Desire to Know
Dr. Jane Goodall
Burning US trees in UK 23 Dec, 2015 | Modified 8 Feb, 2016 | Views 1734
Subsidizing wood burning wastes money, does nothing to tackle climate change in the short term, and is wrecking some of the finest forests in the US.
Renewable energy: Burning US trees in UK power stations
Swamp forests in the US are being felled to help keep the lights on in the UK. Is this really the best way to combat climate change?
Environmentalists are trying to block the expansion of a transatlantic trade bringing American wood to burn in European power stations.
The trade is driven by EU rules promoting renewable energy to combat climate change.
Many millions of tonnes of wood pellets will soon be shipped annually to help keep the lights on in the UK. Other EU nations may follow.
Critics say subsidising wood burning wastes money, does nothing to tackle climate change in the short term, and is wrecking some of the finest forests in the US. Environmentalists are preoccupied with the potential effects of the trade on climate change and wildlife.
The plantations are thinned and harvested by mechanical giants which cut and throw whole trees as if they were twigs. The thinned-out trees are of low value. They are traditionally sold to the pulp and paper industry but now there's a new market - power stations in the UK.
Critics fear that increasing demand from power generators will encourage foresters to take land that is currently growing food. Their other fear is that plantation forests will replace even more of the natural forests of the southern US, which are already dwindling fast.
The wood fuel industry has not advertised that it also takes trees from natural forests like this to boil kettles in Britain - but that's what happens.
Policies create opportunities and entrepreneurs were quick to exploit the potential of wood power, which will soon create more renewable energy in the UK than wind and solar combined.
The British government will make a working assumption that burning the wood has nil CO2 emissions as new trees will suck up the CO2 emitted by wood burning. Critics say this is simplistic as it fails to recognise that it will take maybe 50 years for new trees to absorb the CO2.
Burning American trees in the UK reduces America's "carbon sink".
It looks as though UK Government policy is being driven by the need to hit mandatory targets and keep electrons flowing, rather than by a deep desire to cut CO2 emissions right now.
BBC News http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-22630815