Biomass Projects Absolutely Must be to Local “Community-Scale”

Smethport Web — by Ross Porter

The kinds of projects examined in the Associated Press “Bio-fuel growth raises concerns about forests” article are the very antithesis of the Smethport, Pennsylvania biomass project and our leadership team’s philosophy of “scaled, community-based projects”.

Large, non-scaled projects examined in the Associated Press article do, in fact, threaten our nations forests, habitats and should be opposed by both state and federal legislation. Giant, unsustainable fuel production such as converting wood as diesel fuel or bio-fuel for automobiles (such as butanol) will not solve our national energy appetite and attempts to refuel the nation using wood based fuels will in fact plunder the forests.  

Such processes as “torrefaction” is also a non-scaled “wood hog” process which converts wood to meet co2 standards for inefficient coal plants. In torrefaction the power plant operators burn the wood converted pellets instead of coal to reduce air emissions. Torrefaction biomass projects will also destroy our forests.

From its inception the Smethport Woody Biomass Project has been a project designed on the European philosophy of “community–scale” rather than projects that attempt to feed the “national fuel appetite”. “Community scale” projects are sized to individual communities located within the forest community. Sustainability is a primary consideration.

The challenge is to separate the “community scale” projects, which use wood gasification, from the national “big bear” forest destroying projects. Too often they get lumped together. It is critical that woody biomass projects identified as “community scale” be legislatively encouraged and that non-scale, “wood hog” projects that threaten forest sustainability be separately identified for what they are.

Community scaled projects designed to serve the immediate needs of a forest based community, however, should and must be part of our national energy policy. Localization of energy production tied, in our case to our wood resource, is both sustainable and an important part of our local energy production.

Our current Smethport, PA project has partnered since its inception directly with Penn State University, PA DCNR and the US Forest Service to insure, examine and study the very issue of sustainability and community-scaled projects versus giant, non-scaled, national projects which will in fact plunder the forests.

Woody biomass wood gasification projects, by the way, are considered “carbon neutral” because the amount of carbon released in the atmosphere is equal to the amount of carbon that the tree absorbed during its lifetime.

Even though it is a “carbon neutral’ the Smethport project has never been about carbon control. Its focus has been to create local, “green collar” jobs and therefore keep our local energy dollars in the local economy as well as promoting “homeland security” through the localization of energy production and independence.