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Green Energy Scheme To Burn Beetle Infested Trees

Posted in Science on 21st Dec, 2013 01:17 AM by AlexMuller

But what if the trees are dead already? In a new program, the U.S. Forest Service is fueling a biomass power plant in Colorado with trees killed by a pest called the mountain pine beetle, Greenwire reports.


The program will also send trees to the plant that are not yet infested, but are in danger of catching and spreading the problem. The Eagle Valley Clean Energy plant will burn 250 tons of wood daily for the next 50 years, Greenwire reports, creating electricity for the residents of the small town of Gypsum.


Since the late 1990s, Colorado has had to deal with unusual numbers of beetle-killed pine trees. Mountain pine beetles are native to North America and normally infest some trees every year, but warmer winters have meant their populations are now unusually high. The current infestation is expected to leave behind 6.6 million acres of dead trees, the Denver Post reports. That increases the risk of wildfires starting in pine forests and spreading to nearby homes.

Supporters say the beetle trees-to-biomass program is environmentally friendly, but not all groups agree. Biomass power plants do use a renewable fuel, but nevertheless contribute to global warming because they put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Even a pine tree burned in a forest fire does not release as much carbon as a pine tree burned in a power plant, Niel Lawrence, a National Resources Defense Council lawyer, told Greenwire. Some environmental groups, such as the council, are also worried about the Forest Service encouraging logging for biomass plants.

Tags: green energyenvironmentmountain pine beetlebiomassgreenhouse gas

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