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Energy Pros & Cons


Bioenergy comes from burning biomass – organic matter such as wood or plants. It supplies more than 90% of total energy demand in Nepal and Malawi, and 25% to 50% in large industrialising countries such as China, India and Brazil. Austria uses bioenergy for 13% of all its energy needs.

One of the crudest forms of bioenergy is the open burning of dung or wood for cooking in developing countries - though one power plant in the UK burns chicken dung. This burning is often done indoors - a practice responsible for about two million air pollution-related deaths each year.

But bioenergy can also be used to convert sustainably grown crops or agricultural, industrial and municipal wastes into useful energy. Methods range from adding biomass products into coal-fired boilers, to fermenting sugar cane to produce ethanol-based car fuel, to burning methane gas produced as biomass decomposes.

Burning biomass can still release greenhouse gases, although plants grown for fuel manufacture also absorb carbon dioxide while they are growing. Depending on the fuel and process, bioenergy can be much cleaner, and the sources more renewable, than fossil fuels.

© Alternative Use Group plc, 2013