Biomass is being hailed as the answer to energy needed to replace the gradual depletion of fossil fuels. Biomass Facts show it is composed of organic matter found in flora throughout the world as well as the manure of some animals. The simple explanation is that the natural plants collect energy from the sun. This is converted, through photosynthesis with the other compounds, within the plants, making a source of solar energy.
This energy is displayed in the use of wood for home and industry use. With the exception of manure, which is converted by the use of yeast, the materials are burned to produce the energy. The use of municipal waste has been very effective in the production of electricity, as well as gas using this theory.
At the present time ten percent of gasoline used in automobiles and other such machines is ethanol. The government has mandates in place that ethanol must be used as fuel, in place of gasoline, by a certain deadline. However, those in the know report that this is going to be impossible because the production of Ethanol has been slow and automobiles, as they are presently manufactured, could not survive this change without a great deal of damage. It takes a huge amount of Biomass to make one gallon of this fuel under the current conditions.
Corn is the most used agricultural product used for making Ethanol gas. Most experts in the field argue that if this crop's acres are used for this purpose it is a misuse of resources as it is also a food crop for humans and animals. They state that switchgrass, which grows wild and in almost any conditions is the best product to use.
This grass is not edible so there would be no effect on food production. It would produce a different type of Ethanol called cellulosic. The current problem with using this is the special treatment and amount of time needed to make it worthwhile.
Landfills produce Biogas from the rotting vegetables and other organic matter. This process is called Anaerobic Digestion. There is a great deal of interest, in all scientific circles, that in time it will be possible to put some of the waste that is now being put in landfills into a special area for the purpose of extracting this Biogas and putting it to an energy use. This would save the land now being used for waste disposal purposes.
For many years there has been much controversy over the disposal of animal waste such as manure. In large animal feeding corrals this can be a problem. It has now been found that this waste can be turned into Methane gas by using these Anaerobic Digestions plants. Some have been built and more are planned for the future.
Some scientists and others feel that this plant should be on or near every large farm in the country, that has a large number of animals. Thus, their waste could be hauled to the plant and transformed into Methane gas without having it damage the streams and land as it does now. In addition, there is very little odor involved which would please many people who live near these farms. It is expected that Biomass products will one day supply all the world's energy in place of many of the forms now used.