Originally Posted by eleeski
It does seem a shame to just burn those piles. It is an energy resource that could go in a greenwaste powerplant. A good economical way to transport it out is needed. Maybe just the permits to do so (good luck there?).
Aren't fires a major source of greenhouse gas? Perhaps a more active fire management program could have multiple benefits - energy production, forest preservation and greenhouse gas reduction. If we could get both Enron and the Sierra club on board...
Logistics. About 15 years ago, as the current era of megafires was developing, there was a lot of national and regional level interest, discussion and research directed at developing power plants to be fueled by wood and fiber from forest health and fire mitigation projects on public land. Few, if any, production-level plants exist, and it turns out that the logistical problems were discouraging. For one thing, the labor and transportation cost were extremely high compared to the energy available from the material. Second, picking the stuff up out of the woods requires roads or expensive overland machinery which impose watershed issues.
And a huge factor is sustainability. It turns out that the federal government managed lands require things like periodic NEPA review of projects like that and the potential power plant operators could not be guaranteed sufficient time and access to sufficient biomass for them to get a reasonable return on their investment and compete with traditional sources of power. Traditional sources have been much cheaper on a large scale.
And that last point is related to the current state of government funding. Under the current structure of funding, land management agencies are spending such a large proportion of their allocation on fire suppression that they have to take $$ from other activities, like thinning and planning. I think they would find themselves unable to plan, manage, and oversee large thinning and brush removal projects designed to provide biomass to power plants.
TL;DR It turns out that, the way things are now, the value of biomass for energy production doesn't cover the bottom line.