Experts raise doubts on biomass sustainability

Power plant

Total biomass emissions should be measured

The Committee on Energy and Climate Change launched an inquiry in July 2010 to look at the Government’s decision to consider introducing an emissions performance standard (EPS).  

The experts who attended the first evidence session in October 2010 expressed concerns about many wider issues affecting the future production of electricity, including the need to consider emissions resulting from biomass plants and land-use because of increasing demands for biocrops.

The most consistent warning put forward by experts included measuring the total emissions of biomass plants. Professor Jon Gibbins (University of Edinburgh) said that large scale biomass plants contribute their fair share of CO2 emissions. He went on to say that large scale biomass plants are “…a very large source of carbon; it’s about the same amount of carbon as an 800 MW gas plant” (Examination of Witnesses, Question 21).

(For the full story go to the news pages of Make Wood Work.)

If this is the case, why is the biomass industry subsidised to burn wood when the benefit to the environment and its effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions is so questionable?

The best way to use forests as carbon sinks is to harvest the timber and convert it into products (which continue to store the carbon) while replanting more trees than before (Source: IIED and ECCM, Using Wood to Mitigate Climate Change, 2004).

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