Drax in North Yorkshire: – destroying hardwood forests of USA & Canada
Long time friend of Green Christian, Fred Kreuger of EcoStewards in America writes:
I need your help in addressing a European dimension of climate change
that is impacting the forests of the United States and Canada.
We need your assistance in exposing a great fraud.
The Drax Energy Company in North Yorkshire, UK, is shifting from coal as
a fuel for electrical generation to wood pellets obtained from the
hardwood forests of the U.S. and Canada. They claim that wood pellets
are a carbon neutral source of energy. This is a big fat lie. It is
based upon the supposition among EU regulators that biomass (i.e., wood
pellets) are a carbon neutral renewable alternative. This claim is made
on the supposition that the growth of new trees will absorb as much
carbon as wood pellets release when they are burned to generate
electricity. But the trees which are being cut are hundreds of years old
and this is clearly not renewable.
Please see the news article appended below.
Many climate and forestry scientists have emphasized that converting
coal plants to biomass will increase carbon emissions for decades, if
Prof Michael Norton, a director at the European Academies Science
Advisory Council, said large-scale forest removal to meet the demand for
biomass would be “horrifying from a climate perspective” and already
risks overshooting the Paris agreement targets.
A representative of Drax Energy makes the following misleading and false
‘these pellets are sustainable biomass sourced from managed forests that
are replanted and stay as forests, absorbing carbon as the trees grow.
Drax will not use biomass that drives harvesting decisions which would
adversely affect the long-term potential of forests to store carbon.
These commitments are central to our new biomass sustainability policy,
launched in October.
This is corporate nonsense. In fact these wood pellets are taken from
old growth forests that will not and could not be replaced for hundreds
See the photo below.
This photo shows a logged forest that once stood in the Urahaw Swamp in northeastern North Carolina. This forest was logged to make wood pellets. The rapidly growing wood pellet industry is logging bottomland hardwood forests across Southeastern U.S. forests to produce fuel pellets that are shipped overseas, primarily to Europe.
While the world tries to shift away from fossil
fuels, the energy industry is calling wood pellets a renewable source of energy.
This is false. Forests should be a source of carbon sequestration, but logging
forests does serious damage to the world’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide
levels. Burning trees as fuel in power plants is heating the atmosphere more
quickly than coal.
Please help us expose the fraud that wood
pellets are carbon neutral. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every
little bit helps in this global effort to reduce carbon emissions, and telling
the truth about our carbon predicament is one more way to address this problem.
Thank you for helping in this effort to address global climate change
Converting coal plants to biomass could fuel climate crisis, scientists warn
Experts horrified at large-scale forest removal to meet wood pellet demand
Mon 16 Dec 2019 01.01 ESTLast modified on Mon 16 Dec 2019 11.51 EST
Biomass fuel at Drax power station in North Yorkshire. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA
Plans to shift Europe’s coal plants to burning wood pellets instead could accelerate rather than combat the climate crisis and lay waste to woodland equal to half the size of Germany’s Black Forest a year, according to campaigners.
The climate thinktank Sandbag said the heavily subsidised plans to cut carbon emissions would result in a “staggering” amount of tree cutting, potentially destroying forests faster than they can regrow.
Sandbag found that Europe’s planned biomass conversion projects would require 36 million tonnes of wood pellets every year, equal to the entire current global wood pellet production. This would require forests covering 2,700 sq km to be cut down annually, the equivalent of half the Black Forest in Germany.
The majority of wood pellets are imported from the US and Canada, “meaning that there’s a huge added environmental cost in transporting the wood from the other side of the Atlantic”, said the report’s author, Charles Moore.
The planned biomass conversions – with Finland, Germany and the Netherlands leading the way – would emit 67m tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which would be unlikely to be reabsorbed by growing trees over the timescales relevant to meeting the targets set by Paris climate agreement, warned Sandbag.
In return, the forest-hungry power plants would produce less than 2% of the EU’s electricity needs – the same generation capacity built in Europe every year by wind and solar farm developers.
“It’s impossible to believe coal companies when they argue that the switch to burning forests could be good for the climate,” Moore said.EU regulators consider biomass as a carbon neutral renewable alternative, saying that the growth of new trees can absorb as much carbon as wood pellets release when they are burned to generate electricity.
The Drax energy complex in North Yorkshire has used this logic to underpin its plan to become the world’s first “carbon negative” company within 10 years by burning biomass in conjunction with technology that can capture carbon from its power plant flues. Advertisement
Drax robustly defends the sustainability record of its biomass supply chain. Its wood pellets, shipped from the US, are made mostly from sawmill residue and forest overgrowth, which is carefully cleared to improve the quality of forests. Drax has pledged never to source biomass from farming practices that lead to deforestation.
But Alex Mason, from WWF’s EU office, said burning forests was “literally the opposite of what we should be doing” to help tackle the climate crisis.
“As 800 scientists pointed out last year, converting coal plants to biomass will increase emissions for decades, if not centuries. This new report is yet more evidence that the EU must use the new EU Green Deal to fix EU bioenergy rules before this ticking time-bomb of a policy does any more damage,” he said.
Prof Michael Norton, a director at the European Academies Science Advisory Council, said large-scale forest removal to meet the demand for biomass would be “horrifying from a climate perspective” and already risks overshooting the Paris agreement targets.
He said European countries were moving ahead with plans for giant biomass plants despite reports showing “the counter-productive nature of biomass” and the urgent need to stop deforestation.
A Drax spokesperson said: “Drax only uses sustainable biomass sourced from managed forests that are replanted and stay as forests, absorbing carbon as the trees grow. Drax will not use biomass that drives harvesting decisions which would adversely affect the long-term potential of forests to store carbon. These commitments are central to our new biomass sustainability policy, launched in October. We also have a new advisory board – an independent group of scientists, academics and forestry experts, which will ensure our biomass sourcing meets the highest standards using the latest science and best practice.”
Editor’s comment (Judith Allinson) writes:
From the high hills on the east slopes of the Pennines 30 miles east of me in North Yorkshire we can see the chimneys and cooling towers of Drax, still in North Yorkshire 50 miles away SE. (Yes North Yorkshire is England’s biggest county)
There’s no hiding it’s there.
Green Christian supports Biofuel Watch – so do visit their website and see what you can do
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Comments on "Drax in North Yorkshire: – destroying hardwood forests of USA & Canada"
Drax is aware that there is no guarantee that the “managed forests” from which it procures some of its wood raw material will remain as plantations or forests – given the risk of fire, and land-use change. There is no register of who has rights to the ability of that land to sequester CO2. Being foreign, and paying nothing to reserve sequestration capacity, Drax is presumably at the back of the queue (given the huge excess of USA’s emissions over CO2 sequestration across its territory). Crucially, the greenhouse effect on the atmosphere of Drax’s emissions lasts much longer than the length of time it takes for trees to grow in the USA (even on a plantation), and the latter is longer than the time available to achieve even the least demanding target of the 2015 UNFCCC Paris Agreement. The lowest and most assured "hanging fruit" is to consume much less energy, including that embodied in imports.
I have recently joined Green Christian in December 2019. I live in West Yorkshire the county next to North Yorkshire and know of Drax power station. About 47 miles away. This makes a nonsense of the term carbon neutral claims by Drax.. How can I help from this end?
In fact, when you really study 'biomass' exercises nearly all have shallow thinking in their construct. Complete nonsense to be perpetuated by lack of real thought. And we don't need it. Just invest in really green production of electricity