaths to particulate from power plants. However, the observations of measured air do not support the data. When there have been poor air quality days, the root cause is wild fires. In many cases, wild fires are part of the natural ecology. In some cases, the well intentioned policy of fire suppression wild fires destroys the forest leading serious water quality issues.The point being is there is data and then there is data. What is the a problem, what is the root cause, do you have the data to support it.Data is meaningless if there is no quality in the data acquisition or it is not based the actual situation.

      Comment by Kit P | December 21, 2009

    21. FreiburgThere are many cities in Germany which share the same name. When that happens, they traditionally add a qualifier to tell them part. (Example: Frankfurt am Main is the Frankfurt located on the River Main. Frankfurt an der Oder is the Frankfurt on the River Oder.)The two Freiburgs in Germany are:Freiburg im Breisgau ~ In southwestern Germany between the Black Forest and France. Freiburg im Breisgau has a major university, a solar power research institute, prohibits cars from a large portion of the city, and considers itself one of the greenest cities in the world.Freiburg (Elbe) ~ In northern Germany on the River Elbe between Hamburg and Denmark.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 21, 2009

    22. I just wish we had more coal. It's a great source of CO2; and CO2 is, as far as I can see, a Great thing for the Planet. It "might" have a slight warming effect in sufficient quantities, and it's Great Fertilizer for Food Plants.

      Comment by rufus | December 21, 2009

    23. I just wish we had more coal.Rufus~Coal? We don't need no steenkin' coal. Just wait until we learn how to tap into those methane clathrates and begin using the gigatons of methane they contain. 😉

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 21, 2009

    24. The two Freiburgs in Germany are:In addition, there is Freiberg which is neither of these, but where the Choren plant is located.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 21, 2009

    25. However, as he notes, we already have lots of plants on earth and these plants continue to grow. If we are to burn these plants that are already in place we are adding net carbon into the air just like burning coal or natural gas.That would be true if you cut the trees down and do not replant that field. If you replant that field with similar plants then whatever carbon was released would be absorbed back by the new plants as they grow.

      Comment by Terry | December 21, 2009

    26. In addition, there is Freiberg which is neither of these, but where the Choren plant is located.Ah, Freiberg vs. Freiburg. That must then be the Sachsen Freiberg between Dresden and Chemnitz in the old East Germany."Berg" can mean hill, mountain, or high place; while "burg" means fortress or stronghold.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 21, 2009

    27. (I am reposting my above comments for brevity)And the "conversation" continues. 1) You should run a full disclaimer that you work for a company that runs biomass facilities, including as you write, "Our Choren plant in Freiberg [sic], Germany." As such, it is a bit inaccurate to claim that you don't "get paid to promote biomass". Maybe you don't do PR for the company, but you get paid by one that has at least one biomass plant. You have also worked for Conoco-Phillips in my hometown of Billings, Montana. So you do have a past connection to an oil company. 2) My dogma is certainly not driving my conclusions that we ought to abandon biomass. Reality is. In theory, it is true, that some biomass can be carbon neutral. That is not in dispute. But as you somewhat admit in the comments of your previous article, there are no existing plants that you know of that are truly carbon neutral anywhere in the world. You did not put forward any data that would even suggest that an existing plant (or proposed one) is 100% carbon neutral. 3) You also misinterpret my view of Searchinger, who I spoke to on the phone about his Science article recently. He too knows of not one biomass plant in the country that ought to be receiving energy credits (because they are not carbon neutral). Working toward this goal is one thing, but pretending it exists in reality is quite another. 4) Because most biomass plants do emit PM and other toxins, it is safe to say that this is cause for alarm. Certainly when Ralph Nader raised a similar concern about the safety of autos, ie lack of seat belts (your analogy) in cars, it wasn't that he argued that cars ought to be abandoned (although he probably should have) it was simply that these companies/technology need to be held to account. 5) You write, "In the real world, the burning of biomass can present the risks Mr. Franks [sic] cites. But where Mr. Franks [sic] goes wrong is that he believes that it must present those risks." No, actually I don't believe that it "must" present those risks; only that it "does" present those risks in the real world.

      Comment by Joshua | December 21, 2009

    28. But as you somewhat admit in the comments of your previous article, there are no existing plants that you know of that are truly carbon neutral anywhere in the world.Seems obvious that most plants that use biomass is recuding their nett carbon emissions.What would you rather do, JF? Keep burning coal? Leave the forests to themselves? Do you believe burning coal and leaving the forests alone are the optimum solution? What do you propose? Or are you still in the adolescent I-hate-everything phase?In order for biomass to EVER be carbon-neutral, we would have to make available "additional carbon" beyond what the earth currently stores.Are you saying that because biomass is not a PERFECT solution it should be killed?Certainly when Ralph Nader raised a similar concern about the safety of autos, ie lack of seat belts (your analogy) in cars, it wasn't that he argued that cars ought to be abandoned (although they probably should have) it was simply that these companies need to be held to account.Perhaps it would make sense for you to argue that companies burning biomass should be held to account, rather than to argue for the abondonment of biomass burning.GE tree farms pose a great deal of harm to the biodiversity of our natural ecosystems.The problem of harm to biodiversity would exist even without any GE trees.GE tree farms pose a great deal of harm to the biodiversity of our natural ecosystems.As with nuclear power, the genie is NOT going back into the bottle. It's a screw driver. Lots of good uses out there.Biomass, in the policy world, can include facilities that also burn trash and coal, among other things.Burning trash is a good thing, especially since much of trash is renewable. The do-nothing option is to let it rot in landfills, producing CO2 AND CH4, which you would know is an even worse GHG than CO2. So, I can't believe that a responsible environmentalist would be in favor of do-nothing…In conclusion, leaving a forest alone means that mature trees die, decompose and release CO2, with no-one benefitting from all that stored enegy. Surely harvesting mature trees and using all that stored energy to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels is a good thing.

