September 14, 2008

Green means consuming less, not more.

'[An holistic perspective, says Dartmouth College sustainability director James Merkel,] would correct a common misconception that heating and generating with biomass -- namely, wood chips -- are carbon-neutral activities.

'"It’s anything but green," Merkel contends, because burning wood chips releases more carbon dioxide per BTU than does coal, and because logging often destroys natural habitats and contributes to today’s species extinction rate, which is occurring 1000 times faster than the natural rate. Biomass believers assert that the carbon dioxide emitted during combustion is offset by the planting of replacement trees. Merkel's response is that replanting creates a monoculture, and that it takes 40 years to reap any benefit, assuming the land is not bulldozed and developed. But if biomass, the darling of heavily forested northern New England, is not the answer, where can colleges turn for clean energy? ...

'Not so fast, Merkel cautions. "Thoreau said, 'Simplify three times,' you know?" he begins. "But that was 1853, so I think we need to say, 'Simplify 30 times' now, before you talk about what kind of energy you use."'

--"A second opinion on biomass," by Kirk Kardashian, Seven Days, Sept. 10-17, 2008

environment, environmentalism