Wood Instead of Coal – Political Greenwashing

I know I post a lot of these stories about burning wood instead of coal. I do it because it is one of the greatest hypocrisies in the fight against global warming climate change catastrophe.

It’s the rave in Europe: Instead of burning coal and fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity, wood chips and pellets are being fed into Europe’s boilers. In what critics consider a dangerous sleight-of-hand and act of political greenwashing, an updated set of European Union rules encourage the burning of wood in power plants and claim it’s “carbon neutral” — meaning it won’t add to the planet’s warming — under the assumption that trees grow back.

This strategy plays a big part in the EU’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The rules allow European governments to subsidize power plants to convert from burning coal and fossil fuels to burning wood. Across Europe, governments are under pressure to close coal-fired plants.

So-called “biomass energy” is also becoming more popular in Japan and Korea, and some in the United States are pushing for greater reliance on wood-burning.

But many scientists and environmentalists say this is backward thinking that will accelerate the disastrous felling of forests and loss of biodiversity.

Power plants in Europe are increasing the burning of wood pellets from the United States, Canada and Eastern Europe. Environmentalists warn that old forests in those places are being chopped up and left to regrow, or in some cases replaced by forest plantations.

But it’s not only the loss of old forests that worries scientists. Studies have shown that wood-burning power plants emit more carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity produced than plants burning fossil fuels.

Even taking forest regrowth into account, scientists warn that over decades and centuries burning wood adds more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than producing energy the old-fashioned way by burning coal and fossil fuels does.

Full story here

Finland: Less Coal , More Trees

Burning whole forests for energy is Europe’s future.

Finland faces having to import biomass because, despite being Europe’s most densely forested country, it will be unable to meet an expected 70% rise in demand for the fuel after it phases out coal.

Finland approved in February banning the use of coal in energy production by May 2029, which means utilities will have to find alternatives to keep Finns warm as coal currently accounts for around 20% of the energy used for household heating.

As there are limited plans to use more gas to produce heat in Finland, and other sources such as solar and geothermal energy are not yet commercially viable, using more biomass is seen as the most economical way of meeting the country’s future energy needs.

Biomass includes forest wood, timber logging residues, and industry by-products such as wood chips, black liquor, and other bio-waste.

Estimates shown to Reuters by Poyry consultancy – which advises the government on energy, industry and infrastructure needs – calculate that Finland will need 64 terawatt hours (TWh) worth of biomass in 2030 just for energy production, up from 38 TWh currently.

Domestic supply of biomass, on the other hand, is forecast to grow by only 8 TWh between now and 2030, according to Poyry.

As a result, Poyry says the country will have to import biomass as well as improve forest management and ensure greater utilization of harvest residues.

Finland’s largest energy lobby group Energia also projects large increases in the use of biomass in the coming years.

“It’s slightly awkward that Finland would run an energy policy that we will make us a net importer of biomass. We are a forest country,” said its head Jukka Leskela.

CHEAPER TO IMPORT

Forests cover three-quarters of Finland’s land, but the country’s limited tree harvest quota is mostly reserved for the pulp industry and the government would be unable to add much more supply for energy use.

“The pressure is to limit the use of (domestic) wood… Ιt is normally used in the regions where there is a lot of wood and fewer people but now we are talking about towns with very little forest and many people. It is evident that we need imports,” said Riku Huttunen, head of Finland’s energy department, which is part of the ministry of economic affairs and employment.

The logistics of moving biomass from northern Finland was also a limitation, he said, as shipping from neighboring countries was cheaper for utilities.

Such imports could come from other countries around the Baltic coast, including Russia, from where Finland is already sourcing some of its biomass, said Leskela of Energia.

That is despite pressure from the European Union on its member states to reduce their energy reliance on Russia.

Energia’s estimates show biomass will account for nearly 60 percent of the fuel mix in Finland’s combined heat and power (CHP) plants in 2030, up from less than 30 percent currently.

Burning Trees Is a Multi-Billion £ Industry

Burning trees produces more CO2 than coal. So if you are in the UK and your energy bill makes you want to cry, just remember it’s green!

A surcharge on UK energy bills is funding subsidies for biomass electricity generation that is making climate change worse, polluting communities, destroying forests and harming wildlife.

In 2017, the UK Government granted around £1 billion in renewable subsidies to power stations – including Drax Power Station in Yorkshire – to burn millions of tonnes of wood for electricity.

Drax alone received £729 million – around £2 million per day – in subsidies to burn wood pellets and is now the world’s largest biomass burner.

Biodiversity hotspots

Despite claims by the biomass industry that they mostly burn “low-grade wood residues”, US conservation NGOs have proven that a significant proportion of wood pellets for Drax and other UK power stations comes from the clearcutting of whole trees from wetland forests in the Southern US.

These forests are at the heart of a biodiversity hotspot and are home to many endangered species, including salamanders, the Louisiana black bear and the Venus flytrap.

Meanwhile, new subsidies for onshore wind and solar power have been scrapped while the government is only planning to allocate £60m for the next round of renewable energy funding in May.

However, with a fixed amount of government money available for renewable energy under the Levy Control Framework, ending the generous biomass subsidies would automatically release around £800m for genuinely low-carbon wind, wave and solar power.

This would make a huge difference in reducing both our air pollution and our greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainable?

Why are biomass power plants receiving these huge renewable subsidies for burning wood?

Governments and the biomass industry argue that converting old coal power plants to burn wood is ‘green energy’ which can help reduce our carbon emissions.

