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Biomass: a clean, responsible alternative to fossil fuels

by Ellen Cools

Coal is a very efficient fuel, in that it provides more energy per kilogram than biomass, but it is not a renewable one. Coal is mined from carbon sinks that took millions of years to form, so when it is burned to produce energy it increases the total amount of CO2 and other potent GHGs in the atmosphere.

Energy made from woody biomass  comes  from  burning  carbon  drawn  out  of  the  atmosphere  by  trees  within  the  last  150  years;  much of the carbon from those trees is being held in long-lived  forest  products  and  in  most  jurisdictions in   Canada,   harvested   areas   are   reforested   and   newly-planted  trees  start  drawing  in  CO2  from  the  atmosphere within a year of harvesting. Those factors make woody biomass a renewable energy source and an  important alternative in the transition away from fossil fuels (Figure 1).