In California, A Push Grows to Turn Dead Trees into Biomass Energy

At-a-Glance

In 2018 alone, California wildfires released 45.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, more than half as much as the state’s industrial sector emits in a year.  Since, California has made reducing carbon emissions a top priority, the state has also embraced the use of thinning 1 million acres a year of live and dead trees. Biomass advocates regard this as a path toward forest resilience and carbon neutrality to reduce the extent and intensity of wildfires while also generating electricity.  To learn more, read this article in Yale Environment 360, titled “In California, A Push Grows to Turn Dead Trees into Biomass Energy”.

Key Takeaways

  • Drought, a warming climate, bark-beetle infestations and looming threats of intense wildfires has increased the number of biomass plants in California from 25 in the 1990’s to nearly 70 in 2020.
  • CalFire’s commitment to thinning a million acres a year is backed by $2 billion approved by the legislature.
  • Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency, fast-tracking 35 high-priority logging and thinning projects in fire-prone communities.
  • The state aims to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2045, in part by decreasing the amount of CO2 emitted by wildfires.

Path to 100% Perspective

Although this effort began as a way to remove dead trees and reduce the threat of intense wildfires, research and dialogue continues to improve the efficiency of converting biomass to fuels.  According to a report from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the key to ensuring the growing amount of waste biomass does not further contribute to California’s carbon releases could mean converting the biomass into renewable biofuels or burning it using carbon capture and storage.

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