Our view: Generating a good idea

Posted Nov. 12, 2014 @ 12:01 am

Southern Oregon University has a well-thought-out plan to replace old gas-fired boilers with biomass systems that generate heat and electricity. They are wisely asking for community input before proceeding — and we hope the community will be as thoughtful in responding to that request.
As with any energy-producing practice, there are downsides to biomass, which uses clean-burning boilers to produce steam and a valuable byproduct — electricity. Biomass involves the burning of wood waste — including tree limbs, tree tops and small trees left over from logging operations. That burning has an impact on the airshed, although an SOU report says it produces about two-tenths of 1 percent of the particulates that are emitted in slash burning. And, if that woody debris is created, a considerable amount of it will be burned.
The small amount of pollutants will raise some objections, if for no other reason than its connection to logging. Others may object to trucking the biomass through town. But those objections should be considered with the alternatives in mind. Natural gas, which has its own detractors (see LNG pipelines), is the most likely option. In fact, any option you can offer has its detractors — hydro-electric (fish-killing dams), wind (bird-killing turbines), solar (cost, dependability).
The biomass option is not perfect, but it is more environmentally friendlier than most — it even produces enough electricity to pay for its own operation. We hope people will give it a fair hearing and not let their idea of perfect become the enemy of good.

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