As fuel prices skyrocket, personal financial situations and entire economies are threatened. Biomass energy has been offered up as a possible solution.
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Energy can be produced in a number of ways. We can burn fossil fuels, use the sun’s light for solar energy, use water for hydroelectric generators or even the heat of the Earth’s core in geothermal energy. One often overlooked source of energy that belongs among all these others is biomass energy.
Biomass is biological (natural) material that was once living, or still is living, that can be used to produce energy. For example, lawn clippings, dead trees, unused crops, wood chips and other wood byproducts are all biomass. Even household trash can be considered biomass, as can “landfill gas”, produced when garbage decomposes in landfills.
Biomass energy is produced when these materials are burned as fuel to produce energy. Some biomass materials are burned to produce steam, which is then used with generators to produce energy and heat. Other biomass materials, such as landfill gas, ethanol (produced from corn and other leftover crops) and biodiesel (this fuel is made from leftover animal fats and vegetable oils) can be used to create biomass energy that can even power transportation vehicles.
While biomass energy should be used as frequently as possible, as the biomass fuels are readily available, this type of energy is often overlooked. Biomass energy only accounts for about three percent of the energy used yearly in the United States. Some people feel that using biomass for energy is not safe for the environment, or that they do not want a “garbage” burning power plant in their area. In fact, biomass energy is actually very safe for the environment – the only byproduct is carbon dioxide, which comes from the burning of any fuel. This greenhouse gas does have some harmful properties, but not near as many as the pollutants that are released with the burning of fossil fuels.
In order to see just what biomass energy can do for our world, society needs to become more open to the use of biomass as an energy source. Using discarded and waste products can help to reduce the amount of trash going into our landfills, as well as cut down on our need to use fossil fuels. This, in turn, will not only help the environment but also the world’s economy. Biomass energy is an under-utilized energy source that needs to be fully researched and used in the years to come.