Mining the soil: Biomass, the unsustainable energy source
The promotional material from Big Green Energy, aka Biomass Gas & Electric, presents biomass as “clean, renewable energy”, sustainable and green. The US Department of Energy uses the terms “clean and renewable” when introducing visitors at its website to the topic.
But is it accurate to describe the repeated removal of biomass from agricultural or forested lands as sustainable?
A quick review of some basics on the role of organic matter in soils belies the claim.
To support healthy plant life, soil must contain organic matter, plants don’t thrive on minerals and photosynthesis alone. As organic matter breaks down in soil nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur are released. Organic matter is the main source of energy (food) for microorganisms. A higher level of microbial activity at a plant’s root zone increases the rate of nutrient transfer to the plant. As the organic matter decreases in soil so does this biochemical activity. Without organic matter, soil biochemical activity would nearly stop.
In addition to being a storehouse of nutrients, decaying plant matter keeps soil loose, helping soil remain both porous and permeable as well as gaining better water holding capacity. This is not only beneficial to plant growth but is essential for soil stability. Soil becomes more susceptible to erosion of all types as organic matter content is reduced.
The value of returning organic matter to the soil has been well-known to farmers since the earliest days of agriculture. Crop residues and animal waste are tilled back into the soil to promote fertility.
Denny Haldeman of the Dogwood Alliance asserts that there is no documentation of the sustainability of repeated biomass removals on most soil types. Most documentation points to nutrient losses, soil depletion and decreased productivity in just one or two generations.
A cursory search of the Department of Energy website does not reveal that they have given the issue of soil fertility any consideration at all. However the biomass industry is supported by both Federal and State governments through five main advantages: tax credits, subsidies, research, Renewable Portfolio Standards, and preferential pricing afforded to technologies that are labeled “renewable” energy. Without government support, biomass power plants wouldn’t be viable outside of a very limited number of co-generation facilities operating within lumber mills. But under the Sisyphean imperative of “energy independence”, and with generous access to public assistance, the extraction of biomass from our farmlands and public forests is set to have a big impact on land use (or abuse).
The creation of an artificial market for agricultural “wastes” harms entire local agricultural economies. In Minnesota, organic farmers are concerned that a proposed turkey waste incinerator will drive up the price of poultry manure by burning nearly half of the state’s supply. The establishment of biomass power generation will likely make it more difficult for family farms to compete with confined animal feeding operations and will contribute generally to the demise of traditional (sustainable) agricultural practices.
Similar economic damage will occur in the forest products industries. Dedicating acreage to servicing biomass wood burners denies its use for lumber or paper. Ultimately, the consumer will shoulder the loss in the form of higher prices for forest products.
As available sources of forest biomass near the new power plants diminish, clear-cutting and conversion of native forests into biomass plantations will occur, resulting in the destruction of wildlife habitat. Marginal lands which may not have been previously farmed will be targeted for planting energy crops. These lands frequently have steeper grades, and erosion, sedimentation and flooding will be the inevitable result.
It gets worse.
Municipal solid waste as well as sewage sludge is mixed with the biomass and burned in locations where garbage incineration was traditionally disallowed due to concerns over public health. Dioxins and furans are emitted in copious quantity from these “green” energy plants. Waste incineration is already the largest source of dioxin, the most toxic chemical known. Providing increased waste disposal capacity only adds to the waste problem because it reduces the costs associated with waste generation making recycling that much more uneconomic. In terms of dangerous toxins, land-filling is preferable to incineration. The ash that is left after incineration will be used in fertilizers introducing the dangerous residual heavy metals into the food supply.
In reality biomass fuel isn’t sustainable or “clean”.
In a new study funded by the USDA Agriculture Research Service, scientists simulated experiments lasting from 79 to 134 years. Hero Gollany, the author of the study, summarizes:
“Harvesting substantial amounts of crop residue under current cropping systems without exogenous carbon (e.g., manure) addition would deplete soil organic carbon, exacerbate risks of soil erosion, increase non-point source pollution, degrade soil, reduce crop yields per unit input of fertilizer and water, and decrease agricultural sustainability.”
