This is a high temperature technology to convert many forms of biomass, e.g., wood, straw, grass, energy crops, municipal solid wastes, agricultural residues, forest products residues, and concentrated waste pulping liquors to two major high value products: (a) solid calcium carbide which can be converted to acetylene as well as to cyanamide, which is used to produce pharmaceuticals and other organic chemicals including fertilizer; and (b) CO + H2 mixtures. Acetylene and CO + H2 mixtures are each useful as fuels in their own right, and as feedstocks for producing a wide range of high value fuels and chemicals. Acetylene and H2 are also industrial gases. For pulp and paper manufacture, this technology offers potential for significant environmental and economic benefits, i.e.: recycling pulping chemicals (e.g. Na2CO3, NaOH) from waste pulping liquors; converting organic residues in the pulping wastes to useful products rather than burning them; and eliminating (or greatly downsizing) high capital cost recovery furnaces that can pose safety hazards. The technology is also of interest for converting mixtures of biomass with fossil feedstocks, e.g. petroleum, heavy oil, natural gas, coal, shale oil, etc., to premium fuels and chemicals. This can offset the lower energy content of biomass and the fossil-carbon footprint of the fossil raw materials. Use of electricity generated only from renewable or nuclear sources further reduces the fossil-carbon footprint of processing such mixtures while if the only feedstock is biomass the invention is an essentially zero fossil-carbon footprint process for manufacture of premium fuels and chemicals. Moreover, when a thermal plasma or other electrical heating source supplies the process heat, this invention provides means to store electricity in the form of a useful solid material (calcium carbide) plus CO and H2. These products can be converted back to electricity or to valuable fuels, chemical feedstocks, and chemicals.