March 14, 2006

The Benefits of BioEnergy

There is a section in the Recommendations for a BioEnergy Action Plan for California that neatly summarizes the benefits of BioEnergy to California - and to most of the world for that matter. As stated in the report, "These benefits provide strong motivation for developing a larger, sustainable bioenergy industry."

Thanks to Navigant Consulting for summarizing these benefits in their plan - which are paraphrased here.



Bioenergy provides a range of strategic, energy, economic, and environmental benefits to the people of California. Not only is greater use of bioenergy critical to achieving existing regulatory and policy objectives, but it is also consistent with a range of state environmental goals and provides unique economic development benefits relative to other energy options. Biofuels represent one of the few practical near-term renewable energy alternatives to petroleum transportation fuels.

Specific benefits include:
Renewable Portfolio Standard. Biopower is critical to helping the state reach the accelerated goals of 20 percent of the electricity used coming from renewable resources by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020.
Resource Adequacy Contribution. Use of biomass power facilities for this purpose could help reduce the amount of incremental new gas-fired facilities that would otherwise be required to meet resource adequacy requirements of the utilities.
Petroleum Dependency Reduction. The 2003 Joint Report by the California Energy Commission and the Air Resources Board titled Reducing California’s Petroleum Dependence has set goals for 20 percent non-petroleum fuel use by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030. Developing in-state biofuels production will help to meet these objectives and stimulate the development of new jobs, while contributing to the overall fuel supply for the state.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction. Using biomass instead of fossil fuels reduces GHG emissions. Also, conversion of landfill gas to energy and the adoption of animal waste conversion systems can substantially reduce fugitive methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Air Quality. Biofuels are naturally low in sulfur, aromatics, and other toxic compounds that impact human health.
Forest Health and Wildfire Prevention. Forest thinning and other improvements in forest health, when coupled with bioenergy production, can create a statewide wildfire prevention strategy that reduces fire suppression costs and enhances the supply of renewable energy.
New Opportunities for Agriculture. Biomass constitutes new potential opportunities for agriculture, both in terms of improved use of the non-crop portion of current production and in new crops addressing new markets in energy, fuels, chemicals, and bio-based products.
Landfill Diversion. California disposes over 38 million tons of waste annually, approximately 70 percent of which is composed of various forms of biomass. Biomass conversion technologies have the potential to return a significant portion of this post-recycled fraction of the waste stream to an economic stream in the form of power, fuels, and chemicals.
Economic Development. Creation of a diversified bio-based economy in California will help to revitalize rural communities and the State’s agricultural base by creating new value-added markets and new local jobs.
Water Quality and Watershed Protection. Petroleum-based fuels and chemicals are toxic to the environment and continue to constitute a major source of pollution to surface- and ground-waters. In contrast, biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, are less toxic and are biodegradable.


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