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Biomass Now A Greater Source Of Pollution Than Cars

August 21, 2017

By Paul Homewood



h/t Conrad Jones





Earlier this year, DEFRA published a report by the Air Quality Expert Group into the impacts of biomass on air quality. The results make for startling reading.

Among the findings are:

1) Emissions of PM10 and PM2.5   from biomass  more then doubled between 2002 and 2012, mainly due to domestic wood combustion and straw burning.



Biomass emissions of PM2.5 now account for almost 25% of national ones. By contrast, road transport’s share in 2012 was only 21%.

Figures for PM10 are 17% and 20% respectively.



2) These figures for biomass are already well out of date, and almost certainly grossly understate the real figures. According to the Report, a new study by DECC last year only published after this Report was drafted) claimed that the true figure for domestic wood consumption was three times as great as previously thought. This would push up emissions of PM2.5 from 10.6 to 31.0 Kt, meaning that domestic combustion alone was responsible for 30% of the UK’s emissions of PM2.5 in 2012.



3) There have been similar large rises in the share of emissions of carcinogenic benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) and dioxins, as emissions have declined from other sources:





4) A typical domestic stove emits 6.7 g/h of PMs, compared to just 0.17 g/h for the most modern diesel cars, and much more then even HGVs.


Domestic boilers will of course be particularly problematic in winter months. Research suggests that wood burning could account for up to 25% of ambient PMs during winter in urban areas.



5) The rapid growth in biomass energy has been the direct result of extremely generous government subsidies.

Subsidies via the Renewable Heat Incentive alone this year will amount to £700 million, according to OBR figures. On top of that are the subsidies, via RO and CfD, which the likes of Drax are paid.



My Thoughts

Biomass emissions must already be greater than the 2012 figures used in this Report.

Since 2012, electricity produced from biomass has more than doubled, with Drax at the forefront, and will increase again this year as Drax’s third unit comes fully on stream.



It is deeply ironic, not to say disturbing, that the government has decided to demonise cars, whilst at the same time incentivising a potentially greater source of pollution.

  1. Richard permalink
    August 21, 2017 5:38 pm

    Are you surprised?

  2. Athelstan permalink
    August 21, 2017 5:38 pm

    It is deeply ironic, not to say disturbing, that the government has decided to demonise cars, whilst at the same time incentivising a potentially greater source of pollution.

    A masterly understatement there Mr. Homewood – sir. I can ‘smell’ and touch and feel the corrosive acid vapour mixing in the particulate matter.

    And besides that, lordy that [Defra] report will have cost some trees.

  3. nigel permalink
    August 21, 2017 5:51 pm

    The issue is ‘the demonizing’ – of anything and everything according to irrational impulses. It is as if we all have been unwillingly plugged into a vast, dim, psychotic, unbalanced, brain.

    • Dung permalink
      August 21, 2017 7:06 pm

      If there is a brain involved in any of this, I have yet to detect its presence.

  4. August 21, 2017 5:54 pm

    Is it an urban legend that 1950’s style smog returned to London last winter because of greeny wood chip burning ? or perhaps not !!

    One must smile a bit

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      August 21, 2017 7:21 pm

      Please sir, it was me what said the problem was the Islington Set and their woodburners, not black cabs.

      I don’t know how much of it is urban legend but I’ve got enough experience of dealing with the urban econut to know that if he thinks that a woodburner is “environmentally sound” he will install one and if anyone points out to him that burning unseasoned wood is increasing air pollution he will stick his fingers in his ears and/or find someone else to blame.

      And since the brouhaha about VW fiddling its emission figures, who better than diesel drivers?

      And a wry smile has become my standard reaction. It’s that or weep at the way these creeps always manage to get away with it. But they do. Look at Ehrlich or Hansen — wrong at every turn yet still people believe them!

      • Athelstan permalink
        August 21, 2017 8:34 pm

        “urban econut”

        Lovely turn of phrase.

        I was musing as you do, time to chew the cud.

