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Europe’s green energy policy is a disaster for the environment

December 3, 2016

By Paul Homewood


h/t Tallbloke




From New Scientist:


The European Union’s proposals for revising its renewable energy policies are greenwashing and don’t solve the serious flaws, say environmental groups.

The EU gets 65 per cent of its renewable energy from biofuels – mainly wood – but it is failing to ensure this bioenergy comes from sustainable sources, and results in less emissions than burning fossil fuels. Its policies in some cases are leading to deforestation, biodiversity loss and putting more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than burning coal.

“Burning forest biomass on an industrial scale for power and heating has proved disastrous,” says Linde Zuidema, bioenergy campaigner for forest protection group Fern. “The evidence that its growing use will increase emissions and destroy forests in Europe and elsewhere is overwhelming.”

On 30 November the European Commission unveiled a draft “clean energy” package for the period up to 2030. On the surface, these proposals address some of the issues with existing renewable energy policies.

But environmental groups who have been analysing the proposals say that the changes will make little difference.

“It’s almost worse than doing nothing,” says Sini Erajaa, the bioenergy policy officer for BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, who describes the changes as greenwashing.

Burning biomass

For instance, one proposed change is to apply the EU’s sustainability criteria to biomass used in heat and power plants whose output is 20 megawatts or more. “This means, for instance, that electricity and heat from biomass have to produce at least 80 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels by 2021 and 85 per cent less by 2026,” states a memo on the revised renewable energy directive.

You might think this will ensure that burning biomass does not result in higher greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuel use, but far from it. That statement is misleading because it does not make clear that the EU’s method for calculating emissions assumes burning biomass produces no CO2 at all. “Emissions from the fuel in use shall be taken to be zero for biofuels and bioliquids,” states a 2009 directive.

The assumption is that these emissions don’t have to be counted because the growth of plants soaks up as much CO2 as is emitted when they are burned. But this assumption is not true on the timescales that matter for limiting climate change. Burning wood can result in higher emissions than burning coal.

This fact is not controversial. Buried deep in the EU’s own impact assessment is an acknowledgement that burning forest biomass is not carbon neutral, and that using some forms of forest biomass can increase emissions.

“Biogenic emissions remain high (higher than emissions from fossil fuels) beyond a policy-relevant timeframe for sawn wood, stumps, coarse dead wood,” it states on page 106.

Carbon neutral?

But because the EU doesn’t count these emissions, it is claiming carbon reductions for activities that are sometimes increasing emissions – what New Scientist has recently revealed as “the great carbon scam”.

For instance, the EU is not just burning small bits of wood waste for energy, which can indeed reduce emissions. Whole trees are being felled for energy and often in an unsustainable way, say campaigners.

A recent report by Birdlife and other groups documents several examples of how EU subsidies are driving deforestation in Europe and beyond. Supposedly protected forests are being cut down in Slovakia and Italy, for instance.

Campaigners want the EU to abandon its drive to use ever more bioenergy, particularly forest bioenergy. “We are not saying bioenergy has no role to play,” says Erajaa. “But it will have to be smaller.”

When asked about these criticisms, a spokesperson for the European Commission said it is committed to making sure the biomass used for energy throughout the EU is sustainable.

The draft proposals now go before the European parliament for review, so there is still a chance to amend them. But countries and industries raking in profits from bioenergy subsidies are fighting to prevent meaningful reform.


It is an issue that I have been pounding on about for a while now. Even if the forests are properly replanted, it would still take decades for the CO2 emitted from burning biomass to be offset.

And, as this article points out, this has no relevance on the timescales that matter for limiting climate change.

And, of course, there are real concerns that deforestation is taking place without guarantees of sustainability.

  1. Malcolm Bell permalink
    December 3, 2016 11:18 am

    I have been led to believe that most of the pellatised wood used in UK power stations (Drax etc) is brought in from the USA (using substantial amounts of fossil fuel in the process). These are from US forests that are not sustainably managed (I read) so the CO2 released will not be absorbed in a “neutral” sense.
    It should be remembered that burning wood is very heat inefficient: wood contains a lot of water (especially after being stored in mini-mountains in Yorkshire) which first has to be boiled off before the wood will burn. Some thirty percent of the energy in wood is lost in this way.
    The water boiled off goes to atmosphere where it is more than a five times greater “greenhouse” gas than CO2.
    The conclusion is simple – burning wood is wholly counter productive. We must again burn coal until we learn how to do artificial photosynthesis.

