Burning trees: not green after all

Biomass and specifically buring wood from trees in coal power stations is a quick way to reduce CO2 emissions and increase sustainability. Unfortunately the numbers are not adding up in a simple way and there is significant discussion now in the UK about the even negative impact on the environment that direct harvested wood burning for energy can cause. Greenpeace is one of the instigators of the upheaval.

In the overall CO2 balance calculations so far all energy used to harvest transport and process wood to generate power was already included. However the following two effects have been neglected so far:

  1. The wood takes a long time to be reconverted to CO2 in the alternate scenario’s, and not all of the wood ends up as CO2 (it get’s stored quasi-permanently).
  2. Wood is normally applied for useful purposes, which now have to be replaced by other materials or (more imported) wood.

The sustainability picture on wood burning remaining is at minimum mixed, at maximum very poor. Hard line opponents to sustainability efforts may rightfully say that they  argued this all along.

The UK results immediately apply to the Netherlands and may also apply to other EC countries, where the Government efforts to meet 2020 goals include a lot of wood as fuel for coal power stations.


Guardian article:  The biomass industry should come clean about its environmental impact | Harry Huyton.

Report from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and RSPC with a well phrased statement on the problem at hand.

And a reference to a very detailed report from the UK with (too much) hard data on forest management and CO2 balances.

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