Last week's Journal contained an insert from Redwood Coast Energy Authority that described its programs and projects for clean, renewable energy. Among the renewable energy resources listed is biomass — the black sheep of renewables.
Burning biomass produces nearly a quarter of our electricity supply. It also emits approximately 284,000 metric tons of CO2 every year. That is close to 75 percent of all vehicle emissions per year in the county. People concerned about climate change would be thrilled if we could somehow figure out how to reduce vehicle emissions by 25 percent here. Abandoning biomass electricity would accomplish so much more.
I was glad to see that RCEA has apparently removed biomass electricity from their upgraded REpower mix, and now can truly say it's carbon-free. They can't say that about their regular power mix, which is promised to be "100 percent net zero" by 2030. Most people don't understand that term. They would be surprised to realize the high carbon emissions are entailed by RCEA's contract to keep burning biomass into 2031.
Adopting biomass energy to replace fossil fuels has been a spectacular wrong turn for the movement to de-carbonize the grid as rapidly as possible. Climate scientists and activists have tried for years to change this grim reality, but it's good business for the entrenched timber industry.
Our biomass is mostly mill waste generated by Humboldt Sawmill Co. and incinerated in inefficient boilers to make expensive, dirty electricity. HSC could take a more modern and innovative approach to mill waste that would be much better for the environment. RCEA could focus resources on truly clean sources of energy. Perhaps both entities aspire to these goals in the long run, but glossing over the current reality does not inspire confidence.
Martha Walden, Westhaven