Biomass: The usual and the unusual…

I think back to the class discussion in which the topic of using rabbits as a form of biomass to burn for fuel as an energy source, and thinking that that was strange to me. In Sweden of all places… My girlfriend is Swedish, so I thought it was funny and jokingly gave her a hard time about it… I just thought, “of all the things to use… I guess there must be a real abundance of rabbits there.” It got me interested, so I wanted to look a little more into it and see exactly what the deal is with that because I just do not see something like that ever happening in the United States.

Sure enough, in doing some reading about this, it seems that there are too many rabbits in Stockholm’s parks. According to a report by the BBC, these rabbits are not native to the area, and so many of them are there because they are the offspring of released pets. These rabbits breed to make more rabbits, and since they do not have any “natural predators,” the population simply does not decline. The major problem is that they are destroying the parks, so hunters are capturing and freezing the rabbits. Why? For eventual use in heating plants in Karlskoga for home heating. The rabbits are apparently “crushed, ground and pumped to a boiler to be burned with wood chips, peat or waste.” The final product is the production of heat, or what a spokesperson referred to as “renewable heat.”

Also, according to the article, the reactions over this whole process seem to be mixed. On the one hand, the residents of the town of Karlskoga do not seem to have an issue with this, while the people of Stockholm seem to be divided. Animal rights activists in the city do not believe that the treatment of the rabbits is good and would like this process stopped altogether.

This whole situation has me wondering about the different forms of biomass that are consumed in the world, and in the United States. A common form of biomass, and perhaps one of the oldest forms, is wood. In east Texas, especially, there is an abundance of trees that can be used as biomass for biomass plants. Other areas in Texas, however, seem to use certain crops to burn as energy for heating and electricity. A breakdown provided by the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) provides a breakdown of the use of these different fuels. Another interesting thing to note is that, according to SECO, Governor Rick Perry awarded a $5 million grant to Texas A&M University, in partnership with Chevron, to research the use of cellulose in corn to be used as biofuel for heating and power plants in Texas.

I also wondered about other unusual forms of biomass. It seems that, aside from burning wood and certain types of crops, some places also burn garbage, land fill gas and manure, according to one article. This would seem like a really good idea, however I wonder about the health hazards associated with the burning of such fuels. If these fuels are burned, wouldn’t they release harmful gases and bacteria into the air? I would think certain precautions would need to be taken. These are my thoughts on this energy type, let me know if anyone has any thoughts.


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One response to “Biomass: The usual and the unusual…

  1. jetengine10

    Here’s some thoughts concerning this ridiculous behavior of burning Peter the Rabbit: What are the emissions characteristics from burning a rabbit? Is there significant particulate matter? I guess if the furnace is hot enough most everything would be incinerated. I can’t imagine that bone burns very well though. Then again, if they have to get rid of the rabbits, maybe it’s a better use than digging a mass grave. Wouldn’t it be better just to eat them though? This would probably offset some of the demand for beef consequently reducing the environmental impact of large scale ranching. Is this process actually making a dent in the population? Is Sweden now doing this in a sustainable manner or are they doing it just to decitmate the rabbits and in a short time they will be back to just burning wood in their heaters? I know this is a very morbid discussion but it’s a legitimate one in light of the aforementioned Sweeds that seem to be having a field day with their little furry friends.

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