Sample Paper on Biomass: Harvesting Garbage to Power Modern World

Biomass: Harvesting Garbage to Power Modern World

The U.S. is a huge energy consumer in the world. The major share of this energy is generated from fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas which are all non-renewable. There is nothing that offsets the carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuels, and the only to solve this challenge is to focus on biomass to reduce the carbon emissions. Experts are now turning to the prospects of using biomass to meet the future demand of energy in the modern world because it is a renewable energy source. Biomass is derived from organic matter such as crop waste and wood. According to Arena (2012), 50% of the U.S.A.’s renewable energy is made up of biomass, and it has the potential even to supply more. However, the U.S. still relies on other nations to supply a large proportion of the energy it requires.  This problem has continuously exposed the country to financial and national security risk. With the ever-present concern for carbon emissions, biomass energy provides an alternative solution to achieve energy independence while also limiting the levels of these emissions. Biomass energy can be generated from a variety of sources including grass and tree crops, urban, and agricultural wastes. Its major advantage, apart from being carbon neutral, is that it is abundant and ensures there is a steady supply (Elwan, Arief, Adzis and Saad, 2013). This paper focuses on the principle behind its energy generation, the process of converting waste to energy, and how it will enable the U.S. to one day achieves energy independence from fossil fuel imports.

Principle behind Generation of Biomass Energy

Biomass is an important renewable energy in the modern world. The principle behind its non-fossilized nature is because solar energy is converted to chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis as the plants grow and this energy released later through the process of combustion. It is renewable since the carbon it contains is considered to be a part of the carbon cycle and the same amount of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere whether the trees or plants are burnt or decompose naturally. The U.S. needs to direct its efforts towards the production of biomass energy for the sake of environmental sustainability. Note that the energy recovered from garbage in the form of fuel or electricity is not only renewable but clean. It also has reduced carbon emissions than any other form of energy. By harvesting biomass energy from garbage, the carbon cycle remains in balance because there is no additional carbon added to the atmosphere.

The photosynthesis mechanism captures and concentrates carbon dioxide from the air. The chemical energy is then obtained by organisms after the solar energy is converted photosynthetically. Biomass energy is non-fossilized because the organisms possess metabolic machinery responsible for the all-important photochemical reduction of carbon dioxide to organic matter. This reduction of carbon dioxide relies on light, and the ensuing biomass productivity is dependent upon the required and available amounts of water, sunlight, and environmental conditions. The bioengineering strategy for deriving fuels by biochemical means involves several choices for disposing of organic matter produced through photosynthate. In most instances, this photosynthate produces food, wood, and feed which upon consumption the waste is generated. The waste can then be used to produce energy through combustion. The energy can also be produced through biochemical conversion of hydrogen and ethanol. The above process makes biomass suitable for energy production in the modern world. On the global scale, it is the 4th largest energy source after coal, oil, and natural gas. The world needs to focus on biomass for energy production to maximize its benefits.


The Garbage to Energy Process

It is estimated that the world generates approximately 4 billion tons of waste annually. The volume has been projected to increase to 2.5 billion tons by 2030. Additionally, the global demand for energy is expected to increase by 55% by 2040 (Lee, Speight, and Loyalka, 2014). In addition to the global demand for energy, about 25% of the world’s population has no access to power. As such, biomass has come to be recognized as the best solution to power the modern world. Several methods are used to recover energy from garbage. These include incineration, gasification, and non-thermal technologies.