This argument is based on the mistaken belief that burning wood is ‘carbon neutral’ because there is an assumption that new trees will absorb the carbon emissions produced by the burning.

This has allowed the biomass industry to present itself as a ‘low carbon’ and ‘sustainable’ alternative to fossil fuels, with the Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry describing biomass as “a cost-effective and transitional means of decarbonising the electricity grid”.

Drax’s Chief Executive, Will Gardiner, claimed that the power station is: “the biggest decarbonisation project in Europe” and a “key part of the climate change solution.”

Green deserts 

However, the truth is that there is nothing renewable or sustainable about biomass burning. By contrast, biomass comes at an enormous cost for communities, wildlife, forests and the climate.

Read it all here.

Europe’s Renewable Energy Policy is Built on Burning American Trees

More CO2 thanks to the EU. As the EU says: CO2 bad … unless we say otherwise.

in 2009, the EU committed itself to 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, and put biomass on the renewables list. Several countries, like the United Kingdom, subsidized the biomass industry, creating a sudden market for wood not good enough for the timber industry. In the United States, Canada, and Eastern Europe, crooked trees, bark, treetops, and sawdust have been pulped, pressed into pellets, and heat-dried in kilns. By 2014, biomass accounted for 40 percent of the EU’s renewable energy, by far the largest source. By 2020, it’s projected to make up 60 percent, and the US plans to follow suit.

Fueling this boom is a simple, intuitive idea: that biomass is both renewable and “carbon neutral,” and a way to keep an economy built on burning fossil fuels humming along.

But a cadre of scientists and policy activists are now pushing back, saying that biomass energy rests on deceptive accounting. Rather than being carbon neutral, biomass is liquidating millions of tons of irreplaceable carbon stocks in the midst of a climate crisis already out of control.

Image by Javier Zarracina/Vox. 2019.

If you believe CO2 is bad and more CO2 is worse:

The analysis was later confirmed by a colleague at MIT, John Sterman, who did the math, and confirmed that burning wood today would worsen climate change, “at least through the year 2100 — even if wood displaces coal, the most carbon-intensive fuel.”

More here

 

Does replacing coal with wood lower CO2 emissions? Nope.

Burning wood makes more CO2 than coal.

The conclusions high points:

  • biomass used to displace fossil fuels injects CO2 into the atmosphere at the point of combustion and during harvest, processing and transport.
  • the first impact of displacing coal with wood is an increase in atmospheric CO2relative to continued coal use
  •  before breakeven, atmospheric CO2 is higher than it would have been without the use of bioenergy, increasing radiative forcing and global average temperatures, worsening climate change, including potentially irreversible impacts that may arise before the long-run benefits are realized.
  • biofuels are only beneficial in the long run if the harvested land is allowed to regrow to its pre-harvest biomass and maintained there.
  • The carbon debt incurred when wood displaces coal may never be repaid if development, unplanned logging, erosion or increases in extreme temperatures, fire, and disease (all worsened by global warming) limit regrowth or accelerate the flux of carbon from soils to the atmosphere.
  • harvesting existing forests and replanting with fast-growing species in managed plantations can worsen the climate impact of wood biofuel.
  • growth in wood harvest for bioenergy causes a steady increase in atmospheric CO2 because the initial carbon debt incurred each year exceeds what is repaid.
  • using wood in electricity generation worsens climate change for decades or more even though many of our assumptions favor wood

Image result for wood pellets

 

I’m Pretty Sure Wood Has Carbon In It

From a DRAX news release

The findings were revealed in analysis from Oxford Economics looking at the economic impact of Drax’s UK operations, which includes Selby-based Drax Power Station.

The power station, which employs around 900 people, has converted four of its six generating units to use compressed wood pellets and generated 15% of the country’s renewable electricity in 2017 – enough for four million households. Since transforming the power station to use biomass instead of coal it has become the largest decarbonisation project in Europe.

If you are burning wood instead of coal, you aren’t decarbonising.

BC and Carbon Taxes and Wood Pellets And Green Ain’t Necessarily Renewable

The EPA in the USA has followed the EU in declaring wood pellets burning to be carbon neutral.

Even DesmogBlog is throwing a hissy fit.

Me … I’m sad and I’m also laughing. For years the greens have deliberately confused people and tried to make it seem like green = renewable.

They used terms like biomass and biofuel etc etc. And made it seem like it was green and way better than coal.

Burning wood for electric power may be renewable but it isn’t green. It produces 2x the CO2 as natural gas and more than coal in many cirumstances.

I live in British Columbia … a place with lots of trees and a carbon tax. But guess what, our public power utility subsidizes the burning of trees for power.

A couple of miles from me is a pulp mill. They built a 55MW power plant burning wood waste and BC Hydro buys power from them at subsidized rates.

Here’s an article on one of the small projects replacing diesel with wood waste gasification.  This is the sad sad paragraph:

That adds up to greenhouse gas reductions of about 400 tonnes a year, and is in-line with BC Hydro’s ongoing efforts to help remote B.C. communities – too far away from the electricity system to be serviced by the 98% clean energy generated by BC Hydro – reduce their fossil fuel emissions.

Its sad because they can only claim GHG reductions if they lie and claim wood is “carbon neutral” and produces no net CO2.

800MW of power from burning wood etc (Ignore the waste heat stations) Here is a list.

Here is a sample:

800MW!!!!

Huge amounts of CO2 and particulate matter.

If BC shut those down, we could skip the carbon tax!