EarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine
Dear EarthTalk: What is “biomass” and why is it controversial as a potential source of energy? – Edward White, New Bedford, MA
Biomass is plant matter that is burned as a source of energy. Fallen or cut wood that is burned for heat is one primary form of biomass, but another includes plant or animal matter that is converted into biofuels.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which was formed during the oil shocks of the early 1970s to help ward off future energy shortages, biomass combustion is a carbon-neutral process because the carbon dioxide released at burning has previously been absorbed by the plants from the atmosphere.