Bonfire Of Insanity: Woodland Is Shipped 3,800 Miles And Burned In Drax Power Station

  • Date: 16/03/14
  • David Rose, Mail on Sunday

‘Your government’s Department  for Energy and Climate Change claims what’s happening is sustainable,  and carbon neutral. But it’s not. What you’re actually doing is wrecking the environment in the name of saving  the planet.’

The pellets are supposedly a step in reducing CO2 emissions, but have, in fact, made it worse

The wood pellets are supposedly a step in reducing CO2 emissions, but have, in fact, made it worse

The UK is committed by law to a radical shift to renewable energy. By 2020, the proportion of Britain’s electricity generated from ‘renewable’ sources is supposed to almost triple to 30 per cent, with more than a third of that from what is called ‘biomass’.

The only large-scale way to do this is by burning wood, man’s oldest fuel – because EU rules have determined it is ‘carbon-neutral’.

So our biggest power station, the leviathan Drax plant near Selby in North Yorkshire, is switching from dirty, non-renewable coal. Biomass is far more expensive, but the consumer helps the process by paying subsidies via levies on energy bills.

That’s where North Carolina’s forests come in. They are being reduced to pellets in a gargantuan pulping process at local factories, then shipped across the Atlantic from a purpose-built dock at Chesapeake Port, just across the state line in Virginia.

Old s-coal: Drax Power station, near Selby, Yorkshire, when it was still using non-renewable coal
 Old s-coal: Drax Power station, near Selby, Yorkshire, when it was still using non-renewable coal

Those pellets are burnt by the billion at Drax. Each year, says Drax’s head of environment, Nigel Burdett, Drax buys more than a million metric tons of pellets from US firm Enviva, around two thirds of its total output. Most of them come not from fast-growing pine, but mixed, deciduous hardwood.

Drax and Enviva insist this practice is ‘sustainable’. But though it is entirely driven by the desire to curb greenhouse gas emissions, a broad alliance of US and international environmentalists argue it is increasing, not reducing them.

In fact, Burdett admits, Drax’s wood-fuelled furnaces actually produce three per cent more carbon dioxide (CO2) than coal – and well over twice as much as gas: 870g per megawatt hour (MW/hr) is belched out by wood, compared to just 400g for gas.

Then there’s the extra CO2 produced by manufacturing the pellets and transporting them 3,800 miles. According to Burdett, when all that is taken into account, using biomass for generating power produces 20 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

And meanwhile, say the environmentalists, the forest’s precious wildlife habitat is being placed  in jeopardy.

Full story