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"EU has created a subsidy which costs a packet, probably does not reduce carbon emissions, and does not encourage new energy technologies"

Wood Burning Pollution


By —— Bio and Archives--October 10, 2017

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The use of wood for electricity generation and heat in modern technologies has grown rapidly in recent years. For its supporters, it represents a relatively cheap and flexible way of supplying renewable energy with benefits to global climate and to forest industries. For its critics, Duncan Brack adds this important observation, “Overall while some instances of biomass energy use may result in lower life-cycle emissions than fossil fuels, in most circumstances, comparing technologies of similar ages, the use of woody biomass for energy will release higher levels of emissions than coal and considerably higher levels than gas.” 1

Wood-burning stoves are increasingly popular in middle class homes and hotels

Support for this latter statement comes from London. The last 100 years has been a success story of cleaner air in London. But air pollution is on the rise again. The fear of carbon is partly responsible for over a million people returning to burning ‘renewable wood’ instead of clean gas and turning around a century long trend. Joanne Nova says, “Welcome to the ‘progressive ’ 21st century. As much as a third of small particle pollution is due to wood fires.” 2

Wood-burning stoves are increasingly popular in middle class homes and hotels, with 1.5 million across Britain and 200,000 sold annually. Old fireplaces have also been opened up in many houses and can cause greater pollution than stoves. Wood burning is most popular in the southeast, where it is done in 16 percent of the households compared with less than 5 percent in northern England and Scotland.

Between a quarter and a third of all fine particle pollution in London comes from domestic wood burning. During a period of very high air pollution in January, it contributed half the toxic emissions in some areas of the city.2

In response to a London smog alert, the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) is calling on the Government to abolish all support for diesel engines and wood-burners which are posing a growing threat to the health of urban populations.3

The mayor of London is seeking to prohibit all burning of wood in parts of the capital with poor air quality

The mayor of London is seeking to prohibit all burning of wood in parts of the capital with poor air quality. He also wants tighter curbs on wood-burning stoves, with only low-emission versions allowed to stay on sale. 4

Up to 65% of Europe’s renewable output currently comes from bio-energy involving fuels such as wood pellets and chips, rather than wind and solar power. As The Economist notes, “In short, the EU has created a subsidy which costs a packet, probably does not reduce carbon emissions, and does not encourage new energy technologies.” 5

References

  1. Duncan Brack, “Woody biomass for power and heat,” Environment, Energy and Resources Department, February 2017
  2. Joanne Nova, “Renewable energy pollutes London but what’s a bit of smog if you’re saving the world,” joannenova.com, October 1, 2017
  3. “GWPF: Government support for wood burning partly to blame for rising smog threat,” Global Warming Policy Forum, January 24, 2017
  4. Ben Webster, “Wood-burning stoves face ban in pollution crackdown in London,” thetimes.co.uk, September 29, 2017
  5. “The fuel of the future,” The Economist, April 6, 2013

 



Jack Dini -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology.  He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.

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