Burning Wood is Reckless and Dangerous
The Breathe Clean Air Group of Trafford, Greater Manchester, supports the Environmentalists and industry bodies that rely on wood, in their announcement that burning wood is “reckless”.
“It is not only reckless, but downright dangerous” said Pete Kilvert, Chairman of the group, which has been campaigning for three years to stop the construction of a biomass incinerator in Davyhulme, Greater Manchester. “Economics, balance sheets and electricity production may be important to the Government” added Mr Kilvert, “but estimates of 29,000 premature deaths per year due to pollution need to be factored into the equation.”
Evidence has shown that burning biomass produces toxic nitrogen dioxide, tiny particulate matter, volatile orgainic compounds and masses more carbon dioxide than burning coal. If biomass is burnt with plastic waste at the relatively low temperature of 850 degrees C it can produce deadly dioxins and if waste wood is burnt it will produce heavy metals such as arsenic and lead as well.
“Is the Government turning a blind eye to the huge health impacts of burning biomass/wood, because they can’t be bothered to invest in proper alternative energy such as solar, wind, tidal and wave power? These are clean and green, unlike biomass which is dirty business.
The recent Supreme Court judgement about the UK’s failure to comply with European Air Quality laws may bring about a rethink of Government policy about importing and burning dirty biomass.
The Times Article:
Warning over ‘reckless’ pursuit of burning wood
The Government has turned to biomass as a cheaper way of cutting carbon emissions.
Tim Webb Published at 12:01AM, May 2 2013
Environmentalists have formed an unlikely alliance with the paper, timber and furniture industries to warn the Government against the “reckless” pursuit of burning wood to generate electricity which they claim will damage both the environment and the economy.
In a letter published in The Times today, the signatories from 15 organisations want subsidies to biomass power stations slashed to prevent them driving up the price of British wood and putting the industries which rely on them out of business.
They said that 40,000 jobs could be threatened as a result of the “huge new demand for wood” caused by the biomass drive.
“We have jointly written to Government to warn that the reckless pursuit of generating electricity from wood threatens to backfire, both in terms of the environment and the economy,” they write in the letter signed by the leaders of Friends of the Earth, the RSPB and Greenpeace as well as 12 companies and trade bodies.
The Government has turned to biomass as a cheaper way of cutting carbon emissions than mainstream renewables like offshore wind. Last year, almost one fifth of the electricity generated by renewables came from biomass. The amount is set to more than double in the next five years as new plants are built to cash in on subsidies funded by levies on consumers’ bills.
Old coal plants like Drax in Yorkshire, which generates 7 per cent of the country’s electricity, are eligible for subsidies worth half those awarded to offshore wind farms if they convert to only burning biomass material like wood. According to environmental campaign group Biofuelwatch, if all the planned biomass plants are built, consumers will end up paying them subsidies of £2 billion per year, or £80 per household.
Doubts are growing about how green biomass really is. Many different kinds of material can be burnt, with agricultural waste like straw residues for example seen as more environmentally friendly as this would be thrown away anyway. But there is not enough of this available to feed giant biomass conversion plants which instead burn wood chips, most of which will be imported.
Energy companies argue that burning wood is “carbon neutral”, because the carbon dioxide which is released into the atmosphere will be reabsorbed by newly planted trees. Environmentalists point out that it can take years for this to happen and that generating electricity in this way is incredibly inefficient. In some cases, they argue that biomass plants actually cause more pollution than the dirty coal plants they are replacing.
There are also concerns about the knock-on effects on wood-related industries. By 2017 biomass plants will be burning an estimated 30 million tonnes of wood, the equivalent of six times the UK’s annual forestry harvest. UK supplies will be put under huge strain with the shortfall made up by importing vast quantities of wood chips from commercially managed forests in North America and Africa.
A Government spokesman said: “Biomass, alongside other renewables, will make a crucial contribution to the UK meeting its renewable energy targets and carbon budgets. We have robust rules in place to calculate the emissions from bioenergy, which take into account the energy used in harvesting, processing and transporting it. We are continually gathering further evidence to ensure these calculations are up to date and that future bioenergy has low associated greenhouse gas emissions”.