Several of Ohio’s coal-burning power plants plan to burn trees as a means of generating “biomass” electricity. In fact, Ohio is ground zero of a nationwide push by power companies to cut and burn the nation’s forests to generate power. According to Cheryl Johncox, executive director of Ohio forest advocacy group Buckeye Forest Council, “biomass in Ohio has the potential to be a huge sucking machine that eats up trees across the state and the eastern U.S.”
That’s unfortunate, because woody biomass generates significantly more CO2 than coal. Carbon dioxide emissions from biomass are about 1.5 times higher than from coal and three to four times greater than from natural gas.
Even more troubling is the staggering scale of the proposed logging and burning. Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission (acronym: “PUCO”) is currently considering whether to permit several biomass power plants totaling up to 2100 MegaWatts (“MW”) of power. For the proposed plants to generate 2100 MW from wood, 42 tons would need to be burned every minute or 26,280,000 tons of wood per year.
What do these numbers mean? The proposals could mean cutting more than ten times Ohio’s current timber volume. To supply this much wood, all large and medium sized trees from one-seventh of Ohio’s public and private forests would need to be harvested each year just for burning.
Readers may also want to take a look at the Environmental Working Group’s recently released report discussing the push towards woody “biomass” in Ohio and elsewhere in the country.