Update – Summit Voice, April 19, 2012:
Forest biomass questioned as fuel source
SUMMIT COUNTY — Large-scale use of forest biomass for energy production may be unsustainable and is likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions in the long run, according to a new study.
The research was done by the Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Germany, Oregon State University, and other universities in Switzerland, Austria and France. The work was supported by several agencies in Europe and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The results show that a significant shift to forest biomass energy production would create a substantial risk of sacrificing forest integrity and sustainability… Full article
Also by Atheo:
January 9, 2012
November 13, 2011
September 19, 2011
March 8, 2011
January 2, 2011
October 10, 2010
July 5, 2010
February 25, 2010
February 7, 2010
January 5, 2010 – Updated February 16, 2010:
December 19, 2009
December 4, 2009
May 9, 2009
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)
- Click to print (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on StumbleUpon (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
- Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
December 23, 2009 - Posted by aletho | Author: Atheo, Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science | Agriculture, Biofuel, Biomass, Energy, Renewable portfolio standard, Soil, Sustainable agriculture, Sustainable energy, United States Department of Agriculture, United States Department of Energy, US Department of Energy
18 Comments »
or go to
The Impacts of Genetic Engineering: Not Science, Just Lies and Propaganda: The Massive Fraud Behind GMOs Exposed
Altered Genes, Twisted Truth, a new Book by US Public Interest Lawyer Steve Druker.
This is not what the GMO industry wanted to see: banner headlines today in major newspapers and across the internet exposing the fraud behind GMOs. But this constitutes much more than a PR nightmare. The story behind the headlines shakes the very foundations upon which the industry is built.
‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’ is a new book by the US public interest lawyer Steve Druker. The book is the result of more than 15 years of intensive research and investigation by Druker, who initiated a lawsuit against the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that forced it to divulge its files on GM foods. Those files revealed that GM foods first achieved commercialisation in 1992 but only because the FDA covered up the extensive warnings of its own scientists about their dangers, lied about the facts and then violated federal food safety law by permitting these foods to be marketed without having been proven safe through standard testing.
If the FDA had heeded its own experts’ advice and publicly acknowledged their warnings that GM foods entailed higher risks than their conventional counterparts, Druker says that the GM food venture would have imploded and never gained traction anywhere.
He also argues that that many well-placed scientists have repeatedly issued misleading statements about GM foods, and so have leading scientific institutions such as the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the UK’s Royal Society.
Druker states that contrary to the claims of biotech advocates, humans have indeed been harmed by consuming the output of genetic engineering. The technology’s first ingestible product (a food supplement of the essential amino acid, L-tryptophan) caused dozens of deaths and seriously sickened thousands of people (permanently disabling many of them). Moreover, the evidence points to the genetic alteration as the most likely cause of the unusual contamination that rendered the supplement toxic.
He explains that laboratory animals have also suffered from eating products of genetic engineering, and well-conducted tests with GM crops have yielded many troubling results, including intestinal abnormalities, liver disturbances, and impaired immune systems.
“Contrary to the assertions of its proponents, the massive enterprise to reconfigure the genetic core of the world’s food supply is not based on sound science but on the systematic subversion of science – and it would collapse if subjected to an open airing of the facts.”