      Comment by Optimist | December 21, 2009

    29. 6) GE tree farms pose a great deal of harm to the biodiversity of our natural ecosystems. Human involvement in genetic manipulation of plant organisms, at the molecular level, is a wholly new scientific endeavor. I am talking specifically of plant and ecological impacts of GE. I defer critique of the issue to Andrew Kimbrell at the Center for Food Safety and the great work of Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a Microbial Ecologist at Cal, who both have written extensively on the subject. They certainly do not agree with your take on what GE is, or the potential harm the technology can do to plant populations, and in this specific case forest ecology. 7) You write, "Frank argues that burning biomass creates a net addition of carbon to the atmosphere. Burning biomass creates the danger that we will cut our forests down and inefficiently turn them into energy. Burning biomass creates emissions. Therefore, the burning of biomass is crazy, and it must be stopped." If you cannot tell us one single carbon neutral biomass to electricity plant in the United States, or where ever, then is safe to say that yes, burning woody biomass creates emissions and must be stopped. 8) Back to Searchinger. You seem to not understand his argument fully. He believes that yes, sure, biomass would be carbon neutral (in theory) if no green plants existed on earth because the carbon absorbed would equal the carbon released through growing and burning these plants. However, as he notes, we already have lots of plants on earth and these plants (trees) continue to grow. If we are to burn these plants that are already in place then we are adding net carbon into the air just like burning coal or natural gas. He also notes that if plants are grown on otherwise productive forest land, that means clearing these trees will result in losses to an already existing carbon sink. Planting trees to replace this, even if planted in the same location, does not make the process carbon neutral. In order for biomass to EVER be carbon-neutral, we would have to make available "additional carbon" beyond what the earth currently stores. With our carbon sinks in constant decline (there is even evidence that our ocean sinks don’t absorb as much CO2 as we initially thought) is in constant decline. 9) It is a fact that the world's forests are in rapid, almost exponential elimination. Species are in peril. In reality biomass is not likely to offset this trend. Planting more trees for biomass will not be adding to an existing carbon sink. Planting GE trees will not help either. Selective harvest of native forests will not reverse this trend.

      Comment by Joshua | December 21, 2009

    30. 10) So here's some (short list) of what other biomass critics and myself are concerned about. *We do not believe our public forests (as briefly addressed in the article I wrote) can handle additional logging, which is being currently proposed by the Obama administration. Biomass as defined by government policy is very nuanced. *We would rather see large investments in other technologies that seem more promising (although there are certainly many setbacks) like decentralized wind, solar and in some cases geothermal. *Biomass, in the policy world, can include facilities that also burn trash and coal, among other things. In fact, current pending climate legislation would give energy credits to plants that burn something like 40% biomass and 60% coal. This, I'm sure you agree, should be opposed and I hope you'll join us in doing so. *Lastly, we don't think the federal government ought to be investing $500 million (rough estimate) in biomass production when that includes additional logging on our public lands, or such a broad definition of what biomass is (ie, coal/biomass as a renewable resource). I have great concerns about the real world impact of biomass, which, if my Alternet.org article on the topic is read in full my your readers, should hopefully raise concerns even among those who believe all biomass is carbon neutral (which gladly you do not). For more info on the potential, and very real downsides of biomass, please check out: http://www.energyjustice.net/biomass/

      Comment by Joshua | December 21, 2009

    31. I am reposting my above comments for brevityFor brevity? Are you kidding?Please treat us with some respect! We CAN read. You only need to post your well reasoned comments ONCE!For brevity, he says… LOL!

      Comment by Optimist | December 21, 2009

    32. In conclusion, leaving a forest alone means that mature trees die, decompose and release CO2…Not necessarily. Over hundreds of thousands of years, all those dead leaves, fallen branches, and dead fallen trees can also build up thick layers of organic matter that over time will form layers of peat, and with even more time and under the right conditions, could eventually turn into coal.The key is that if you are going to leave a forest alone, you really have to leave it alone.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 21, 2009

    33. RR,I know you are a big book fan. here is a Amazon list for you and readers of the blog that I created . Sujects are Science,Technology and things that impact the futurehttp://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/listmania/fullview/RMVJKNSSWUBXE/ref=cm_lm_pthnk_view?ie=UTF8&lm_bb=Jim Takchess

      Comment by JIMj | December 21, 2009

    34. Kit P wrote: Clee, I know Kettle Falls does not use coal. Here is a link and you may enjoy looking around the site. http://www.industcards.com/biomass-usa-western.htmAnd despite JF's 99% claim, none of those plants are listed as burning coal or trash.I saw http://www.industcards.com/biomass-usa-ca.htm yesterday. Mesquite Lake looks interesting.Benny Cole wrote in the previous thread: We have nukes, wind, solar, coal, natural gas, geothermal, hydro power and even oil-fired power plants. I guess we will have biomass power pants soon.Uh Benny, we've had biomass power plants for decades, even ones that don't run on wood. For example, the Mequite Lake plant has been running on cattle manure since 1987. Wadham, in operation since 1989 runs on rice hulls and rice straw.

      Comment by Clee | December 21, 2009

    35. Much ado about Joshua's 99% comment. I think he was just trying to make a point that by far the majority of biomass plants in the US co-fire wood with other crap (sometimes it is crap!). This is true.In 2008 the DOE estimates there are 469 biomass to electricity plants in the country. As of 2007, the DOE estimated that of those, around 80 were majority woody-biomass (this ratio only had to be greater than 60% or so).Many of those 80 also use other co-firing components like coal or natural gas to get the fire started and sustained.Anyway, by these DOE numbers, a conservative guesstimate (assuming that the 80 plants DO NOT co-fire, which some do) puts the number closer to 83%. So perhaps his 99% isn't far off.

      Comment by Shawn Murphy | December 21, 2009

    36. I know you are a big book fan. here is a Amazon list for you and readers of the blog that I created . Sujects are Science,Technology and things that impact the futureThanks, Jim. Those books are right up my alley. I have read Number 16, but the rest are all just the kinds of books that interest me. Most of those are books that I would definitely pick up and read. (If you have ever looked at my reading list, you know that I like to read a very wide variety of stuff). Take Number 13. I constantly find myself wondering what my dogs know. What goes on inside their brains? How long would they remember me if we were separated? (We were separated for 3 months when I moved to Hawaii, and they were crazy excited the first time I saw them after that separation).RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 21, 2009

    37. "So you do have a past connection to an oil company."Just curious about something Josh. Do you use oil? If so, why would you complain about a connection to an oil company? You have a connection as well to oil companies. They enable you to live your life.

      Comment by Anonymous | December 21, 2009

    38. "Much ado about Joshua's 99% comment."But he made a number of comments in that spirit. If it isn't accurate, then what else is inaccurate? And if there are lots of inaccuracies, might that not impact the conclusions one would draw from the arguments?

      Comment by Anonymous | December 21, 2009

    39. I'm actually not saying he was in fact from about that figure. I also read through his article and found nothing actually factually incorrect about it. In fact, it is far more reporting than it is his opinion.

