Monday, May 12, 2014

Yet another stupid idea motivated by CO2 paranoia: burning biomass to produce electricity

Burning biomass to produce electricity is uneconomical without subsidies and it is highly polluting too as it is not subject to the same emission controls that coal plants are required to comply with. A veritable who-is-who of US ecologists, including the much estimated Edwin O. Wilson, has written a letter to the UK's Secretary of Energy and Climate Change to protest against UK's biomass energy subsidies and (forced) consumption requirements that are decimating forests in the Southeastern USA. The letter points out that:
1) Wood pellets are not a “carbon neutral” process as is usually claimed.
2) It can take new trees up to 55 years to offset the carbon released from burning wood pellets.
3) Logging, by disturbing the soil, may result in a much greater release of carbon to the atmosphere, than previously thought.
4) There is no guarantee that new forests will be planted to replace harvested trees.
5) Planting of new forests is happening anyway, and acts as an important carbon sink. To claim this benefit for biomass would be double counting.
6) Trees that die off naturally return the carbon to the soil, and therefore are another carbon sink. Burning this wood instead diminishes this sink, whether new trees are planted or not.
7) Other serious environmental problems are created by the destruction of these forests.

Paul Homewood points out that biomass plants set up between now and 2019 in the UK will receive a guaranteed Strike Price of £105/MWh, at 2012 prices, and indexed linked, for 15 years. The current wholesale price of electricity is about £50/MWh, so clearly the subsidy is the only thing that makes biomass operation economically viable.

(H/t to  Paul Homewood )

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