    Rember – we burn coal because in the 16th century England ran out of wood to burn, and that with a miniscule population. In just a few decades we will have the same problem again.

    • December 3, 2016 1:57 pm

      The water is removed when turning the wood into pellets, but…

      ‘If the pellets are made directly from forest material, it takes up to 18% of the energy to dry the wood and additional 8% for transportation and manufacturing energy.’ – Wikipedia

      Storage is under cover but there are well-known fire and carbon monoxide risks to that.

    • Ex-expat Colin permalink
      December 3, 2016 3:06 pm

      From the program last week about Mighty Ships (or something) the pellets are damped and transported about 70 miles to Drax from port. They are then crushed to dust for injection into the furnace. The very hard way to do energy supply I’d say.

      Deep mining is very dangerous and I suspect that alone kills it in UK now. Gas stations would be far better but I don’t know what the cost fiddles are?

  2. Gerry, England permalink
    December 3, 2016 11:19 am

    Having established that using wood and charcoal as a source of heating and for power was not sustainable centuries ago, and so moved onto coal to drive the industrial revolution, we are now trying to use wood to drive a far larger economy with a much greater demand for power. Why is it that I keep getting that scene from the Smash commercial with the aliens laughing at us in my mind (you need to be a certain age to remember it but it is on youtube no doubt).

    • Dave Ward permalink
      December 3, 2016 11:43 am

      “You need to be a certain age to remember it”

      Indeed, you do…

    • December 3, 2016 5:24 pm

      Put this in the Youtube search bar: U4MTgjNkfyI

  3. December 3, 2016 11:34 am

    “Europe’s green energy policy is a disaster for the environment”. That’s a very similar title to that of my latest article “The Disastrous Impact of Renewable Energy in Devon”.

  4. AlecM permalink
    December 3, 2016 12:08 pm

    I sincerely hope that as we shiver in this cold winter with the prospect of another 30 o 50 years of the same, lefty politicians will face the consequences of their collective stupidity.

    The immediate task is to pass a Trump-style law preventing any energy minister from entering employment with an energy company or a financial corporation with carbon trading investments. Only then will government be populated by independent people!

    PS Caroline Flint’s behaviour is typical of the Labour MPs whose sinecures are also at an end, so she’s pretending to come out in favour of consumers!

  5. December 3, 2016 1:36 pm

    Politics needs a major renaming, since “greens” are often anti-green, “liberals” are the most illiberal people, and “progressives” are often fascists, they all want to dictate what people can/must do and what is forbidden to do or say.

    • John Palmer permalink
      December 3, 2016 7:46 pm


  6. martinbrumby permalink
    December 3, 2016 1:51 pm

    I don’t give a shite if burning wood is “sustainable” or not.

    So long as I can keep warm when the electricity goes off (already frequent enough where I live – far above Watford Gap) by tossing a couple of logs on the woodburner, it’s fine by me.

    And looking at the flames is better entertainment than 97% of what’s on telly, even when the power is on.

    And if the greenies, after vigorously promoting it, now decide they don’t like it; then that’s the cherry on the icing on the cake.

    • Ex-expat Colin permalink
      December 3, 2016 3:08 pm

      Dead right about the freaking UK TV…add Radio as well.

  7. Athelstan permalink
    December 3, 2016 1:58 pm

    Er……………….. excuse me, but.

    Cripes, most sane commenters of which there are quite a few on this ere blog site, we’ve been telling them [the eco loons] this for more years than I care to remember – indisputably………..none of it; bird mincers, PV arrays, bio mass, wood pellets, et bloody cetera is a more efficient method of generating electricity than is – burning coal.

    Now the SJW’s and eco nutters are howling in disgust, late to the party of course but then stupid people are always the last to get it.

  8. Ex-expat Colin permalink
    December 3, 2016 3:16 pm

    I mentioned a Canadian wind turbine fitting company going bust here yesterday (SW Midlands). Today Smethwick Drop Forge Limited locally went bust. Thats for car parts mainly.

