The Big Sky Coalition, a Bitterroot-based organization that advocates large scale thinning on National Forest lands, plans to host a daylong symposium in Hamilton on March 1 to examine the conversion of woody biomass into ethanol and methanol, as well as burning it to generate heat and electricity. Executive Dir. Sonny LaSalle reported that the Darby school district is on track to save $100,000 on their energy bill this year by using biomass to heat their building. In Colorado, a plant is already being planned that will begin converting beetle-killed trees into cellulosic ethanol by 2012. The conference will take place all Saturday at the Hamilton, Montana fairgrounds.
The Associated Press is reporting that a new research study claims that widespread ethanol production will lead to more global warming, due to an increased amount of land converted from forests and grassland into crop production. Researchers from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs estimated that using corn to produce ethanol will lead to an increase in greenhouse gases of 93%. The impact of using switchgrass to produce ethanol is less, but still significant. A spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association called the study “simplistic.”