Biomass is an attractive energy source for a number of reasons. First, it is a renewable energy source generated both through natural processes or as a byproduct of human activity. It is also more evenly distributed over the earth's surface than fossil fuel energy sources, and may be harnessed using more cost effective technologies. It provides us the opportunity to be more energy self-sufficient and helps to reduce climate change (global warming). And lastly, it helps U.S. farmers, ranchers and foresters better manage waste material, providing rural job opportunities and stimulating new economic opportunities.
Prior to the industrial revolution, biomass satisfied nearly all of man’s energy demands. Up until the 1860s, the U.S. used biomass, in the form of wood, for nearly 91% of all energy consumption. In 1992 biomass generated $1.8 billion in personal and corporate income and employed 66,000 workers. Although presently the majority of humankind’s energy requirements are fulfilled by fossil fuel combustion, 14% of the world still utilizes biomass. In a recent DOE study, a full 73% of all energy consumed by US manufacturing was through boilers and burners which are principally fueled by natural gas or fuel oil, but highly adaptable to solid fuel usage.