Biomass, in the energy production industry, refers to living and recently living biological material which can be used as fuel or for industrial production.
The term “biomass” means any material that has been alive (organic matter) available on a renewable basis, including dedicated energy crops and trees, agricultural food and feed crops, agricultural crop wastes and residues, wood wastes and residues, aquatic plants, municipal wastes,(landfill gas) and other waste materials. It excludes organic material which has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.
Though this resource is a renewable fuel, it can still contribute to global warming.
This happens when the natural carbon equilibrium is disturbed; for example by deforestation or urbanisation of green sites. Use of this organic energy includes ethanol, biodiesel, power, and industrial process energy.
Biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, are made from plant matter instead of petroleum, and can be blended with or directly substitute for petroleum and diesel.
However, the International Food Policy Research Institute says in a report that biofuel expansions could push maize prices up over two-thirds by 2020 and increase oilseed costs by nearly half, with subsidies for the industry forming an implicit tax on the poor.
Joachim von Braun, lead author of the “World Food Situation” report and director general of the institute also said, “Surging demand for food, feed and fuel have recently led to drastic price increases … climate change will also have a negative impact on food production,”.
Growing financial investor interest in commodity markets as prices climb is fuelling price volatility, and world cereal and energy prices are increasingly closely linked.
With oil prices hovering around $90 a barrel, this is bad news for the poor, who have already suffered “quite dramatic” impacts from a tripling in wheat prices and near-doubling in rice prices since 2000.