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Time to stop monkeying around on biomass carbon neutrality

Although one cannot be entirely certain, it is reasonably safe to assume that a baboon is not overly concerned about its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint or its global warming potential (GWP). It should, however, be very concerned.

A baboon caught in the act of pilfering biomass feedstock from its rightful owner.

A baboon caught in the act of pilfering biomass feedstock from its rightful owner.

Although one cannot be entirely certain, it is reasonably safe to assume that a baboon is not overly concerned about its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint or its global warming potential (GWP). Indeed, judging from its voracious and exclusively biobased appetite not to mention its criminally opportunistic behaviour in acquiring biomass feedstock, it seems sure enough that it does not give a crap about its tailpipe emissions, habitat destruction or the climate impact of its actions. It should, however, be very concerned.

After all, theft of biomass from someone’s field or forest for bioenergy and biochemical use is hardly any better than an outright land-grab. In fact, the knock-on effects on the climate can be worse, much worse. Apart from causing costly insurance claims, there is the risk of misrepresentation in the event that the appropriated feedstock was originally intended to be counted towards a country’s renewable energy sources (RES) or equivalent target.

If left unchecked, biomass pilfering by baboons could lead to a significant GHG and carbon debt accounting errors in national reports as depending on what type of feedstock was acquired, e.g. a residue or a crop-based feedstock, and what sector it was to be used for e.g. transport, heat and/or power, double and quadruple counting could apply.

Furthermore, indirect land-use change (ILUC) will have to be factored in since the acquired feedstock has to be replaced by the original owner. Likewise, a carbon debt is accrued in areas subjected to illegal harvesting by baboons as it takes time for foliage, shoots, and fruits to regrow and sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) to replace the stolen carbon stock and GHG emissions from the baboons.

Admittedly, polygen baboons display relatively high fuel and energy efficiency rates, with a wide turndown range but they still have GHG emissions, which could be higher than if they had used a fossil alternative when calculated at the time and point of consumption given the lower energy density of biomass. Unfortunately, baboons cannot be converted to use either fossil or other renewable alternatives.

Furthermore, given its clandestine nature baboons are not part of any emissions trading or carbon-pricing scheme and the actual emissions are entirely unregulated and unmonitored throughout the entire 30-year average lifecycle of baboons. In addition, only limited informal decommissioning and recycling of baboon components takes place thus post-service life decomposition emissions need to be taken into account as well.

Taking all the above into consideration along with the fact that baboons appropriate and use biomass illegally, it would only seem reasonable to treat their emissions as not being carbon neutral, quite irrespective if the appropriated biomass was from a certified source or not. As such the only way forward to reduce baboon GHG emissions is to put a cap on the total number of baboons, restrict their operations to confined well-defined spaces in terms of biomass availability and regrowth and decommission older less effective ones.

And yes, today is April 1.

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