      Comment by Shawn Murphy | December 22, 2009

    40. Sorry, I'm on an iPhone and it's hard to type. "From" should be "wrong".

      Comment by Shawn Murphy | December 22, 2009

    41. Shawn, these two statements, one which is Frank’s and one which is someone he is quoting – are factually incorrect:Another problem with biomass is that it is typically mixed with substances like coal to produce energy."Look, wood produces 50 percent more CO2 than coal, for the same amount of energy output."The issue with particulate matter – about which much ado has been made – is solved with the same kinds of pollution controls on coal-fired power plants. Those emissions can be controlled. That is an argument to apply the fix.The comment about trees emitting CO2 when they are burned was just strange. They emit the same CO2 that they stored when they were growing. By focusing on that, he is focusing on the wrong issue. If you want to know whether carbon is being sequestered, you compare the energy inputs into the process to the carbon sequestered in the soil. The fact that the tree emits CO2 when burned is irrelevant when you are talking about managed forests that have been planted for the purpose of producing energy. Sure, that tree emits CO2. But I planted it, and will replant it when I harvest it.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 22, 2009

    42. That was actually Joshua Frank quoting someone else. He's a journalist. So your problem ought to be with the source.However, a "managed forest" does not eliminate the fact that burning trees releases CO2. When you eliminate the ability of a forest to grow old, you affect its natural ability to store carbon. There has been plenty of research on this:http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/247/4943/699If your idea of a "managed" forest is a tree plantation, then you are talking about pesticides and fertilizers that are going to be used (albeit less than some food crops). By eliminating trees you are in effect ruining the forest's ability to regrow naturally. Old trees are food for the new forest. Often, these trees decompose quite slowly, if at all. In some cases these tree particles are buried under soil/leaves and are their stored CO2 is never actually released. These substances (peat) can turn into coal and other products.But again, burning trees does emit CO2, which you state. Where you are a bit off is when you write that, "I planted it, and will replant it when I harvest it."It will take you less than a minute to burn that tree, which probably took years to grow (this doesn't even take into account the energy expended to log, chop up and route it to a mill). It is not a one-to-one ratio time wise. So in this scenario you are actually releasing CO2 much faster than your new tree can absorb it.The larger problem with this is that when you are hurting the natural forest's ability to grow naturally (even if selectively harvested), you are also hampering its carbon storage capacity. There has also been quite of bit of research on this.It also depends on where exactly your regrowth takes place. If a tree is harvested in Ohio and another is regrown in Texas, that is not an equal offset for many reasons. I think Joshua is correct when he says that on paper (in theory) biomass is carbon neutral, but in reality it is very hard to achieve. So hard in fact that it isn't really worth investing in as a good renewable resource, especially one that is "carbon neutral". Selective harvests have been documented to hurt many species, plant and animal in a native forest.As for PM. Even on coal-fired power plants, if scrubbers are installed, not all SO2 is eliminated and NOx isn't even addressed.

      Comment by Shawn Murphy | December 22, 2009

    43. NOX is measured in parts per Billion, and has increased a whopping 17% in the last 150 years.This is the kind of nonsense you get into when you let silliness like CO2-induced CAGW take hold.CO2 has been increasing in concentration by about 1.7 ppm in the atmosphere since 1998, and, of course, Temperatures have Gone Down.Time to call this fraud what it is, and move on with the business of staying alive.

      Comment by rufus | December 22, 2009

    44. Shawn Do you know anything about forest health issues in the semi-arid west besides what you have read?What about waste wood? I am not going to bore the other readers repeating myself. The environmental issues are much more significant than just the carbon balance. You can seep making up scenarios (straw man) that nobody is doing and we can keep tell telling you nobody is doing that. Boring.“As for PM. Even on coal-fired power plants, if scrubbers are installed, not all SO2 is eliminated and NOx isn't even addressed.”Well duh! But please can you identify some place with not 'good' air quality caused by generating electricity. Shawn it is always about people like you telling people some place else how they should do things. If you live some place with bad air quality, I would agree that you should go to a public meeting an voice your objection.

      Comment by Kit P | December 22, 2009

    45. RufusNOx is a term associated with smog. It is a combustion product. Last time we were in California air quality was very bad, made my wife sick. There was a wild fire in Big Sur. Nitrous oxide, N2O2, is a ghg and a product of bacterial decay of organic material. The amount of CO2, CH4, and N2O2 produced by depends on the moisture content. The global warming potential (gwp) of CO2, CH4, and N2O2 is 1, 21, & 300. I agree with Rufus AGW is not an important issue. However, those who think AGW is an important issue are conflicted good solutions are often at odds with there core beliefs. Killing baby trees and splitting atoms is not allowed.

      Comment by Kit P | December 22, 2009

    46. Nitrous Oxide, Kit, is N2O.Nitrous OxideIt is 344 parts per Billion in the atmosphere. Up from 270 parts per Billion in 1750. That's 260 years, Cadets.It's radiative forcing in the atmosphere is about 1/10th that of CO2 (which, itself, might be very close to zero when added to today's levels.)The whole thing is a joke, and a farce.

      Comment by rufus | December 22, 2009

    47. That was actually Joshua Frank quoting someone else.The 2nd statement was. The first was Frank making a statement. But even if he is quoting something else, he has a duty to make sure his source isn’t providing blatantly false information. However, a "managed forest" does not eliminate the fact that burning trees releases CO2.Completely irrelevant. Burn coal, and you emit CO2 that has been sequestered for millions of years. Burn wood, and you emit CO2 that was recently pulled out of the air by the tree.When you eliminate the ability of a forest to grow old, you affect its natural ability to store carbon. There has been plenty of research on this: What that research shows is that when you convert an old growth forest into a tree plantation, you pay a carbon penalty due to the amount of carbon stored in the wood. But I am not – nor have I ever been talking about – old growth forest. I am talking about existing managed forests. In addition, one of the assumptions they use to come to the conclusions they do is that fire is used for site preparation – destroying woody debris on the soil and converting it to CO2. That is certainly not something we have ever done.If your idea of a "managed" forest is a tree plantation, then you are talking about pesticides and fertilizers that are going to be used (albeit less than some food crops).There may be an initial application depending on the species, but then that’s it. The forest grows for the next 10 years with no other inputs. The chemical input into forests relative to other energy crops is miniscule.Old trees are food for the new forest.Actually, the ideal tree species are those that concentrate nutrients in the leaves and bark. That way, the roots bring up subsoil nutrients and recycles them. The leaves, bark, and slash that are left behind are the food for the new forest, because the wood doesn’t have much nutritional value. If it did, it would produce too much ash when burned, and that’s what you are trying to avoid.It is not a one-to-one ratio time wise. So in this scenario you are actually releasing CO2 much faster than your new tree can absorb it. That argument has zero relevance. As I have said several times, I can eat a tomato much faster than it takes to grow. If your logic followed, I couldn’t do that or I would deplete all the tomatoes. But the logic doesn’t follow for reasons that should be obvious.As for PM. Even on coal-fired power plants, if scrubbers are installed, not all SO2 is eliminated and NOx isn't even addressed. First off, SO2 is not PM. But second, you certainly could remove all of the SO2 and NOx if you wanted to pay the price to do it. But there are emissions limits enforced by the EPA, and those are the law. If they said “Zero SO2”, then zero it would be. But the price of getting to zero may be much higher than the risk of not being at zero.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 22, 2009

