Scientists from around the world have become embroiled in a war of words over energy created from burning trees. A recent report claimed that burning wood for electricity if worse for the climate than using coal, prompting major questions and enquiries over how we should generate electricity whilst preserving our environment.
Producing electricity from burning biomass such as trees has boomed in recent years, with the amount of energy generated doubling between 2005 and 2015. Many energy firms around the world have seen it as a more reliable green power source compared to using wind or solar power. The EU, the world’s biggest consumer of biomass, with some imported as wood pellets from Southern USA. At the current rate, bio-energy is expected to contribute more than half of the EU’s renewable energy by 2020.
Burning down trees also costs a lot of money, with subsidies worth £800m paid by the UK government for biomass electricity in 2015.
The study also showed that the amount of time it would take to re-absorb the carbon produced from burning of pellets was critically important. With scientific concern over the world, the world only has a few more years to make significant cuts in carbon dioxide levels, opting for a policy that would also take many decades to achieve carbon payback was dubious.
The idea that burning wood released more carbon dioxide than coal has enraged those who work in the biomass industry and people who carry out research. Many of them described it as “it gives an inaccurate interpretation of the impact of harvesting on the forest carbon stock”. The author argued that there is no accounting for the sole carbon lost during the harvesting of these trees and that older trees used for burning can sequester far more carbon than younger ones planted in their stead.
Whatever may happen in the coming decades, the fact that we need trees to survive does not go away from us, therefore a global limit should be put in place stating the number of trees than can be used to generate energy. With growing levels of deforestation globally, there is more CO2 in the atmosphere, which if increased could cause serious health problems and create an unpleasant environment for us to live in…