The Effect of Assessment Scale and Metric Selection on the Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Woody Biomass

Author(s): Christopher S. Galik and Robert C. Abt

Published: February 2012

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Recent media attention has focused on the net greenhouse gas (GHG) implications of using woody biomass to produce energy. In particular, a great deal of controversy has erupted over the biomass accounting techniques used to evaluate these GHG effects. This paper informs the present debate over the GHG effects of woody biomass use by conducting a comparative analysis of these accounting techniques. It compares these techniques in a hypothetical scenario in which coal-fired power plants in Virginia add woody biomass to their fuel mix—a process known as “cofiring.” It finds that these techniques strongly influence the calculated GHG balance. The paper also assesses the relative effect of the accounting approach on differences in GHG balance, and concludes with implications for policy makers.