    48. Kit, My Apologies. I thought he had used the term, "Nitrous Oxide." I just looked back and realized he used the general term NOX, which does include NO2, as well as other nitrogen + Oxygen molecules.

      Comment by rufus | December 22, 2009

    49. Rufus (and several others here) … I think you will really enjoy these people.;-)

      Comment by PeteS | December 22, 2009

    50. In the U.S., the future would be coal until we run out of coal. (To be perfectly honest, that's probably the case anyway). That is reality.I hope you're wrong, Robert. Sadly, there seems to be no rationality in the political world. On the right, I see almost uniform denial that there's a problem with CO2 emissions. On the left, blindness to the weaknesses of wind and solar power, and unwillingness to discuss nuclear.The wild card is new technology from the oil and gas industry that has opened up nat gas resources we weren't counting on before. I believe a consensus can be formed to use this resource instead of coal, to use this in conjuction with solar power in hybrid power plants, and to use it as a lower-carbon vehicle fuel. High fuel prices should keep us motivated to keep moving to more efficient vehicles. Even with nuclear apparently off the table, we can move the needle in the right direction. I'm betting we'll ultimately stumble into this plan despite ourselves.Merry Christmas, Robert!

      Comment by Anonymous | December 22, 2009

    51. (That is…. unless you already ARE those people):-)

      Comment by PeteS | December 22, 2009

    52. Climategate Christmas: Brought to you by Pete S, and Rufus.

      Comment by rufus | December 22, 2009

    53. "That argument has zero relevance. As I have said several times, I can eat a tomato much faster than it takes to grow. If your logic followed, I couldn’t do that or I would deplete all the tomatoes. But the logic doesn’t follow for reasons that should be obvious."Tomato plants? You aren't serious, right? I see that you are quite gifted at cherry-picking quotes, but I'll indulge anyway.Tomatoes and forests have little in common when we are talking about biodiversity and an ecological system's ability to absorb CO2.Tomato plants do not contribute drastically to a carbon sink's ability to absorb CO2. Anyway, tomato plants also are annuals, unlike trees used for biomass. So it is really not an accurate analogy whatsoever.But let's play along with it for the sake of fun. If we are to eat tomatoes grown in a local annual field (say we live in most US states and want to be 'carbon neutral'), we indeed would run out of fresh tomatoes. The season would change and we'd have to replant new ones again in March. We wouldn't be able to eat fresh tomatoes all year round because they are seasonal.Even if we live in parts of say, California, and I grow a couple tomato plants year round, I can only eat tomatoes from these plants as long as they grow unless I'm buying ones from the market.If I eat too many (or make pasta sauce with a dozen one night), I run out until the green tomatoes on my plants turn red in a couple of weeks. For two weeks I am out of tomatoes! Lark!That's not so good if we are using those tomatoes for survival (ie energy or carbon sinks).But, by your logic this would never occur. In reality, of course, this happens all the time and is currently happening to our world's forests.

      Comment by Shawn Murphy | December 22, 2009

    54. "Let the Data Do the Talking."I recently read an interesting article on Q-Cell located in Germany.They have the on-going manufacturing capacity to produce 1 (one) million traditional solar cells each week. This is just one single German plant (not the Chinese and east Asians, Americans, etc.)Then I read an article about First Solar (thin film, USA) and how they were the first to manufacture and ship one giga-watt of thin film cells in a single year.Maybe I'm reading the wrong "data"By all means, let's "Let the data do the talking…"Then I read an article about the new Power-Genix NiZn (nickle-zinc) batteries which have the same capacity as alkaline cells but are re-chargeable and are 20% cheaper to manufacture than current Nimh cells.Somehow I keep getting tangled up with "weird data" like this.John

      Comment by Anonymous | December 22, 2009

    55. Shawn Murphy @ December 21, 2009 4:49 PM“That was actually Joshua Frank quoting someone else. He's a journalist. So your problem ought to be with the source.”Wouldn’t Frank arguing for those points as he has, indicate he’s adopted them as his own?“It also depends on where exactly your regrowth takes place. If a tree is harvested in Ohio and another is regrown in Texas, that is not an equal offset for many reasons.”What reasons? How does adding a molecule to the atmosphere from one point on the surface and subtracting it at another result in an offset that is “not equal” for a gas that is well mixed? Are you talking about forests uses, or carbon? If the former, offsets seems an awfully strange term to use?WhiteBeard

      Comment by Anonymous | December 22, 2009

    56. Tomatoes and forests have little in common when we are talking about biodiversity and an ecological system's ability to absorb CO2.Yet the point remains: The fact that I can burn a tree faster than I can grow it – a point made many times by Frank and now you – has zero relevance to this argument. It is no more relevant than the tomato example. What matters is the big picture. Sure, I can burn a tree faster than I can grow it, but there are many, many more trees growing than I am burning. That's the same reason I don't eat up all the tomatoes.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 22, 2009

    57. Biomass, in the policy world, can include facilities that also burn trash and coal, among other things. In fact, current pending climate legislation would give energy credits to plants that burn something like 40% biomass and 60% coal.This, I'm sure you agree, should be opposed and I hope you'll join us in doing so.So you insult me and liberally scatter ad homs (I am still scratching my head over "you do have a past connection to an oil company"), and now I should join you in your mission? You really need to work on your recruiting pitch.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 22, 2009

    58. You can get "Inside of a Dog" @ audible or as a book on CD. It would be good to listen to on a plane. I'm now listening to it as I drive down 128. Happy Holidays,Jim

      Comment by takchess | December 22, 2009

    59. I'm now listening to it as I drive down 128. please note I am not driving and posting.8)

      Comment by takchess | December 22, 2009

    60. “Kit, My Apologies.”No need, it is a common mistake but an important distinction. Smog is a real health hazard, AGW is a predication about slow change. Rufus more than makes up for an occasional mistake with his contributions to the debate.“First off, SO2 is not PM.”It is part and parcel to the same health issue. Are the combined health effects worse? That question is being researched. In any case, RR is correct that emissions can be economically reduced to a level where there is no significant health hazard because observed air quality is good.

