What is the difference between biomass vs fossil fuels?
Biomass is vegetable matter. It is something that has been grown recently from the natural plant growth cycle. Materials such as grass, sugarcane, corn, and wood all qualify as being biomass. When these items are burned, they create heat and can generated electricity. At the same time, the digestion of these plant materials can be converted into liquid biofuels as well. Chemicals and plastics are also possible.
Fossil fuels are taken straight from the planet. It is a natural resource that is finite because it has been created through the natural cycle of evolution that is in place on our planet. Fuels like crude oil, coal, and natural gas would be considered fossil fuels.
What Is the Primary Difference Between Biomass and Fossil Fuels?
In terms of energy production, fossil fuels are generally less costly to produce energy when compared to biomass. Coal, in particular, is very cost effective as it generally runs 20% cheaper than biomass energy. Natural gas is also particularly affordable.
The problem is the fact that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction that must occur. In order for energy to be created, these substances are generally consumed through burning. This creates emissions and pollutants that go into the planet’s atmosphere. Coal, as a fossil fuel, is responsible for creating more carbon emissions and miscellaneous atmospheric pollutants than any other fuel source.
Biomass, in comparison, is often carbon-neutral because it comes from various sources of vegetation. Although burning these items does create pollution, the growth cycle of the plant material helps to absorb and convert these pollutants into the energy and nutrients the planet needs. The carbon dioxide created from burning biomass is then absorbed into the next growth cycle of the crop, so the cycle repeats itself.
Why Sustainable Growth Methods Are Necessary for Biomass
With our current technologies, we are harvesting biomass products for energy production by using tools and equipment which require fossil fuels to operate. Many fertilizers that are used for biomass growth will also contain high levels of petroleum at this current moment. This means the planting, harvesting, and transportation of biomass products creates a negative atmospheric impact.
The solution is to be able to grow biomass crops using sustainable methods so that any emissions that are produced can be small and offset by the plant growth cycle.
Which Methods Wins the Biomass vs Fossil Fuel Debate?
Biomass energy is cost-effective and practical, but it can also take away croplands because of the space it needs to grow. We can produce energy from agricultural waste through biomass, but we may also change our food supply chain and that is something that fossil fuels do not generally do.
In many nations, biomass is also a seasonal growth opportunity. In a nation like India, who has embraced the idea of biomass, many power production facilities only operate at partial capacity because of seasonal growth slowdowns.
Biomass may be our future, but fossil fuels are our present. By managing both effectively, we can support the needs of our planet in an effective way.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.