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Renewable Energy Industries: A Research Guide

Biomass Energy Industry

Theodor Jung, photographer. Cut logs, Garrett County, Maryland. 1935. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Biomass energy includes energy generated from wood and wood waste, biogas from landfill waste, sewage and industrial wastewater, animal waste, and municipal solid waste (household garbage like paper, cardboard, food waste, plastics, glass and metals).

Biomass was the largest source of energy in the United States up until its peak in 1870, when 70% of energy came from wood. There was such a demand for wood in Britain in the late 1600s that there was a timber shortage.1 Coal, and later petroleum, quickly replaced wood as the leading source of energy.2 However, biomass can also be converted directly into a liquid, called biofuels, such as bioethanol (ethanol) and biodiesel. The Clean Air Act mandates that oil refineries incorporate renewable fuels into their gasoline and diesel products.3

While an advantage to biomass is that it is a renewable energy, concerns over reforestation, rate of replacement, and the debate on whether or not biomass energy is carbon neutral make it a concern for environmentalists and clean energy advocates.4


The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Online Resources

The following links are to government and industry websites and documents related to biomass energy. 


  1. Richard Rhodes, Energy: A Human History (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019), 108. Back to text
  2. U.S. Energy Information Association, "History of energy consumption in the United States, 1775–2009" (Feb 9, 2011). Back to text
  3. Jennifer A Dlouhy, "A 16-Year-Old Gasoline-Ethanol Feud Gets Supreme Court Showdown," Bloomberg (Apr 27, 2021); Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7545 (2013). Back to text
  4. For examples of these issues, see: U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Biomass and the Environment," (Dec 9, 2020); Chelsea Harvey and Niina Heikkinen, "Congress Says Biomass is Carbon-Neutral, but Scientists Disagree," Scientific American (Mar 23, 2018); Tolon Fahriye Enda and Filiz Karaosmanoglu, "Supply Chain Network Carbon Footprint of Forest Biomass to Biorefinery," Journal of Sustainable Forestry 40, no. 2, (2021): 124-141, Back to text