To: Department of Energy and Climate Change
DON'T LET THE GOVERNMENT SUBSIDISE BURNING TREES FOR ENERGY
Under your Renewables Obligation, the UK government is incentivising power generators to burn wood from forests to create electricity. This use of biomass resources is a foolish waste and will do irreparable harm to the environment and our pockets both here and around the world.
The RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace explain in a joint report that when compared with burning coal, burning trees will actually increase emissions by 49% over the next 40 years.
You can stop this now and prevent increased costs hitting hard-pressed households and causing long-lasting damage to already-threatened rain forests and the UK environment as well as saving thousands of jobs.
Why is this important?
It is much more sensible to convert the wood which will be used in biomass energy generation into wood into everyday useful products like building materials and furniture that can last for tens of years rather than going up in smoke in seconds.
Because of the payment of carbon credits, traditional users of this resource are not able to compete fairly. Energy generators are able to pay more than double the price paid by UK manufacturers who traditionally use wood to make their products. This has driven up prices by 60% in the last five years and, inevitably, these costs are passed onto all of us.
Wood used in manufacturing ensures carbon is locked in for up to 35 years, then recycled and only then the remaining unusable scrap timber is burnt for heat generation instead of going to landfill sites. Whereas burning trees directly from the forests will release tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere now.
Here’s the science: when wood is burnt, C02 is emitted – one tonne of dry wood burnt in a power station will emit 1.8 tonnes of CO2 which goes into the atmosphere.
The DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) has ignored these emissions; they argue that the carbon released is offset by the carbon absorbed by the growing forest so they assume that wood used as biomass fuel is a ‘carbon-free asset’.
This means that they can completely ignore the very real carbon emitted by the smokestacks of power plants, on the assumption that it is offset by the growth of trees.
Unfortunately, this dismisses the fact that forests are already growing and already storing carbon. When the trees are harvested and burnt, that carbon storage is reduced and the carbon that was in the tree is released into the atmosphere.
So the energy companies are being paid to increase carbon emissions now. And, to add insult to injury, the environmentally disastrous results of burning wood for energy is subsidised by almost a £1billion a year, with households providing the money for this subsidy via their energy bills – that’s you.
If only half of the planning permission applications for biomass power stations are approved, they will have the capacity to consume many times the entire annual UK sustainable timber harvest.
This subsidy has the potential to result in many negative outcomes: increased C02, loss of British jobs and manufacturing, unnecessary increased prices of wood-based products and also the possibility of endangering already fragile eco-systems across the world.
As the price increases for items such as wood panels, builders may consider plywood instead from sources such as China. This raises more environmental issues as timber from these sources may have come from threatened rain forests and illegal logging.
Timber from threatened rainforests in Brazil, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea is used in making plywood and it is still imported into the UK with the WWF estimating that around £712million a year is spent on illegal wood.
This year the EU has at least passed a new directive to address this problem but it’s likely to be some time before the legislation is rigorously enforced.
Meanwhile, more and more vital habitats for threatened species are being destroyed.
So the knock-on effect of the government’s subsidies will have repercussions around the world, not only increasing C02 emissions produced by the energy companies but also indirectly adding further danger to the fragile ecosystem of the world’s dwindling rain forests.
It can be stopped.