Carbon to burn: UK net-zero emissions pledge undermined by biomass energy

Carbon to burn: UK net-zero emissions pledge undermined by biomass energy

SOURCE: Monga Bay DATE: June 19, 2019 SNIP: Last week, the United Kingdom announced plans to pass a national law setting a country-wide target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, to be achieved by 2050. The pronouncement came in response to a directive by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, that all 28 European Union nations set binding 2050 net-zero emissions reduction goals. [NOTE: the target agreement has been blocked by three countries, and so for now, has failed.] However, some scientists and environmentalists are neither impressed nor encouraged; they are expressing deep concern that the binding emissions laws will likely be flawed by a monstrously large carbon-pollution loophole. While the UK has pledged to burn coal for the last time by 2025, it is accelerating plans to replace that source by burning wood pellets, or biomass, in four of its six largest power plants, located in North Yorkshire and operated by Drax Power, the country’s largest utility. While that shift would help meet the terms of the Paris Agreement, say experts, it would still pump vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, speeding and intensifying global warming. Worrying environmentalists further: former coal-fired plants across the EU, especially in Denmark and Belgium, are also fast converting to wood pellets, encouraged by a longstanding loophole in global carbon accounting that was not closed in the writing of the Paris rulebook last December during the 24th United Nations Climate Summit in Poland. In fact, studies show that the burning of wood pellets actually produces more heat-trapping carbon dioxide than coal, because it requires more pellets than coal to produce the same...
Europe’s renewable energy policy is built on burning American trees

Europe’s renewable energy policy is built on burning American trees

SOURCE: Vox and Climate Change News DATE: March 4, 2019 SNIP: In the lowland forests of the American southeast, loblolly pines and cypress trees are grabbing carbon dioxide from the air right now. Using power from the sun, they release the oxygen and bind the carbon, building trunks, barks, and leaves. But much of that carbon won’t stay there. As it turns out, millions of tons of wood from these forests each year are being shipped across the Atlantic, and burned in power plants in countries like the UK and the Netherlands, in the name of slowing climate change. As they steadily wean themselves off coal, European Union nations are banking on wood energy, or “biomass,” to meet their obligations under the Paris climate agreement. That’s because in 2009, the EU committed itself to 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, and put biomass on the renewables list. Several countries, like the United Kingdom, subsidized the biomass industry, creating a sudden market for wood not good enough for the timber industry. In the United States, Canada, and Eastern Europe, crooked trees, bark, treetops, and sawdust have been pulped, pressed into pellets, and heat-dried in kilns. By 2014, biomass accounted for 40 percent of the EU’s renewable energy, by far the largest source. By 2020, it’s projected to make up 60 percent, and the US plans to follow suit. Fueling this boom is a simple, intuitive idea: that biomass is both renewable and “carbon neutral,” and a way to keep an economy built on burning fossil fuels humming along. But a cadre of scientists and policy activists are now pushing back,...
Push to Burn Wood for Fuel Threatens Climate Goals, Scientists Warn

Push to Burn Wood for Fuel Threatens Climate Goals, Scientists Warn

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: June 24, 2018 SNIP: The European Union declared this week that it could make deeper greenhouse gas cuts than it has already pledged under the Paris climate agreement. But its scientific advisors warn that the EU’s new renewable energy policy could undermine that goal because it fails to fully account for the climate impacts of burning wood for fuel. By counting forest biomass, such as wood pellets used in power plants, as carbon-neutral, the new rules could make it impossible for Europe to achieve its climate goals, the European Academy of Sciences Advisory Council (EASAC) wrote in a strongly worded statement. The council said the renewable energy policy’s treatment of biomass is “simplistic and misleading” and could actually add to Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 to 30 years. [T]he [EU’s] renewable energy policy includes burning wood for fuel. Over a year ago, the EU’s science advisors published a comprehensive report debunking the logic behind treating all wood fuel as beneficial to the climate. Because burning wood gives off more CO2 than coal per unit of electricity produced, the climate math doesn’t add up, scientists say. Large-scale forest harvests have a climate warming effect for at least 20 to 35 years, said University of Helsinki climate and forest scientist Jaana Bäck, who noted that scores of evidence-based studies all say basically the same...
Carbon Loophole: Why Is Wood Burning Counted as Green Energy?

Carbon Loophole: Why Is Wood Burning Counted as Green Energy?

SOURCE: Yale Environment 360 DATE: December 19, 2017 SNIP: It was once one of Europe’s largest coal-burning power stations. Now, after replacing coal in its boilers with wood pellets shipped from the U.S. South, the Drax Power Station in Britain claims to be the largest carbon-saving project in Europe. About 23 million tons of carbon dioxide goes up its stacks each year. But because new trees will be planted in the cut forests, the company says the Drax plant is carbon-neutral. There is one problem. Ecologists say that the claims of carbon neutrality, which are accepted by the European Union and the British government, do not stand up to scrutiny. The forests of North Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi — as well as those in Europe — are being destroyed to sustain a European fantasy about renewable energy. And with many power plants in Europe and elsewhere starting to replace coal with wood, the question of who is right is becoming ever more important. In September, some 200 scientists wrote to the EU insisting that “bioenergy [from forest biomass] is not carbon-neutral” and calling for tighter rules to protect forests and their carbon. Yet just a month later, EU ministers rubber-stamped the existing carbon accounting rules, reaffirming that the burning of wood pellets is renewable energy. Under the terms of both the UN Paris climate agreement and Europe’s internal rules, carbon losses from forests supplying power stations should be declared as changes to the carbon storage capacity of forest landscapes. But such changes are seldom reported in national inventories. And there is no system either within the EU or at...