      Comment by Kit P | December 22, 2009

    61. The fact that I can burn a tree faster than I can grow it – a point made many times by Frank and now you – has zero relevance to this argument.RR~You are correct, it's an irrelevant argument. We also burn hydrocarbon chains and coal much faster than it took to make them by a factor of hundreds of millions to one.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 22, 2009

    62. “Even with nuclear apparently off the table,..”Nukes are still on the table, the question is how big the table will be. One nuke plant is under construction in the US now. A second nuke in Georgia has received permission to site preparation and a large amount of heavy equipment is moving dirt. I expect that 5 nukes will be under construction by the end of 2012. At least two heavy equipment factories are under construction to build large components in the US again. Environmental extremists have taken control over the US federal government and they hate nukes as much as they coal. However, some are breaking ranks because nukes are the only practical choice to replace fossil fuels. Bush pushed hard to put nukes back on the table. Laws had to be changed to allow US engineers to design nuke plants for India and China. Obama would have to push hard back to stop new nukes from starting construction of $25 billion in very high paying union jobs.It is also a matter of pride too. By 2012 one plant in Finland and France, plus 6 in China of the same design will be nearing completion. Sure nuke plants are massive undertakings but what are we going to say, we are too inept.So I expect O will do nothing to take new nukes off the table. However, I do not expect ten nukes to be under construction 2013.

      Comment by Kit P | December 22, 2009

    63. "Sure, I can burn a tree faster than I can grow it, but there are many, many more trees growing than I am burning."That really isn't the point. When you harvest an already existing tree you are depleting the carbon sink's ability to absorb CO2. But let's get back to your argument that you can just plant a replacement tree. And let's look at it very conservatively under the best of circumstances. Say the tree you burned was ten years old. You harvested it from a tree farm so that is exactly where you plant a new one in the same field. You allow that tree to grow ten years and do the same thing over again.Now, you'd assume that the carbon released by both trees when they burn was the same. But that is not exactly true. It depends on many factors.If there was a drought during the growth time frame, less sunlight, soil degradation, or even too much sun, one tree's ability to absorb carbon could have been less than than the other. Multiple that by 1000 trees and your carbon neutral model doesn't pass the sniff test (and we aren't even addressing any fossil fuel use that was used at any part of the process).In reality, when you cut a tree that is 20 years old, grow one to its same size that is 10 years old, it is safe to say that the 20 year old tree absorbed much more CO2 during its lifetime (given they grew in the same location and were the same type of tree). By cutting a younger tree you are in fact depleting its ability to continue capturing CO2.Also, it is quite inaccurate to say that trees are going to decompose and produce methane and CO2 anyway, which is an argument you made, so its no matter if they burn up in a biomass plant.This is not always the case. Trees and other forest life can die and end up NOT decomposing in nature. Over a long period of time this can turn into coal. Well, sure, some do decompose, but not all. And this storage is nature's way of sequestering CO2. So when we cut trees we are in a way removing nature's ability to capture some of that CO2 that was absorbed during the tree's growth. This is why burning coal is not sustainable. It's essentially the same equation as burning trees, just a hell of a lot longer time period for the process to occur.Finally, just like coal plants or biomass facilities, greenhouse gases are emitted along with CO2 during the firing of biomass, and not all of those toxins are typically 100% captured.

      Comment by Shawn Murphy | December 22, 2009

    64. Just to note, when I write that they some plants do NOT decompose in nature, that means above ground on the forest floor. Decomposition underground is a much different process.

      Comment by Shawn Murphy | December 22, 2009

    65. "Sure, I can burn a tree faster than I can grow it, but there are many, many more trees growing than I am burning."That really isn't the point. When you harvest an already existing tree you are depleting the carbon sink's ability to absorb CO2. Sure, and when I eat a tomato I am depriving anyone else from having the opportunity to eat it. That’s why I plant more. On that topic…Multiple that by 1000 trees and your carbon neutral model doesn't pass the sniff test (and we aren't even addressing any fossil fuel use that was used at any part of the process).How on earth can you say “If, if, if…”, supply zero actual data, and then suggest that it doesn’t pass the sniff test? The only way you can conclude that is to look at the data; take actual measurements of soil carbon under various conditions and compare it to carbon inputs into the harvesting and processing steps.In reality, when you cut a tree that is 20 years old, grow one to its same size that is 10 years old, it is safe to say that the 20 year old tree absorbed much more CO2 during its lifetime (given they grew in the same location and were the same type of tree).But not twice as much. Two ten year old trees of the same species under the same conditions will sequester more soil carbon over their lifetimes than one 20-year-old tree. Look at the growth curves for a tree, and see where they flatten. When the growth flattens, so does the speed of carbon uptake.By cutting a younger tree you are in fact depleting its ability to continue capturing CO2.Which is why the cycle continues. It is why we have tomatoes to eat today. We planted more.Also, it is quite inaccurate to say that trees are going to decompose and produce methane and CO2 anyway, which is an argument you made, so its no matter if they burn up in a biomass plant.The vast majority will in fact decompose. Look at the soil in any forest, and the soil carbon will be a fraction of the trees that grew and died there. The rest are methane (especially as termites find them) or CO2.This is not always the case. Trees and other forest life can die and end up NOT decomposing in nature. Over a long period of time this can turn into coal. Well, sure, some do decompose, but not all. Actually, not “some.” Most. The vast majority. Further, I will have to locate the source, but there was a paper in the past year or so that argued that the conditions for coal formation no longer exist, as coal formed before the evolution of wood-eating insects. Thus, the only way coal could form now would be if a forest was buried rapidly.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 22, 2009

    66. Shawn, don't bother. He's yet to provide his own "data" for the majority of his claims. Woody biomass being carbon neutral is a pipe dream, and he's yet to provide anything other than theory about why it is possible. On Mars, yes, it is possible. On Earth, in reality, it has yet to happen. And while they are trying to figure it out, our forests are being ravaged and CO2 is being emitted beyond control by coal, and yes, biomass.

