Biomass is organic matter, such as agricultural and animal wastes, that is collected to create energy in the form of electricity, heat, steam, and fuels. Biomass can be burned in an incinerator to heat water to make steam, which turns a turbine to make electricity. It can also be converted into a liquid or gas, which can be burned to do the same thing.

Biomass includes energy crops like wood, grains, kelp, and beets grown primarily for use as a fuel. Energy crops are renewable, but some, like trees, take a long time to grow. For example, farmers can grow trees on some of their land instead of wheat or other kinds of food. The wood is harvested regularly, cut into small chips and burned to provide heat or run small electric power plants.

Another type of biomass is methane gas, a by-product of decay in landfills. As garbage rots in the ground, it gives off gases that can be collected and burned to produce heat or electricity.

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Up until the 1860s, the United States used biomass in the form of wood for nearly all of its energy needs. Although currently the majority of humankind's energy requirements are met by fossil fuels, 14 percent of the world still uses biomass.