Incineration is a garbage treatment process where the organic substances are exposed to high temperatures. The process forms carbon dioxide and heat. It is estimated that mass-burn incineration can convert a ton of waste to almost 600 kilowatt-hours of electric energy. However, this process has come to be criticized due to its negative impact on the environment. A growing number of nations are using gasification as an environmentally-friendly way of converting the energy in garbage into electricity, fuels, and chemicals. Aubin, Simunich, and Craig (2013) define gasification as a process that seeks to transform carbon compounds, such as biomass, into other energy forms without burning. The process involves converting carbonaceous substances into hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. It utilizes high temperatures to obtain the energy in a gasifier ranging from 600 to 1000ºC. Oxygen is preferred when the organic substances are employed. The final product from this process is referred to as synthesis gas which is an alternate energy. After impurities, such as unconverted carbon and sulfur compounds, are removed the clean syngas is sent to a boiler to generate electricity. The gasification technology produces over 1000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a cleaner and efficient manner. According to Tuck et al (2012), gasification can assist in powering the world by managing the waste and producing the energy required to stimulate economic growth. The modern world can replace the landfills with gasification to reduce disposal costs, and recover energy from garbage in the form of fuel and electricity. In fact, gasification can play a huge role in meeting the energy demands of the modern world. It should be adapted to solve the power and waste disposal problems.

Another form of thermal technology used to convert garbage into energy includes Pyrolysis. It is a process mainly used in industries to convert garbage into energy. It also uses agricultural waste to derive energy. Given that the world produces over 130 billion metric tons of biomass annually, this process can be used to derive the huge amount of energy in garbage. Waste biomass is virtually free and widely available for nations to reduce dependency on fossil fuel. The process takes biomass as one of its primary ingredients. The biomass is passed through high temperatures to alter the chemical composition in the process of producing energy. Apart from the thermal technologies, garbage can also create energy through non-thermal technologies such as fermentation (Pandey, Vyas, Pandey and Gaur, 2016). Anaerobic technology is used on a commercial level as a good agent for reducing the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is also a preferred replacement of fossil fuel. The technology converts garbage into low energy for lighting and cooking.

The Position of the U.S. in Gaining Energy Independence

The amount of energy produced from biomass in the U.S. has risen rapidly in the past decade. By 2008, about 50 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity were produced from biomass (Tozlu, Özahi, and Abuşoğlu, 2016). Biomass also produced almost 4 billion gallons of ethanol as well as substantial levels of heat. About 4% of the energy produced in the U.S. is attributed to biomass fuels, 12% of it being generated from municipal waste.  The demand has risen two-fold over the years, and all signs prove that the U.S. has a huge potential for biomass. According to Margolin (2015), the use of better conversion technologies could initiate the drive into an energy independent future. The United States is also at a better position to benefit from biomass because the consumption trends of the average American consumer are consistent with more waste generation. The local landfills are filled showing just how much garbage is available for energy production.

Biomass can replace fossil fuels in driving the American economy by reducing the number of fuel imports from other countries hence becoming energy independent. It is reported that the U.S. generates over 400 million tons of garbage annually, or approximately 8 pounds per person daily. This is a huge resource base for the production of energy in the future with the right conversion technologies. The plan for how the waste and garbage will allow the United States to one day achieve energy independence from fossil fuel imports will have, to begin with, strong policy formulation that promotes recycling efforts and encourage garbage to be sent to EFW (energy-from-waste) facilities. So far, there are only 86 EFW facilities in 24 states that handle just over 95,000 tons of garbage per day which is a small portion of processed garbage. This calls for a more comprehensive plan where recycling and garbage management will be aligned. Gug, Cacciola, and Sobkowicz (2015) state that landfill fees should be imposed to reduce the amount of waste disposed at the landfills. This policy should reduce the amount of greenhouse gases from the landfills and conserve the environment.



Every year, the U.S. generates enormous amounts of garbage that is sent to landfills. With the energy demand rising year after year and the U.S. still relying on fuel imports, it is the best time to focus on deriving energy from garbage that is readily available. Biomass fuels could be the source of power in the modern world as garbage has the potential to generate electricity and reduce greenhouse emissions that are created in landfills. Using energy conversion technologies on garbage preserves the world’s natural resources. It is recommended that national policies that are directed towards managing waste are introduced in all states to combat the energy challenge. Experts claim that for every ton of waste processed, a similar quantity of carbon dioxide is prevented from entering the atmosphere. Given the large amounts of garbage in the U.S. and across the world, biomass fuels could power the world economy in the foreseeable future.


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