      Comment by Joshua | December 22, 2009

    67. Joshua, good point.

      Comment by Shawn Murphy | December 22, 2009

    68. Sure nuke plants are massive undertakings but what are we going to say, we are too inept.Kit P.Yes, it seems to me that's pretty much what we are saying with respect to nukes ~ we are too inept and they are too dangerous.Nuclear reactors as we now build them are certainly lengthy, time-consuming, super expensive, and massive undertakings. But do they have to be that way in the future?Nuclear fission is a basic, and actually easy to understand physical process. Why do we have to so over-regulate and over-complicate it? If this were a rational world, why couldn't there be a commonly-designed, modular reactor that virtually any utility company could buy off-the-shelf, and — with a few appropriate precautions and safeguards — have up and running in their cities in short order?

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 22, 2009

    69. Josh/Shawn,Actually, I have provided numbers and asked the critics to show that they knew what to do with them. No critics took me up on that point, despite several requests to do so. It confirms that you are not really interested in getting into data. It is your side making the subjective arguments. I am armed with data. Where is yours? I keep getting irrelevancies like “A tree burns faster than it grows.At the end of the day, we are talking about two different models. You are pointing to a hunter-gatherer model, and saying “This isn’t sustainable to feed the population. Continuing this will be a disaster.” I am pointing out that there is a different model – agriculture – that can feed a lot more people. But you are stuck trying to critique that model with your hunter-gatherer tools. They are not the same.None of this is an argument to convert our protected forests into ag land or farmed biomass. I think I have made it quite clear that I don’t support that. What I do support is trying to figure out how to make the most efficient usage of the land we have – instead of just putting more land into service. And all the while that you try to throw down roadblocks, we will just keep burning coal. I am curious: Do you not see that? What do you think would happen? How would you supply energy to the world?RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 22, 2009

    70. Clee-I am glad to see we in fact have biomass power plants.I actually called them "biomass power pants."There is a flatulence joke in there somewhere, which is maybe why I am such a fan of natural gas.

      Comment by Benny BND Cole | December 22, 2009

    71. OT, but…"Argonne National Laboratory, which has contributed heavily to the research and development of Li-ion battery technology, is now pursuing research into Lithium-air batteries. Li-air batteries use a catalytic air cathode that converts oxygen to lithium peroxide; an electrolyte; and a lithium anode. Li-air batteries will have a capacity for energy storage that is five to 10 times greater than that of Li-ion batteries, which Argonne is characterizing as a bridge technology for electric vehicle applications."Jeez. Can you imagine? They say commercialization is 10 years out. We have 10 years. Is the oil industry a zombie? Are biofuels dead? Are liquid fuels a speciality industry in the future–for ships and planes only?

      Comment by Benny BND Cole | December 22, 2009

    72. Methane is on the Rise.Why? Naturally decaying plant matter. Termites are the no. 1 methane emitter. Solution? It's obvious. Harvest more trees. Don't let them rot.Is this comment tongue-in-cheek? Of course it is. We're letting a bunch of anti-capitalist, anti-humanity, watermelons corrupt sensible solutions with pseudo-scientific witch-craftery. We should all subject ourselves to lobotomy-by baseball bat.

      Comment by rufus | December 22, 2009

    73. How would you supply energy to the world?Methane clathrates :-)Robert, I'm waiting for your analysis and an essay on the potential of using all that methane that's locked up in frozen hydrates under the oceans. Global Inventory of Natural Gas Hydrates

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 22, 2009

    74. I agree that we ought to be shutting down coal plants, and in fact I do as much as I can to cover the topic.I would rather see a future where power is decentralized and made up of solar, wind and geothermal (in certain locales). It looks like we will end up disagreeing on the potential for biomass as a realistic approach to cutting global CO2 emissions.I do, however, appreciate your perspective on many issues, especially corn-based ethanol (you should also look into the GM aspect of corn production in the US).Back to coal. While the climate movement wants to shut down coal plants (as James Hansen suggests), we do not want these plants to then in turn burn biomass at a rate that does not actually decrease CO2 output.Here's a list of current US plants that are converting to other sources, most to biomass (typically a mixture of coal/biomass). Given all the money the gov is throwing out there to promote biomass, this trend is likely to continue.Full disclosure, I do research for CoalSwarm.http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Coal_plant_conversion_projects

      Comment by Joshua | December 22, 2009

    75. I would rather see a future where power is decentralized and made up of solar, wind and geothermal (in certain locales).I am hopeful for these sources, and in fact believe that long-term the only way of continuing with the sort of mobility we have now is through electric transportation. I have written quite a lot on that.Two problems, though. First, we still don't know whether affordable electric autos are going to accepted by the masses. People are going to have a problem with the range, and potentially the price. Hopefully these issues are not show-stoppers.Second, air, marine, and probably long-haul trucking transport will continue to rely on distillate fuels. Those can be produced from petroleum, coal, natural gas, tar sands, or biomass. Only one of these has any hope of being a sustainable option. So if you could block that sustainable option, I can tell you without a doubt where that transportation fuel will come from. In the U.S., it will be coal-to-liquids. Guaranteed.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 22, 2009

    76. Look at what the watermelons are doing in California. Trying their dead-level best to keep solar, and wind out of the Mohave Desert.They have, already, for all intents and purposes shut down over a dozen large projects. It would appear that all they really want is the destruction of the United States of America.

      Comment by rufus | December 22, 2009

    77. "It would appear that all they really want is the destruction of the United States of America."Rufus, that may be true of the lunatic fringe (which unfortunately is well represented in Congress & the Administration).But most of the people saying "no" are simply well-meaning idiots — uneducated unthinking fools. They imagine that they can shut down all sources of power, and yet life will go on much as before. They don't realize that medical care & education are dependent on energy. They don't know history — Children worked in coal mines in Pennsylvania little more than 100 years ago.In the long run, those "useful idiots" (as the Communists called their supporters) are irrelevant. They can destroy California. They can try to destroy the US. But progress will continue elsewhere — be it China, Brazil or India.Those well-meaning children can certainly saw off the particular branch they happen to be sitting on, but they cannot kill the tree — which will keep on growing.

      Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 22, 2009

    78. Trying their dead-level best to keep solar, and wind out of the Mohave Desert.Keeping solar out of the Mojave. Now there's a well thought out (not) idea. Rufus, whatever could their reasoning be for that? Do they think the solar panels and mirrors would keep all that solar energy from falling on the desert floor where it's naturally supposed to be?

