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What Is Bioenergy?

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This is a question that is often not correctly answered or the answer is often not fully complete. While crude oil was created from biological material of thousands and even millions of years, it is not what is classed as bioenergy, because it is not from a renewable source. There really is no shortage of different materials that are today used as biomass for the production of energy, but here are some examples:

  • Wood
  • Wood production waste
  • Manure
  • Corn
  • Sugar beet and cane
  • Straw and grass

In some instances the source is of biomass is specifically grown for the production of bioenergy, but what has happened in recent years to ever larger degrees is that waste products from other industries are used. These industries include food production, paper mills and many others. The great thing is that waste products are taken from these industries, which would otherwise have cost them to adequately dispose of.

While energy production from biomass is still far behind non-renewable sources, the US has increased it output to over 7 GW which is a substantial base to build on. At this stage we should highlight that bioenergy production alone will never be able to fully offset fossil fuels because of the amounts of arable land required. There simply would not be enough scope to produce all the food needed and energy.

One of the main areas for improvement is still the accumulation of waste products from other industries. As this waste would ultimately just end up on land fill sites it literally is a waste from an energy point of view. One of the leaders in this area has been Brazil where sugarcane and waste from that industry has been increasingly used in the production of electricity and now becoming the world leader in this area.

The main benefit of bioenergy is that it comes from renewable sources and essentially is carbon neutral. This means that the carbon released from burring the biomass is the same as was absorbed from the atmosphere during the growth period. But there still is an environmental impact when not executed correctly. What has happened in many places is that forest areas have been cut down to make way for land used for the production of biomass.

This has a very negative effect as the forest would have absorbed far more carbon than any crop could, and there have been some pretty bad mistakes made throughout the world.

That is why we are such ardent supporters of using biomass sourced from industry and household waste rather than growing crops. It also has a negative impact on the price of food where now the food industry has to compete with large energy corporations for the same resource which has been driving prices up.

Finding the balance is going to be difficult but it will be essential to solving the energy problem of the world. We simply cannot afford to continue to be reliant on fossil fuels that are doing so much damage. Biomass is only one piece in the puzzle that will span numerous industries.

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Walking is of course the most carbon efficient way to get from A to B, but there are not many people that are able to get everywhere they need to by walking. In this article I want to highlight a way that I think about travelling in order to keep my carbon output to a minimum.



Any time I want to get somewhere a bit faster than by walking or if the distance is a bit further than a short walk, I get on my bicycle. It is extremely efficient, I don’t have to search or pay for parking and I stay fit at the same time. Some cities are better set up for cycling than others, but in most cases you can get around very easily and in many cases a lot faster than by all other modes of transport.


Public Transport

I will be the first to point out that not all distances are viable for cycling and there are times of the year where snow and ice would make it very dangerous to cycle. My first option in these instances is utilize public transport as this is a far less carbon intensive form of transport. Of course public transport varies from city to city, with many rural areas having very limited services.


Electric Car

priusWhen public transport is not viable or in some cases not available then a car really is the most convenient way to get around. But you should not be getting into a gas guzzler with plumes of smoke and carbon coming out the tail pipe. At this stage there are loads of electric and hybrid cars available that will provide over 100 miles to the gallon or the equivalent thereof. For shorter distances they are ideal and in recent years the range has drastically increased making them ideal for commuting.



For long distances especially across state lines I prefer to use the railway network. For some reason it is not hugely popular mainly because it is seen as taking longer than flying. But this is seldom the case. Yes, you live in NY and want to go to LA, the rail network will take a lot longer than the flight. But if you are in NY and want to go to Washington DC, then rail is a pretty good option. The main advantage is that you leave from the center of NY and arrive in the center of Washington. No need to factor in the time and cost of getting to and from the airport!



If you have to fly somewhere then one thing you can do to offset the carbon output associated with the journey is by buying carbon credits. Your money will be used to deliver finance to things like forestry, renewable energy and conservation projects and there are very convenient calculators available that will tell you how much carbon you are responsible for and how many credits would offset this. I do this for my entire energy usage several times a year, which means that between using less energy and buying carbon credits I am essentially living a carbon neutral life.