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London, 17 July: A prominent scientist has condemned the generation of electricity through wood burning, branding it “a case of extreme foolishness”.

In a paper published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation author Martin Livermore reviews the EU’s energy policies and criticises its decision to count biomass burning as renewable energy.

“It makes no sense”, says Livermore.

“You use so much energy processing trees into pellets, drying them, and transporting them that you end up with higher carbon dioxide emissions than burning gas, or even coal, and at a much higher price. Shipping wood pellets across the Atlantic to fuel European power stations is an ideological rather than a rational choice.”

It is claimed that tree-planting will absorb all the extra CO2, but as Livermore explains there is an obviously better approach: “Burning biomass simply puts off part of the reduction in emissions by several decades. We would get a better outcome from burning fossil fuels but still planting more trees”.

Nevertheless, biomass burning looks set to continue, and plays a central role in the plans for “Net Zero”, Livermore says.

“Whatever we may feel about the need to decarbonise our energy systems, it is important that any action taken is as cost-effective as possible. Making taxpayers and consumers foot the bill for an intervention that actually raises carbon dioxide emissions makes no sense whatsoever. It’s a terrible policy”.

Burnt Offering: The biomess of biomass (pdf)