Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Biomass Myth

As a long-term source of fuel biomass only has a marginal role and yet the UK's Climate Change Plan relies heavily on it.

Biomass for heating home
The technology is limited in its ability to reduce CO2 emissions. Biomass is generally considered to be carbon-neutral, which is fine as long as we are using waste wood from the timber industry or woodcuttings, but it gets more complex when we consider growing biomass as an energy crop.

My calculations suggest that the UK has around 18 million ha of agricultural land, with 5.5 million hectares [ha] given over to arable. If we assume that 1 million ha — 17% — of that land will support biomass crops (as suggested by Biomass Task Force), then my calculations show that this would only yield a carbon saving of 2.3 million tonnes of carbon a year. Current annual emissions from heating UK homes are approximately 22.6 million tonnes of carbon

As bio crops are essentially solar energy, you get four times as much yield in the tropics than in the UK, so tropical and subtropical countries will switch to biomass crops for export — displacing food crops and clearing forest. If the use of biomass and biofuels were to continue unchecked, it could lead to ecological disaster. George Monbiot has highlighted to dangers of offshore deforestation due to demand for energy crops from the Europe.

Biofuel for transport 
The UK Department for Transport expects suppliers of fossil fuel for road transport will be obliged to ensure 5% of total fuel sales are biofuels by 2010. This is set to raise this to 10% by 2020. The political ambition for 10% of transport fuel to be provided by biofuels would need 4 million ha of land. Uk only has 5 million ha of arable land. Where will it grow food? will the people except field after field of bright yellow rapeseed farms

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