Studies have linked pollutants from vehicle exhaust to adverse impacts on nearly every organ system in the body. While this air pollution carries significant risks for human health and the environment, through clean vehicle and fuel technologieswe can significantly reduce emissions from our cars and trucks, while cutting projected U.
Burning wood and other biological materials for energy emits as much or more pollution than burning fossil fuels, including coal.
Being similar to coal hardly qualifies as clean, green energy. Biomass electricity generation facilities are major air polluters, and in many cases will significantly worsen air quality in the communities and regions where they are constructed.
Yet in most cases biomass gets a break because it is inaccurately considered renewable and carbon neutral. It will almost certainly throw the region into violation of air pollution health standards for particulate matter, which the US EPA considers a lethal form of air pollution that causes ten of thousands of premature deaths across the country each year and increases the incidence of asthma attacks in children; and it will emit 6 times as much carbon per unit of electricity generated as a natural gas burner being constructed on the same site.
Sanctioning and subsidizing major new sources of potentially lethal air pollution is not what anyone had in mind when establishing renewable energy standards. Regulators should take a clear-eyed, fact-based approach to evaluating whether or not these facilities should operate given the significant air pollution that they cause.
In our view, biomass burners should not be allowed to operate until they can show that they are dramatically cleaner then all fossil fuel alternatives, if they are to qualify as renewable energy under state policies.
What kind of pollution does a biomass burner emit? Burning biomass emits large amounts of pollutants, just like burning other solid fuels such as coal. EPA has recently released the newest National Air Toxics Assessmentwhich characterizes emissions and ambient air concentrations of toxics around the country.
The HAPs emitted in the greatest quantities by burning biomass include the organic HAPs styrene, acrolein, and formaldehyde, and the acid gases hydrofluoric acid and hydrochloric acid.
Biomass burners commonly emit ten tons or more of the acid gases and from one to five tons of organics each year. Burning clean wood also emits non-negligible amounts of heavy metals.
Even one or two percent contaminated wood can lead to significant emissions of metals when this material is burned see a letter documenting the inadequacy of CDD sorting for a proposed CDD-burner in Massachusetts, and a letter from the MA Department of Environmental Health expressing concerns about emissions of metals and other air toxics in the environmental justice community of Springfield, MA, where childhood asthma rates and incidence of high blood lead levels are already twice the State average.
How much pollution do biomass-burning facilities emit? Most biomass plants do not use the most effective pollution controls, and small-scale biomass burners, like those being installed to provide heat to schools around the country, typically only have minimal controls.
Utility-scale biomass plants emit tens to hundreds of tons of particulates, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and and hazardous air pollutants each year.
Emissions are typically expressed in air permits as pounds of pollution per million btu of heat input as fuel. The problem with this approach is that it hides differences in efficiency that exist between facilities.
Converting these rates so they are expressed in terms of emissions per unit energy delivered to the grid is a more accurate way of evaluating the impact of different technologies and fuels. The emissions rate for the biomass plant far exceeds that for the gas plant for criteria air pollutants, HAPs, and carbon dioxide.
Here are some more data on pollution emissions, showing how different the emissions are when the same burner is firing different fuels. The following table is from the air permit application for the Hu Honua facility in Hawaii, an old coal burner that is being retrofitted to burn wood and biodiesel.
Pollution emissions from the boiler here expressed as pounds per million btu are significantly greater when biomass is used as a fuel: Emissions data for school-sized boilers also highlight the difference between biomass and other fuels. The Wyalusing School District in Pennsylvania applied for air permits for a new biomass burner, and a new oil burner.Burning wood and other biological materials for energy emits as much or more pollution than burning fossil fuels, including coal.
Emissions are function of the fuel type, combustion temperature, and pollution controls, but in PFPI’s analysis of air pollution permits in 7 states we have found that biomass burners are always more polluting than natural gas and are similar to coal.
Air Quality in America: A Dose of Reality on Air Pollution Levels, Trends, and Health Risks [Joel M.
Schwartz, Steven F. Hayward] on iridis-photo-restoration.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Polls consistently show that most Americans believe air pollution has been getting worse and will continue to worsen in the future. Recent data. Actions to implement the Clean Air Act have achieved dramatic reductions in air pollution, preventing hundreds of thousands of cases of serious health effects each year.
Earth's atmosphere: mixture of gases that forms a layer about miles thick around the earth; bottom 5 - 11 miles (7 - 16 km) contains most (75%) of the air. “Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents noncommunicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General Family, Women and Children’s Health.
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