Scientists on both sides of the Atlantic have become embroiled in a war of words over energy from trees. A recent Chatham House report claimed that burning wood for electricity is worse for the climate than using coal. It sparked a backlash from a group of 125 academics in the field who said the research was deeply flawed. Now supporters of the original study have hit back, saying that to avoid dangerous warming the world needs to plant more trees, not burn them. Producing electricity from burning biomass such as trees has boomed in recent years, with the amount of energy generated doubling between 2005 and 2015. Cash for ash? Many energy firms have seen it as a more reliable green power source than wind or solar. The EU is the world’s biggest consumer of biomass, with some imported as wood pellets from southern US s tates. Bio-energy is expected to contribute more than half of the EU’s renewable energy by 2020. It’s a big money spinner, with subsidies worth £800m paid by the UK government for biomass electricity in 2015. But the Chatham House study said that the financial support for this type of power generation was based on some flawed assumptions. The first was that the emissions of CO2 from the burned wood are balanced by the planting of new trees. The author argued that there is no accounting for the soil carbon lost during the harvesting of these trees, and that older trees used for burning can sequester far more carbon that younger ones planted in their stead.
BBC 15th March 2017 read more »