Understanding biofuels may at first, be a bit confusing. Biomass is not ethanol, ethanol is a bi-product some types of biomass contain derivatives that make this liquid form of energy possible to create. Right now, depending on where in the world you live the ethanol that is used as an additive to gasoline for your car or truck is manufactured from the bi-product of corn or sugarcane. Biomass is energy in its rawest form.

     Solid materials from the plant and animal kingdom all fall under the category of biomass. There are three broad categories of elements within the biomass products that can provide us with enough efficient energy for heating, cooling, electricity and other assorted bi-products. Biomass energy is a highly complex thing, because some of these materials are sources of low energy and others are high energy. Defining how much energy can be obtained from the different renewable biomass products is extremely scientific and complex.

     Biomass energy elements are all of organic composition and will be classed as being:
     • Woody
     • Non-Woody
     • Other organic waste, which is always from animals or humans.

     Woody biomass is the easiest to understand, this is the trunk and branches of trees. This form of biomass energy can come from many different kinds of sources. Waste from lumber, furniture, packaging production such as crates and pallets. Bark portions of trees will be far lower energy biomasses than the hard, dense inner wood. Sawdust is equally as energy rich as solid woodchips would be.

     Non-woody biomass energy products include a great number of foliage plants from both land and water dwellers. To produce biomass energy from non-woody elements, they must be quite dry. This rather large category would be leaves from trees, tall grasses, hay and straw, cornstalks and leaves along with other unused parts of agricultural crops, coconut and rice hulls or processing waste from crops like is produced in creating olive oil, sugar or whisky.

     Animal waste and human waste is also an organic form of combustible energy when it is dry. This constantly renewable source may at first sound rather disgusting. However, in rural areas animal dung has been a reliable and sustainable source of heat for thousands of years. Turning cow manure and other livestock sources into a reliable source of biomass energy production would be a huge benefit to the environment. Municipal waste from the sewage plants in cities around the world must be disposed of somewhere and creating electricity or heat with it on an industrial level is far better than spreading it over the soil.

     Most biomass elements will be readily combustible when insufficient moisture is present. In a compressed pellet state, every one of them will burn longer as there are no pores for oxygen to allow as rapid of a consumption rate as in their original state. Pulpwood pellets have proven to be excellent energy sources for heat and energy plants in Europe, far more efficient than the power plants that rely on fossil fuels. In addition to improved energy efficiency, the amount of CO2 is five times less than burning shelled corn for biomass energy.