Aletho News Exclusive Content
This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
Also by Aletho News:
September 19, 2011
March 8, 2011
January 2, 2011
October 10, 2010
July 5, 2010
February 25, 2010
February 7, 2010
January 5, 2010
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 4, 2009
May 9, 2009
- VIDEO: Israeli forces invade ISM apartment as part of a campaign of continual harassment against activists in Hebron March 5, 2015
- Israeli forces arrest two shepherds in the South Hebron Hills March 5, 2015
- Action Alert: Help free Hanan, arrested at Bil’in 10th anniversary demonstration March 4, 2015
- A decade of civil disobedience in my West Bank village March 2, 2015
- Four Palestinians and one female German demonstrator shot with live ammunition at “Open Shuhada Street” protest February 28, 2015
- An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
TagsAfghanistan Africa al-Akhbar Al-Manar American Civil Liberties Union American Israel Public Affairs Committee Argentina Bashar al-Assad Benjamin Netanyahu Brazil Britain Canada Central Intelligence Agency China CIA Colombia East Jerusalem Egypt EU European Union FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation France Gaza Germany Hamas Hebron Hezbollah Honduras Hugo Chávez Human rights India Intelligence International Atomic Energy Agency International Solidarity Movement Internet Iran Iraq Iraq War Israel Israeli settlement Japan Jerusalem John Kerry Latin America Lebanon Libya Middle East Military National Security Agency NATO New York Times NSA Obama Pakistan Palestine Palestinian prisoners in Israel Police Press TV Russia Sanctions against Iran Saudi Arabia South America Syria Turkey UK Ukraine United Nations United States USA Venezuela Washington Post West Bank Yemen Zionism
Visits Since December 2009
- 2,065,271 hits
Contact:atheonews (at) gmail.com
Recent Aletho News Posts
- PLO plans to end all security cooperation with Israel: Officials March 5, 2015
- Ignore the Drumbeat of Doom, the NSA’s Call Records Program Didn’t Stop a Single Terrorist Attack March 5, 2015
- War Criminal Tony Blair’s Save the Children Award: An Inadequate Apology March 5, 2015
- Private Police: Mercenaries for the American Police State March 5, 2015
- Peaceful Man Shot In The Face During Botched Drug Raid, No Drugs or Guns Found March 5, 2015
- America Must Reject Netanyahu’s War Cry on Iran March 5, 2015
- How Hillary Clinton Exposed Her Emails To Foreign Spies… In Order To Hide Them From The American Public March 5, 2015
- As Tsarnaev Trial Starts, a Journey into the “Known Unknowns” Begins March 5, 2015
- WHO urges limitation of daily sugar intake to less than 50 grams March 4, 2015
- United States is not “entitled to be displeased” with Cyprus – FM March 4, 2015
- 350 Israeli Soldiers Received Psychiatric Counseling After Gaza War: Report March 4, 2015
- Netanyahu’s False Narrative of Self-Defense March 4, 2015
- Congress Cheers Netanyahu’s Hatred of Iran March 4, 2015
- Making War on Everyone March 3, 2015
- Playing Chicken with Nuclear War March 3, 2015
- US ignores Russia’s offers of talks – Duma foreign relations chief March 3, 2015
- Nuclear safety incidents soar 54% at UK’s Clyde sub base & arms depot March 3, 2015
- Ukraine Conscripts 800 Protesting Coal Miners from Western Region March 2, 2015
Looking for something?
Categories"Hope and Change" Aletho News Civil Liberties Corruption Deception Economics Environmentalism Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism False Flag Terrorism Full Spectrum Dominance Illegal Occupation Islamophobia Mainstream Media, Warmongering Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity Militarism Nuclear Power Science and Pseudo-Science Solidarity and Activism Subjugation - Torture Supremacism, Social Darwinism Timeless or most popular Video War Crimes Wars for Israel
This site is provided as a research and reference tool. Although we make every reasonable effort to ensure that the information and data provided at this site are useful, accurate, and current, we cannot guarantee that the information and data provided here will be error-free. By using this site, you assume all responsibility for and risk arising from your use of and reliance upon the contents of this site.
This site and the information available through it do not, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Should you require legal advice, you should consult your own attorney.
Nothing within this site or linked to by this site constitutes investment advice or medical advice.
Materials accessible from or added to this site by third parties, such as comments posted, are strictly the responsibility of the third party who added such materials or made them accessible and we neither endorse nor undertake to control, monitor, edit or assume responsibility for any such third-party material.
The posting of stories, commentaries, reports, documents and links (embedded or otherwise) on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such posted material or parts therein.
The word "alleged" is deemed to occur before the word "fraud." Since the rule of law still applies. To peasants, at least.
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more info go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
This is information for anyone that wishes to challenge our “fair use” of copyrighted material.
If you are a legal copyright holder or a designated agent for such and you believe that content residing on or accessible through our website infringes a copyright and falls outside the boundaries of “Fair Use”, please send a notice of infringement by contacting email@example.com.
We will respond and take necessary action immediately.
If notice is given of an alleged copyright violation we will act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the material(s) in question.
All 3rd party material posted on this website is copyright the respective owners / authors. Aletho News makes no claim of copyright on such material.