Canadians are the world's second highest per capita energy users – 55 barrels per year.
I believe that this energy affluence based on abundant and low cost oil (fossil fuels) is coming to an abrupt end. It is high time that we embark in search of other means of energy that will transport us into the 21st century and beyond.
The energy crisis of 1973 although not as serious as we were led to believe was very timely and served a very useful function. It made us realize that we are very dependent on a fossil fuel that is non-renewable, whose demand is quickly out-pacing supply and whose price is escalating. In addition to these realities is the real cruncher and that is the fact that surplus oil reserves are controlled by foreign powers.
1973 was only a mild indication of what we have to look forward to in the very near future. Fortunately it created the stimulus that was required to bring about new energy strategies and policies from our governments. The general public and industry have become more energy conscious and are striving to conserve energy. Oil companies have made significant new discoveries south west of Edmonton, Alberta. Both of these phenomena are added bonuses because they will give us more time to identify, develop and perfect other forms of energy sources that will replace our depleting, non-renewable, fossil fuels.
We are again fortunate in that there are a number of alternative energy sources to consider nuclear, tidal, geothermal, wind, and solar. My paper is going to cover in very general terms, several energy options based on the utilization of only one product emanating from a solar source. In other words, I am going to be talking about forest biomass and the conversion of this organic matter into more useful or desirable energy forms (gaseous/liquid/solid fuels, heat and electricity). Biomass, or plant matter is nature's way of collecting the low-intensity, diffuse energy of sunlight and storing the collected energy in material form.
Why consider the use of forest biomass or for that matter any other form of biomass for energy? Well there are a number of reasons. Biomass fuels are renewable; they contain very little sulphur which makes them environmentally clean; they are an easily usable fuel; and burning biomass does not interfere with the earth's carbon dioxide or thermal balances, as does the combustion of fossil fuels. When compared with nuclear fuels, biomass fuels are not plagued with actual and conjectured hazards, high capital costs and waste-disposal problems.
There are sufficient reasons not only to make energy from biomass a desirable option but one that warrants a great deal of consideration in our national energy development efforts.
More specifically, this paper will attempt to show the potential contribution of forest biomass to Canada's energy needs to the year 2025. It will discuss the economic, technical, environmental and institutional issues that may affect implementation of schemes designed to utilize forest biomass for the production of energy.