In the Toolkit --


  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources


    Biomass energy is derived from plants and other organic material, such as wood, food crops, agricultural and paper mill residues, algae, and landfill gas. Biomass materials can be used directly as when wood is burned in a fireplace, for example, or burned in a furnace to produce heat. They can also be converted into biofuels for use in transportation. Or they can be used to generate electricity.

    The two most common biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol is currently made primarily from corn grain and can be added to petroleum-based fuels to reduce their toxic air emissions. Roughly half of the gasoline sold in the U.S. includes 5-10 percent ethanol. Biodiesel is made primarily from soybean oil. It is often blended at 20 percent with petroleum diesel.

    Biopower (biomass electrical generation) is second only to hydropower as a renewable energy source of electricity. Most biopower plants burn waste wood products from agriculture and wood-processing industries. This produces steam, which is used to spin a turbine and produce electricity. Biomass can also be gasified prior to combustion, which allows it to burn more cleanly and efficiently. In addition, the decay of biomass in landfills produces gases (e.g., methane), which can be burned to produce steam for generating electricity.

    Potential. Biopower and biofuels hold great potential for reducing GHG emissions and dangerous air pollution. When biopower is developed properly, emissions of biomass carbon are taken up by subsequent plant growth, resulting in low or no net carbon emissions. In contrast to coal-fired power plants, biomass power plants do not emit sulfur (a key cause of smog and acid rain) or mercury (a potent neurotoxin). And using biofuels in our cars and cleaner forms of diesel in medium- and heavy-duty trucks can reduce harmful emissions from transportation.

    Critical to the development of sustainable biomass energy is choosing "beneficial" biomass resources. These are energy crops that do not compete with food crops for land, such as crop residues that otherwise would go unused, sustainably harvested wood and forest residues, garbage, and promising new sources like switchgrass and algae.  


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