        Ruminating and think during a fairly long striding, all about the vicissitudes and bureaucratic idiocy exhorbitantly adding unwanted, unnecessary burdens onto life’s uncertainties and by God the Gubmint just gets in the bloody way.
        Thus, wandering uphill and down dale yesterday. A whiff I was so familiar with in childhood, the aroma redolent of woodsmoke assaulted my senses and Immediately I thought, probably drifting from across the allotments over to my left, I couldn’t see, it was just an educated guess.

        Of course the council and their green taliban have just about banned outright the burning of waste in gardens and on allotments cos of in their terminology “the nuisance they cause” so on any pretext they’ll ban it – bonfires that is and much else besides if the truth be known – see here for the busybodies, sneaky beakies charter and unpaid stealthy reconnaissance.
        Way, way back in the day we had a clean air act and jolly blumin good for it too but small garden fires never really exercised anyone – only that the ‘boyscouts’ could be a bit of a nuisance and good neighbours usually sorted it without seeking redress from the authorities.
        These days, I can only imagine though, how enduring hot summers and al fresco consumption of half browned meats [also redolent of childhood but we just had half baked or burnt tatties]…….. can be a tad of a nuisance, notwithstanding the noise ‘pollution’ too.

        So, the urban econuts ‘officialdom’ are running the show and will sit on you if you do wrong, and ‘air’ pollution is the new ‘grail’ to chase. Yack and yikes air pollution is a dirty word! But! polluting can be done freely if you have the correct wood burning boiler but seemingly not, if you require to burn garden waste.
        Cuting down millions of trees, chipping ’em, carting them over to here to burn and produce enormous quantities of airborne gas and “bits” to pollute the countryside – not a problem either so says our econut government and therefore it begs the question……….

        when oh when is, a fossil fuel pollutant,/i> not a fossil fuel pollutant?

        A. When the econuts tell you.

        We got home, got in the car and went for some alfresco fish and chips from t’ local chipole, they w’eer reet grand.

      • Simon Allnutt permalink
        August 22, 2017 5:52 pm

        I live in the country in France. As we have plenty of sun and water plants grow very well. Owing to the high temperatures in summer there is a fire risk which necessitates everyone to cut down the brush and grass prior to the summer heat.
        A few years ago we would all burn it, making sure there was no wind and a water supply was in reach to control the fire. The econuts now insist that unless your are NEXT to the forest, you must drag it all to the town dump where it is shredded. This entails a drive of twenty miles a with a trailer for each load.
        Those within 200m of the forest can still burn (?). People do it usually at dawn or just after whilst whilst the air is still and there is some humidity about. The new edict is that you must do it after the bureaucrats are at work so it can be monitored.

  5. August 21, 2017 6:28 pm

    When the cost of energy becomes a significant factor in most people’s budgets, people will heat their homes in the cheapest possible manner. Since the price of electricity has soared, it is probably cheaper to heat with a wood stove. No doubt the government response to the resultant pollution problem will be to ban wood stoves, resulting in increased hypothermia deaths among the elderly. The mainstream media is unlikely to report this because the elderly poor they don’t have much of a political voice. Besides, the politicians and bureaucrats making the rules and regulations will never have to endure cold houses.

    • richard verney permalink
      August 22, 2017 11:23 am

      Seasoned wood is very expensive, and most people do not have the facilities (the covered space) in which to store it..

      That is why so many people use unseasoned wood which they get in drips and drabs.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 22, 2017 12:16 pm

        In Germany I believe they are suffering from illegal felling of trees by people desperate for heating after the green lunacy has forced up their electricity prices. I think electric heating is more common in Europe than here but of course our time is coming with their plan to ban domestic gas use.

  6. Pat Swords permalink
    August 21, 2017 7:57 pm

    Nothing new there, you could have read it in the recent European Environment Agency annual reports on air quality. The fact that it has got so bad results in the 2016 report having to devote a whole specific Section 3 to “Residential biomass combustion: an important source of air pollution”

    “The inventory indicates that about half of the total PM2.5 emissions in Europe is carbonaceous PM and that residential wood combustion is the largest organic PM source”.

    As Laurel said to Hardy: “That’s another fine mess……….”

