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

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Burning wood for power ‘breaches EU treaty’

It ain’t easy being green.

Campaigners are seeking to stop the EU counting wood as a renewable energy source, in a lawsuit which has been filed at the Court of Justice.

Plaintiffs from six European countries and the US argue that burning biomass for heat and power is a false solution to climate change. The EU Renewable Energy Directive promotes logging of ancient forests, according to the brief, contravening the bloc’s higher principles and individuals’ rights.

The suit challenges a major plank of efforts to generate 32 percent of EU energy from renewable sources by 2030. Nearly two thirds of EU renewables come from various forms of bioenergy, with more projects in planning.

Carbon sinks

We are burning up our forest carbon sink and injecting it into the atmosphere,” said Mary Booth, lead science advisor to the case and president of the US-based Partnership for Policy Integrity.

“There is forest biomass being shipped thousands of miles to meet biomass demand in the EU. We think that needs to stop.”

At the point where it is burned, wood emits more carbon dioxide than coal. However, the EU treats wood burning as carbon neutral, on the basis trees will grow back, absorbing carbon dioxide from the air.

A spokesperson for the European Commission climate change division would not comment on the legal merits of the case.

The commission’s policy framework aimed to guarantee “sustainable development of bioenergy, while at the same time enhancing the role of land and forests as carbon sinks,” she said.

Renewables

That was endorsed by member states and the European Parliament when they adopted the directive last year.

Carbon accounting of forest management has long been fraught with controversy, as scientists like Booth warn it does not reflect the true climate impact. Instead of being harvested, she said in a press call, trees should be allowed to mature and store carbon.

The plaintiffs will also raise concerns about damage to biodiversity, cultural heritage and human health in their regions. These range from the deterioration of peat bogs in Ireland to threats to Estonia’s pagan religious traditions.

From a legal perspective, counsel Peter Lockley explained, the case needed to demonstrate the renewables directive clashes with higher law –  enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – in a way that directly concerned individuals.

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.

UN forest accounting loophole allows CO2 underreporting

The CO2 Forest Accounting Loophole

  • Emissions accounting helps determine whether or not nations are on target to achieve their voluntary Paris Agreement reduction goals. Ideally, the global community’s CO2 pledges, adjusted downward over time, would, taken together, help keep the world from heating up by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 from a 1900 baseline.
  • But scientists are raising the alarm that this goal may already be beyond reach. One reason: a carbon accounting loophole within UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines accepting the burning of wood pellets (biomass) as a carbon neutral replacement for coal — with wood now used in many European Union and United Kingdom power plants.
  • Scientists warn, however, that their research shows that replacing coal with wood pellets in power plants is not carbon neutral. That’s partly because burning wood, which is celebrated by governments as a renewable and sustainable energy resource, is less efficient than coal burning, so it actually produces more CO2 emissions than coal.
  • Also, while wood burning and tree replanting over hundreds of years will end up carbon neutral, that doesn’t help right now. Over a short timeframe, at a historical moment when we require aggressive greenhouse gas reductions, wood burning is adding to global emissions. Analysts say that this loophole needs to be closed, and soon, to avoid further climate chaos.

https://news.mongabay.com/2018/05/un-forest-accounting-loophole-allows-co2-underreporting-by-eu-uk-us/

Where I live they are generating 800MW of power using biomass.

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!

 

Canadians Are Killing Forests – Biofuels, and especially wood pellets, actually worsen climate change

Canada is ramping up turning forests into wood pellets for Europe and Asia.

And generating a lot more CO2.

“Wood pellets are considered carbon neutral because as forests grow they can retrap carbon, but the designation has drawn criticism from environmentalist and academics who have questioned the equation.

John Sterman, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, published a paper earlier this year that argued burning pellets would release more carbon dioxide than coal in the short term because it was a less efficient source of energy.

The lag for when the carbon would potentially be reabsorbed to eventually make it carbon neutral is too long when emissions reduction is needed now, said Sterman in an interview.

“The next few decades, the rest of this century, this is the critical period,” said Sterman. “Biofuels, and especially wood pellets, actually worsen climate change over this period.”

There are also significant concerns about the reliability of the forest retrapping the carbon, since climate change is expected to increase the risks of forest fires and insect infestations, said Sterman.

“The EU has made this error, and accounting error. It’s just a false statement to say that biofuels are carbon neutral. They’re not neutral in the short run, and whether they’re neutral in the long run depends on the fate of the land.” “