    “Chris Pole, joint administrator and partner at KPMG, commented: : “Like many suppliers in the manufacturing industry, Smethwick Drop Forge has been affected by difficult trading conditions which has ultimately resulted in the directors taking the difficult decision to close its operations and place the business into administration”.

    Costs too high by any chance? Loads of cheap energy required? Or was it Brexit?

  9. markl permalink
    December 3, 2016 3:47 pm

    More unintended consequences that the environmentalists will ignore on their go for broke to save the world. Even “the end justifies the means” doesn’t fit this scenario.

  10. Ross King permalink
    December 3, 2016 4:39 pm

    So bio-mass is “deemed” by the Eurocrats to be net non-CO2 producing as the young plantations are promptly recycling the belched-out CO2!
    Wait a minute! If so, the same argument applies to coal but over a longer cycle. Let’s be intellectually honest here, instead of ‘conning’ the plebs with platitudes.
    And as burning coal generates CO2, which increases bio-development (food, oxygen, promotes growth in poor soil and increases productive land, etc.), what difference does it make by supplanting coal by bio-mass? I don’t get it!
    As for CO2 levels rising to a cataclysmic ‘tipping-point’, Gaia has survived many such increases in CO2 (to vastly higher levels in some cases) and WE’RE STILL HERE!
    A primary job of any democratically elected government in an advanced country is to attend to the basic needs of its population, lest the machetes come out! Reliable Electricity shd be made available to the consumer at he lowest cost possible … period. How many widows and grannies do we have to freeze to death before bringing this point home?

  11. wert permalink
    December 3, 2016 5:26 pm

    Well you can use wood at medium scale in Canada, North Europe, but it does not scale up.

    However, Spanish, Italian could do a lot to reforest their countries. Now that does not make an impact, but it would give EU for something useless to work on.

    The Eu is a bunch of idiots.

  12. December 3, 2016 6:01 pm

    had to believe that these goofballs gave us “western civilization”

  13. December 3, 2016 6:02 pm

    > When asked about these criticisms, a spokesperson for the European Commission
    > said it is committed to making sure the biomass used is sustainable.

    In my experience ‘sustainable’ means whatever a bureaucrat wants it to mean. The questions that should be asked are: ‘Does it make sense?’ and ‘Are there better alternatives?’ to which there are objectively quantifiable answers (no and yes respectively).

    • tom0mason permalink
      December 4, 2016 6:06 am

      ‘sustainable’ is one of those mealie mouth undefined words, and is used as just a ‘virtue signaling’ word.

  14. December 3, 2016 6:04 pm

    The same eco activists are up in arms about Canadian PM Trudeau approving 2 pipline projects. The fears fly in the face of facts.

  15. Mick J permalink
    December 3, 2016 8:57 pm

    This may interest. Voices in African countries speaking out regarding the denial of energy to those countries.

    “The world needs more energy!

    Poor countries have a right to use fossil fuels and will no longer let anyone stop us
    By Steven Lyazi

    Our planet is blessed with abundant resources that can generate enormous energy, provide raw materials for wondrous technologies, and build modern homes, roads and other structures – to support every man, woman and child on this earth. But can and will political powers make them available to the people who need them?

    Of all these resources, energy is the most important. Nothing happens without energy.

    For most of mankind’s history, human or animal muscle, wood and animal dung, water power, and plant or animal oil provided our energy. But the amount and quality of that energy was limited, and therefore what people could do was also limited.

    Then, almost suddenly, people began using coal, and then oil, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear power. Our abilities, and our dreams, began to reach for the heavens – at least in many countries. Sadly, many other countries lagged far behind, and many still do.

    They are held back, condemned to continued energy poverty – and thus to real poverty and the diseases, malnutrition and desperation that go with that absence of modern energy. This is partly because many nations are governed by incompetent, corrupt leaders, who care only about enriching themselves, their families, and their close friends, allies and supporters.

    But it is also because callous, imperialistic people in rich countries use exaggerated, imaginary or phony environmental concerns and fake disasters to justify laws, regulations and excuses not to let poor countries use fossil fuels or nuclear power or develop their economies.”