    However, there is a deeper issue to this, the mess we are in is because we (i.e. they) are not following proper legal procedures with respect to environmental decision-making. There are requirements at a plan / programme level to assess these issues through a combination of Regulatory Impact Analysis and Strategic Environmental Assessment. Both of these in essence require a scientifically robust estimate of the costs and benefits and in order to estimate the impacts, one needs to know what are the external costs. These external costs are the ‘hidden costs’, which society carries through increased environmental degradation, reduced health, etc. You might be interested in reading the detailed pdf attached to the below and seeing how appalling unprofessional (and illegal) decision making by the EU has become in respect of this type of critical assessment.

    So when it all works out as a ‘fine mess’ like the above, there is really no surprise to this and it is minor compared to what is ultimately going to ‘come down the railway tracks’. As rightly or wrongly attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson: “Sooner or later we all have to sit down to a banquet of consequences”.

  7. HotScot permalink
    August 21, 2017 8:02 pm

    It beggars belief that governments and industry spent years and fortunes campaigning for, designing, and manufacturing condensing domestic heating boilers that run at 90+% efficiency, only for some sandal wearing, greasy dreadlock sporting, manky clothes wearing, green, deranged muppet to suggest burning ‘renewable wood was a good idea.

    And people take these idiots seriously because they wear effing CND badges and smoke enough weed to rot their already tiny little minds.

    Our country has for many years now swung entirely to the cause of the poor oppressed minorities and is now ruled by them. Parliament, law, healthcare, welfare and any other environment go into meltdown when someone accuses these organisations of discrimination, no matter how small, and important decisions are delayed for years because some eco moron has sprinkled some gnat eggs across an area destined for development.

    How democratic is that? And it’s no wonder there’s a housing crisis when builders are stopped from building because of these fruit cakes.

    Fwwwwwaaaaaaaa……glad I got that off my chest.

    • Athelstan permalink
      August 21, 2017 8:35 pm

      top rant sir.

      • John Palmer permalink
        August 22, 2017 6:29 am

        Coming from Athel – that’s praise indeed!

      • Athelstan permalink
        August 22, 2017 10:13 am

        Ah John! I am tickled but not pinko.


    • treghotel permalink
      August 22, 2017 12:20 pm

      I thoroughly endorse what you say.Econuts they are.
      An example of their courage – I have a water borehole on my land,purely for my own use and sometimes consumtion.I received a phone call from the “Environment Agency” informing me that I had to fit a water filter to the tank.I asked him how did he know that I did not have a filter fitted and he informed me that he had inspected the site.I blew a fuse and informed him that he would only have access to the site with my permission,being land that I have owned and cared for over 20 years.Whereupon he informed me that as a government officer he had a legal right of access at any time. I therefore informed him that he would not be allowed to do so again as I had a legally held shot gun and would use it on him if he atempted to gain access again.He asked if I was threatening him and I said no! I am warning you!Do not call again.This was over 3 years ago and I have seen nor heard from the “Environment Agency” since.As you say – a sandal wearing, greasy dreadlock sporting, manky clothes wearing, green, deranged muppet. Such courage!!

      • HotScot permalink
        August 22, 2017 1:26 pm


        Surely to God he is obliged to serve you notice of a visit to your land?

        Or perhaps because he didn’t, he knew he was in deep shit anyway so hasn’t returned.

        Arrogant, ignorant bureaucrat screws up once again.

        Just set the dogs on him if he ever returns, you can legitimately claim they were out for exercise and don’t like strangers.

  8. August 21, 2017 8:05 pm

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Nobody in power wants to face the facts and backtrack, even though the unpleasant reality is staring them in the face.

    • richard verney permalink
      August 22, 2017 11:32 am

      But it is not a question of hindsight, all of this was foreseeable when the policies were put in place.

      Perhaps the biggest scandal is that burning Biomass does not reduce CO2, but increases CO2. It is only Enron style accounting that enables them to claim that biomass is carbon neutral.

      If one is concerned about the consequences of future CO2 emissions then it matters not that you burn today wood from a tree that was planted in 1955 and sequestered CO2 in the period 1955 to 2015, or a lump of coal that sequestered CO2 millions of years ago. Either way, one is always releasing past CO2.

