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Back Biomass campaign response to David Rose article in the Sunday Mail



Daily Mail journalist David Rose has written an article condemning the UK’s biomass sector, claiming that it’s unsustainable, expensive and should be replaced with even more reliance on gas.


Unfortunately, the article is full of inaccuracies and missing information (you can read it here, but we wouldn’t advise it…). You can read the truth here, but we’ve highlighted a few points where Rose’s article is wrong. For example:


  • Rose implies that the level at which conversion biomass is supported by Government (£105/MWh) is expensive, comparing it to the levels for onshore wind and nuclear. He doesn’t mention that Nuclear is guaranteed for 20 years more than that for biomass. Nor does he mention that conversion biomass is one of the cheapest renewable fuels but also able to offer baseload capacity (that is, it doesn’t rely on the weather). It can offer such a low price because it uses existing coal-fired power stations that might otherwise shut down due to EU legislation


  • Rose implies that there is “very little regulation” for biomass. In addition to the UK’s Sustainability Criteria, (which make Government support contingent on independently verifiable 60% greenhouse gas emissions throughout the supply chain, compared to the EU fossil fuel grid average) biomass is highly regulated throughout the supply chain. In the USA at federal level, forestry is regulated by the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Coastal Zone Management Act and the Lacey Act. At State level, it is regulated by a range of water quality management regimes, established industry best practices, wetlands protections and zoning and landscaping ordinances.  In Canada’s British Columbia, policies and laws cover land use planning, forest management practices, public consultation, aboriginal involvement, protected areas, biodiversity and protected species


  • Rose makes a range of claims about Enviva and use of ‘whole trees’. It’s a pity he didn’t ask to be shown around Enviva’s timber processing centres, which they would have been happy to do. There he would have found a system of separation, where high-grade, high-value forest produce is sent to industries such as furniture making and construction. The lowest-grade fibres, such as twigs, bark, thinnings and sawdust are sent to the bioenergy sector. See here for what this looks like


  • Most importantly, Rose implies that carbon can take 100 years to be reabsorbed by a forest after being released by the biomass burning process. This is not true – responsible foresters are increasing forest cover by monitoring the rate at which they harvest and growing woodlands at an equal or greater rate. Through this process, net volume of trees per acre in the southeast USA has increased by 96% since 1953. ‘Clearcutting’ is a well-respected and time-tested method for managing sustainable growth across a forest without damaging biodiversity. Though one forest stand of a few acres may be ‘clearcut’ (that is, all remaining trees are removed), the rest of the forest compensates for the loss of this carbon storage through its wider growth. This cycle ensures a stable or increasing level of carbon storage in the forest. Equally, it ensures stable biodiversity in the forest by only clearing certain planned sections at a time, allowing natural replenishing of that stand’s ecosystem via the surrounding forest