Monday, February 13th, 2023

Burning wood != carbon neutral

Photograph of fire burning bright orange against a black background

Ever since I worked at a Drax subsidiary, I’ve been a little bemused by the “biomass = net zero” argument. First, the act of burning releases CO2 that had otherwise been safely tucked away, and second, it can take decades to recover “most” of what gets released. 

Then there’s the other rubbish it dumps into the atmosphere.

Anyway, I dug up a report from Chatham House about the release of CO2 from biomass, specifically burning wood pellets in the UK to generate power sourced from the US. It is  late 2021, so things might have moved on. The bit that caught my eye?

“Almost none of these [wood pellet] emissions are included in the UK’s national greenhouse gas inventory; if they were, this would have added between 22 and 27 per cent to the emissions from total UK electricity generation, or 2.8–3.6 per cent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. This volume is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 6 million to 7 million passenger vehicles.”

I’m seeing more investment going into biomass power generation, and we all feel good about it. 

I shall continue to dig.

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My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.