Department or Program

Environmental Studies


Bates is considering whether or not to build a biomass cogeneration plant to help meet its pledge to become carbon neutral by 2020. However, questions about sustainability, as well as questions raised about whether or not biomass power is actually carbon neutral need to be seriously considered. In the short and mid-term, biomass actually has a greater negative impact on climate change than fossil fuels, especially natural gas, which Bates currently uses. In fact, moving from natural gas to biomass energy production could double Bates’ carbon emissions. The exception to this is the production and harvesting of short-rotation woody crops, specifically willow. This perennial crop can have positive ecological benefits in certain circumstances and shorten the length of time between the carbon debt created at combustion and re-sequestration of the carbon released to a short 3-5 years.

Fellow NESCAC schools, Middlebury and Colby, have already implemented biomass energy plants. If Bates decides to do so as well it will need to seriously consider how it sources its biomass and how quickly it can move to more environmentally friendly sources of energy.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

John Smedley

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 PDF file

Open Access

Available to all.