    More at

    • Ross King permalink
      December 3, 2016 9:34 pm

      “Energy Poverty” …. I like that, Mick J! Pls excsue me if I coin it regularly. a simple phrase that speaks volumes/

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      December 4, 2016 8:56 am

      Mick J
      You can’t be a slave-master without slaves;
      you can’t feel rich & superior without the poor;
      & politicians can’t control the population without fear…that’s why they make us fearful.

  16. Ross King permalink
    December 3, 2016 10:01 pm


    Trends continue until they stop (except, of course, for Catastrophists & Chicken Littles who are committing hara-kiri as we speak, if not jumping en masse off a cliff).

    And so, the latest paleo-climatic multi-decadal cyclic up-tick is now (with the inevitably of a pendulum, albeit one with a somewhat erratic action) trending-over into a down-tick.

    Of course, the Chicken-Little Alarmists will squeal this *this* Hawaii’an event proves their point, for which I await breathlessly for their convoluted analysis. (People like them and the Mannipulators can prove anything, especially if it is vomited from modelling on a super-computer.)

    As to modelling, I am reminded of Play-Do …. you can fashion any end-product you want and stick it in the shop-window for the gullible to buy.

    • tom0mason permalink
      December 4, 2016 7:08 am

      The pendulum has already changed direction, it has snowed in North Africa (Morocco, Libya, Algeria) and in Saudi Arabia in November.
      South America has had a cold spring and a very chilly start to its summer.
      Price of orange juice set to rise?
      It is the persistence of snow through the years on the Arctic circle land that heralds the change.
      As the pendulum swings a bit more the cooling pattern will persist longer, dousing the normal summer’s warmth with cloud, ensuring crop failures.
      Slow and incremental but relentless it will come, will any of our governments be prepared?
      After all, it may be decades away (during the decline of the next solar cycle?) — plenty of time to keep pushing the AGW nonsense.

  17. 1saveenergy permalink
    December 3, 2016 11:06 pm

    Hot off the press: James Hansen changes his mind…..yet again –

    “The ponderous response of the climate system also means that we don’t need to instantaneously reduce GHG amounts.”

    Why did anybody ever listen to that tosser ???

  18. tom0mason permalink
    December 4, 2016 5:57 am

    Burning coal puts CO2 into the air.
    Burning wood puts CO2 into the air.

    Difference (apart from recovered energy levels)
    The age of the wood.
    All the released CO2 was, at some point in time, originally in the atmosphere.

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      December 4, 2016 8:29 am

      Cutting mature trees down, removes part of nature’s very efficient CCS system; which we then attempt to replace with inefficient, costly & downright dangerous methods.
      But a few people make a lot of money.

  19. Bloke down the pub permalink
    December 4, 2016 10:52 am

    I see in today’s Sunday Telegraph that Emily Gosden seems to think that the capacity market subsidy is going to be £25-£30 /Kw. Now that would make the eyes water.

  20. simon permalink
    December 4, 2016 10:55 am

    Policing such a policy is going to be a nightmare. An EU which is incapable of auditing its own budgets will find it impossible to regulate sustainable wood supply. Forged certificates are easy, bungs to local officials will not be out of place in some corners of the EU. How long do we think it will be before a massive scam is exposed where non-sustainable forests are found to have been denuded by unscrupulous green rent-seekers?

  21. Dung permalink
    December 4, 2016 11:44 am

    tom0mason and Ross King

    You both said (upthread) that sustainability is badly defined or undefined but you are wrong ^.^ it is very carefully defined but you and I are not meant to know what the new definition is.
    Welcome to the UN my friends hehe.
    For the purposes of turning itself into a future world government the UN was forced to make one or two minor changes in definitions. You and I should not know anything about it because we might disagree.
    I must paraphrase because I can not find the original. Basicaly if you are reading government or UN documents it now means that no resource must be totally exhauseted if future generations might have need of it ^.^
    Think about that for a moment or two.

  22. Dung permalink
    December 4, 2016 11:45 am

    basically Grrr.

  23. Dung permalink
    December 4, 2016 11:46 am

    exhausted major facepalm!

  24. December 6, 2016 5:26 am

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    Another great example of feel-good “Green” policies that are actually ‘Killing the Earth to Save it.”

    Insanity. But as long as it feels good – who cares?

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