Burning wood pellets is worse for environment than using coal

Burning wood pellets is worse for environment than using coal

Research suggests that the use of wood pellets as a source of power is worse for the environment than the use of coal – and is being subsidised by British consumers.

Acres of trees have been felled in the US and shipped over to the Drax power station in North Yorkshire to be burned as biomass, which has been promoted as clean and greener than coal.

However, research by British academics says burning these wood pellets produces more carbon emissions than coal.

In January, this was supported by researchers from MIT Sloan School of Management, who said that wood pellets used in power plants across Europe and the UK emit more CO2 per kilowatt hour than coal.

A leading British think tank, Chatham House, has also warned that the UK is wasting hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer’s cash on burning American wood pellets in biomass generators – and that the practice causes more pollution than the coal it replaced.

Channel 4’s Dispatches conducted an experiment at the University of Nottingham, which found that 8% more carbon was produced when burning wood pellets than coal, when generating the same amount of electricity.

Professor Bill Moomaw, who helped lead a Nobel Peace Prize winning team on climate change at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said: “If we take the forests and burn them, the carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere instantly, in a few minutes. It takes decades to a century to replace that.”

One Comment

  1. Andrew Walsh

    I think the professor is missing the point. Burning *both* coal and wood pellets releases carbon that was locked up into the atmosphere. And I agree that trees will take up to a century to extract from the atmosphere again. However, carbon contained in coal has been there for millennia, and will take that long to put back.

    Surely, if the trees are from local sustainable forests, using wood pellets is better. Now, of course, there is the question of how much carbon is emitted from shipping from the Americas to Europe… that might be the deciding factor. Perhaps using forests which are close would solve this problem. European wood, maybe? Another consideration is the energy needed to cut down the trees and process them into pellets.

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