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 22, 2009

    79. Finally, just like coal plants or biomass facilities, greenhouse gases are emitted along with CO2 during the firing of biomass, and not all of those toxins are typically 100% captured.Nothing but PERFECT is good enough, eh? Well, Shawn, do let us know when you find the perfect solution. In the mean time, I suggest you leave those biomass consumers alone…I would rather see a future where power is decentralized and made up of solar, wind and geothermal (in certain locales).OK, Joshua, that's (almost) a suggestion – only solar and wind are not available 24/7. Storage is even more of a nightmare.So, seeing as you don't have a (currently) viable solution, maybe just leave those biomass burners alone. You work on your solution; let them work on theirs. We'll see who gets it right.Nothing personal, but I won't be investing in your approach. Now go prove me wrong, tiger…

      Comment by Optimist | December 22, 2009

    80. But progress will continue elsewhere — be it China, Brazil or India.Oh no! If we have to rely on those defenders of human innovation, we are truely screwed…The US is indeed a sickened giant. But even in that weakened state, it is way better than any of those three…

      Comment by Optimist | December 22, 2009

    81. The ONLY solution they want is to see you hunkered down in a cave, cold and hungry. Or Dead.

      Comment by rufus | December 22, 2009

    82. Biomass BurnersJust considering the practical ~ some of the historical aspects of biomass burner experience aren't hopeful.1. Pioneers on the Great Plains — out of necessity — had to burn recently-grown biomass to cook and heat their homes. When they did, it was a time-consuming process to keep a fire going. They would twist and weave wheat straw and corn stalks into "prairie logs" to feed into their heating and cooking stoves. On cold nights that meant someone staying awake to constantly feed the fire. Of course, that process would now be automated, but the point is that they did not find a lot of heat energy in the biomass available to them.2. And I've previously made the point — so won't belabor it again — that when England relied on recently-grown biomass for heating, cooking, and their rudimentary iron and glass industries, they practically denuded the country before they began the widespread use of coal.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 22, 2009

    83. Mojave-Okay shoot me, but I like nukes and mini-nukes, and I don't like scarring gorgeous desert landscapes with giant solar and wind farms. Desert wildlife is already disappearing.Build nukes!

      Comment by Benny BND Cole | December 23, 2009

    84. But, the post is about "Data."Okay, how about this:The Amazonian Rain Forest is approx. 2.2 Million Sq. Miles.The last couple of years Deforestation is running A Little Less than 5,000 sq mi/yr.That's about 2/10ths of 1 %.0.002 Annually.

      Comment by rufus | December 23, 2009

    85. PeteS and Rufus,Thanks for posting the Minnesotan's for global warming videos, very funny.As a Minnesotan, I can tell you that right now I am very concerned about global warming. We are going to visit the Grandparents for Christmas. But the forecast calls for up to 20 inches of snow over the next few days. If global warming overwhelms us, we will have a lot of out of work plow drivers.When we get to Grandpa's, we like to plow a skating rink out on the lake. We do this with a 10,000 lb. skid loader. With global warming, in a few decades the ice may be so thin that we may need to use a pick-up truck to plow the ice.Back on topic, it is very sad when people cry about CO2, oppose real solutions like biomass and nuclear (mostly nuclear), and then offer complteley impotent solutions like decentralized solar and wind. It is very telling.

      Comment by Dennis Moore | December 23, 2009

    86. "0.002 Annually."But Rufus — that is about 10 times larger than the annual increase in the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere. And all right-thinking people know that the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere will kill all life on the planet. Maybe tomorrow!Sorry for any typos. It is really cold standing in the snow in Copenhagen, punching away on the Blackberry while waiting for the bus.

      Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 23, 2009

    87. CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has increased 19.48 ppm in the last ten years.That's 1.95 ppm/annually.1.95/388 = 0.005 or 5/10ths of 1%.Sounds like a "Crisis" to me.

      Comment by rufus | December 23, 2009

    88. Rufus – we should, as RR says, let the data do the talking. But, brother, we should not let extremists distort how we think about the signficance of that data.You looked at Amazon deforestation appropriately — 5,000 square miles deforested per year out of a total forested area of 2.2 Million. Actual deforestation of about 0.2% per year of the total area.Annual increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is about 2 parts per million – an actual annual increase of CO2 in the atmosphere of 0.0002%. That is a thousand times less than the rate of deforestation of the Amazon. (My apologies for mis-stating the number before — it really was cold at that bus stop in Copenhagen).The activists don't want to look at the (physically meaningful) actual increase in atmospheric CO2. Instead, they use the alarmist relative increase in CO2 — which, as you point out, is a terrifying 0.5%.We need to start with the data. And then we need to interpret it carefully if we are to reach useful conclusions.

      Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 23, 2009

    89. It's beginning: NZ Methane Hydrates May Soon Be Developed

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 23, 2009

    90. Japan eyes methane hydrate as energy savior"In Japan, the government is backing efforts to complete research and development by 2018 and launch commercial production after that.The volume of methane hydrate in seafloor sediments around Japan alone is estimated to be enough to provide energy equivalent to 90 years of the nation's natural gas usage today."

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 23, 2009

    91. It is really cold standing in the snow in Copenhagen, punching away on the Blackberry while waiting for the bus.Must have been exciting hanging out with like-minded people ;-). Tell us more about your experience at Copenhagen: as Jay Leno says, judging by this week's weather it looks like you guys really solved the problem! Good work!

      Comment by Optimist | December 23, 2009

    92. Kinuachdrach (and Rufus),"Annual increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is about 2 parts per million – an actual annual increase of CO2 in the atmosphere of 0.0002%. That is a thousand times less than the rate of deforestation of the Amazon."Well, I am all for letting the data do the talking, but with respect … that's silly talk. By your inference, if you were to increase the concentration of hydrogen cyanide in your body by 2 parts per million everything should be hunky dory, whereas in fact a quarter of that dose would kill you. The numbers you quote are not inconsequential by the mere fact of being "small"."The activists don't want to look at the (physically meaningful) actual increase in atmospheric CO2. Instead, they use the alarmist relative increase in CO2"You know, it's odd not to hear a peep out of Rufus on this one, seeing as it was him that pointed out just a few short threads ago that the sensitivity of climate to CO2 is logarithmic… so the relative increase is all that matters. Of course, Rufus's idea of letting the data do the talking was to fabricate a 1.2°C rise in temperatures resulting from a doubling of CO2 — a number not even in the range predicted in the IPCC AR4 report, which claims it is "likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C."Coming back to your percentage increase in CO2: I suspect if your income tax went from 20 cents on the dollar to 40 cents on the dollar, that you would say that it has doubled, not that it went up by 20%. Likewise, if CO2 goes up by 2 parts per million of the atmosphere, and CO2 is already at 400 parts per million, then anyone who can do their sums will agree it has gone up by 0.5%, not by 0.0002%. And that amounts to a 65% increase in a century. And since the amount is already up 30% over pre-industrial levels, that puts us at double those pre-industrial levels well within the 21st century assuming business as usual.So the only thing that YOUR data is saying is is that you either got the numbers wrong, or you aim to mislead by suggesting that they are too small to possibly be of consequence."We need to start with the data. And then we need to interpret it carefully if we are to reach useful conclusions."So, what's your conclusion from the data? Or have you already reached a conclusion without needing any data?

