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STATEMENT: Back Biomass responds to Transport & Environment report


Yesterday's Transport & Environment report is at best misinformed and at worst intentionally misleading. It confuses the different issues involved in woody biomass and liquid biofuels, misinterprets standard forestry practice and misrepresents the research undertaken. It also ignores scientific evidence and misses whole swathes of important regulatory debate.

The report makes no distinction between liquid biofuels, for which land use change can be an issue, and woody biomass, for which it is not. Investing in forestry and woodland partly to produce feedstock for solid biomass energy generation does not lead to land use change because you aren't replacing woodland with non-woodland.

The assertion that "science has shown that emission reductions are not always achieved and the time delay (so-called carbon debt) from the release of CO2 by burning to its recapturing by plant growth can be from zero to 500 years" is utterly misleading. Even the scientists behind this research into carbon debts have disowned this misinterpretation, and the UK Government was so dismayed by the misuse of its data that it was compelled to issue multiple statements on the issue. Extensive, up-to-date and peer-reviewed analyses of forestry processes supplying the biomass energy sector show that it is not only possible to deliver major carbon emissions, but that this reflects widespread practice.

The suggestion that it takes years to regrow a tree and there is therefore a delay in re-capturing atmospheric carbon demonstrates a lack of understanding of forest management. The forest is viewed as a whole, with some parts being harvested while the rest grow to ensure either a neutral or positive growth rate. The United States Government's own Forest Service recently highlighted exactly this process, noting that wood cover would increase as a result of biomass demand.

In the UK, world-leading sustainability criteria are in place to ensure that biomass used for electricity and combined heat and power (CHP) uses demonstrates a minimum 60% carbon reduction compared to the EU fossil fuel grid average (a standard measure of electricity non-renewable emissions). This applies to the whole supply chain, from storage and processing through transportation to combustion. Some generators are reaching closer to 80 or 90% emissions reductions. Not only this, but the Energy Technologies Institute in the UK and the International Panel on Climate Change have both stated in recent months that widespread deployment of biomass generation, combined with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology is the only way to reach net negative emissions, which are the only way we can achieve the global target of a 2 degree temperature increase by 2050.