      Comment by PeteS | December 24, 2009

    93. "The volume of methane hydrate in seafloor sediments around Japan alone is estimated to be enough to provide energy equivalent to 90 years of the nation's natural gas usage today."Methane hydrates are abundant on the seafloor in many parts of the world. They have been known for years. The big problem is cost: it's not going to be easy to scoop up the hydrates in sufficient volumes, process the raw material, and then deliver the extracted gas to the burner tip.

      Comment by armchair261 | December 24, 2009

    94. Pete, the IPCC put the temp increase from a Doubling of CO2 at about 1.2 C. To get to the range you're quoting they had to come up with imaginary, and unproven "Positeve" feedbacks. The research of Dr. Roy Spencer, and others, show that the feedbacks are quite likely "Neutral," or "Negative."Even with the fraudulent, and fouled up temp record CRU, and GISS have manufactured you're only looking at an approx 0.7 C increase since 1890 (which would end up about a 1.2 C per doubling. The last 4 years sea levels haven't risen as much as a mm, and the Crops have been great.If those guys want to sit cold and hungry in a cave I invite them to go do it; but, of course, they don't intend to do that. They intend for US to do that. Too bad for them. I've got a .308, and an ethanol still that says, "I ain't Goin."

      Comment by rufus | December 24, 2009

    95. Oh, and CO2 ain't Cyanide. CO2 is plant fertilizer. While CO2 was increasing about 7% in the atmosphere, worldwide, flora was increasing, per NASA, 6%. And, worldwide GDP increased about 30%.De "Jig" is up, Pete. The "Truth" is out. That whole thing was a made-up hoax from the git-go, and, now, the watermelons are going to have to come up with something else. THIS charade has run its course.

      Comment by rufus | December 24, 2009

    96. Methane hydrates are abundant on the seafloor in many parts of the world. They have been known for years. The big problem is cost: it's not going to be easy to scoop up the hydrates in sufficient volumes, process the raw material, and then deliver the extracted gas to the burner tip.armchair261,That's also what they said about the natural gas locked in shale formations not so long ago.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 24, 2009

    97. "That's also what they said about the natural gas locked in shale formations not so long ago."True, and maybe someone will figure it out. But scooping up minerals (i.e. rocks) from the sea floor and then converting those rocks to gas is a fundamentally different process than gas from shale, which was more a series of incremental improvements (which by the way would not have been possible without $6+ gas).The problem is that an extra step is needed. You need to collect the mineral and THEN extract the gas. You don't have that extra step in shale gas plays – you just extract. But maybe someone will figure out an in situ process, or maybe the hydrates can be processed at sea. It will almost certainly require very high gas prices. And now with all this gas shale reserve, very high prices will encourage a lot of (relatively) low priced competition from those shales, which might make things difficult for hydrate economics.

      Comment by armchair261 | December 24, 2009

    98. Another way to make Searchinger's point.We can't just do what the forest service does today–plant just enough seedlings to replace the trees harvested and wait a few decades to harvest them again.If you burn a tree that is 50 years old and then plant a six inch seedling to take its place, all of that carbon from the burned tree will be warming the planet for decades while that seedling slowly matures, growing to ten inches the next year, maybe twenty the next, and the warming effect won't be fully removed until those thousands of seedlings reach a given size. Now multiply that scenario by a few hundred million.If you could somehow find a way to guarantee that enough seedlings will be planted in the same year that each tree was burned to pull that carbon back out the very next year, you would actually be headed toward carbon neutrality.Call me a pessimist but that seems unlikely to happen. We will need a lot of unused land to plant those trees on and it won't be cheap.Industrial lobbies would forever pressure politicians for exemptions and concessions as the corn lobby does and on we go, whirling, twirling into the future!

      Comment by Russ Finley | December 26, 2009

    99. Which leads me to another thought. Biomass consumption would be limited by availability of land that could be planted with seedlings.A supplier might have a bunch of mature trees ready to harvest but can't demonstrate control of enough new growth to compensate for the harvest of the trees.If equilibrium is ever reached, where "annual" growth compensates for "annual" biomass burned, supply would be constrained not by the number of mature trees standing but by annual growth of biomass planted to compensate.This scenario would only reduce the amount of GHG being added, it would do little to remove GHG. Natural carbon sinks are used in many mitigation studies as a way to pull carbon out of the air. We will lose that option if biomass to energy schemes get large enough to reach equilibrium.Global warming constraints would force companies to prove that growth is compensating on a near annual basis for annual consumption. Time can't be ignored.That problem could be circumvented by vested interests by picking optimistic assumptions for growth in the input of the models. As with all of these types of models, your results rely on system boundaries chosen.Or, vested interests looking for ways to bust the time constraints would come up with ideas like,"Why do you have to always plant trees to compensate? Why not "offset" our tree burning by gaining control over intact tropical ecosystems, preventing their destruction at the hands of agriculture and lumber harvest?"Then come the attendant concerns. How do you guarantee this offset will be protected, compensate indigenous people, measure leakage?Imagine a world where all natural forests have been destroyed but the ones protected by carbon offset deals, filled with rapidly expanding populations of indigenous people, and their casinos ; ). Fat chance they will survive the pressure to get at the resources they represent.I'm half tempted to build a spreadsheet to demonstrate these concepts graphically.Burning biomass sure is a not a new idea. Plants capture very little of the sun's energy per square foot compared to solar technology.Picture the energy being generated by a ten square foot patch of freshly planted biomass verses ten square feet of solar panel, photovoltaic or hot liquid.One would generate far more energy per square foot per unit time but would require vastly more up front capital. It's the need to show shorter term profits that favors one over the other but if you have to plant acres of seedlings for every tree burned, maybe that balance would tip, forcing us to pay for our energy as we use it rather than continue to borrow against our childrens' futures.We have to resist the natural inclination to fool ourselves. We have to find sustainable solutions.

      Comment by Russ Finley | December 26, 2009


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