      Biomass will only be CO2 neutral if you plant a tree in say 2015 and cut down that tree in 2075. When the tree is burnt in 2075 that tree will be CO2 neutral and will have contributed to keeping future CO2 emissions through to 2100 down

      • adamkristensson permalink
        August 24, 2017 2:53 pm

        So true! Biomass combustion adds carbon dioxide to the Atmosphere.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 22, 2017 12:24 pm

      The trouble is that the reality isn’t actually hitting them in the face. Repeatedly. We currently have the stupidest most ignorant MPs we have ever had. They cannot be educated by words. Allied to them are the ignorant media, think tanks who are unable to actually think and academics whose heads are so far up their backsides that they can barely spend their inflated salaries from their free houses. The UK is not functioning. Sounding like Hotscot here. Is it national rant day?

  9. August 21, 2017 8:21 pm

    It’s the same with anaerobic digesters. The government subsidises the destruction of food crops by anaerobically digesting them with manures and other wastes, to produce insignificant amounts of energy, plus an evil digestate, which smells obnoxiousl, is spread on the land and is then ideal for polluting watercourses. Everything promoted by the sandal-wearing tree-huggers becomes an environmental, economic and social disaster – exactly the opposite of what is claimed to be sustainable.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      August 21, 2017 9:40 pm

      You really do wonder what makes them tick sometimes, Phillip.

      I had about 15 years on the receiving end of our local econuts, partly as a local reporter, partly on account of a “semi-official” position I held for a few of those years. I described them once as inveterate, hypocritical, conceited, self-regarding liars and was reprimanded by a colleague for missing out their bad points.

      One pair lived less than 50 yards from a local supermarket which, as far as I know, they never set foot in. Nor in the local Tesco. They took two buses to get to the nearest Waitrose! Need I say more?

      On any local proposal for development they were anti, even to the extent of contradicting themselves when proposals were amended to take account of their views. Mendacity was their preferred modus operandi, as far as we could tell. The main problem was that you didn’t dare ignore them because they were plausible and if you dropped your guard for a minute they would have the local council on their side for same crazy project. I’m convinced they were genuine experts in Jedi mind tricks!!

      They were one reason I escaped to France.

      • dennisambler permalink
        August 22, 2017 9:35 am

        Just watch “Grand Designs” for unsustainable sustainability….

  10. August 21, 2017 8:38 pm

    The combine has been going up and down the field behind the house.
    It’s important to keep the doors and windows closed cos of a;; the wheat dust

  11. Athelstan permalink
    August 21, 2017 8:40 pm

    […]Everything promoted by the sandal-wearing tree-huggers becomes an environmental, economic and social disaster – exactly the opposite of what is claimed to be sustainable.[/quote]

    I really do wonder, if, just effin up a functioning system is actually the end of the means.

    Cripes, what we had, it wasn’t perfect but it worked pretty much to our benefit – grid, power plant, based on coal and gas with nuclear thrown in. the only surprise is, that it is still limping along………………..

    • August 21, 2017 8:59 pm

      What we had before did not make enough money or green hedgefunds.

    • HotScot permalink
      August 21, 2017 9:51 pm


      I guess it’s the price we pay for a ‘connected’ world.

      Old world politics simply can’t keep up with the speed of change.

      We are using a political system designed in the 13th Century to deal with 21st Century issues.

      The commissioning of a palace then would have taken longer to build than debate in the Commons.

      Today, the debating time is the problem as the construction of something like the Shard can be accomplished in less time than it takes to debate it.

      In some ways, I almost don’t blame the minority green blob for taking advantage of an archaic political system to promote their cause. Nor can anyone discriminate or marginalise them, quite rightly, they are after all a minority group, now with a political voice.

      It therefore perturbs me why anyone and everyone is allowed to discriminate and marginalise sceptics. Are we not a minority group, that deserves the protection of the state?

      • Athelstan permalink
        August 21, 2017 10:31 pm

        Yeah, minority, ‘the truth tellers’ – we should be cherished, lauded and honoured almost as if we hailed from the subcontinent and btw it was all Britain’s fault anyway.

  12. August 21, 2017 8:57 pm

    Bottomline What counts is the particulates that enter your lungs, not those that enter the atmosphere.
    So although typical domestic stove emits 6,700 mg/h of PMs, compared to 170mg/h for the most modern diesel cars (ie 1 stove =40 cars)
    ..the actual question is :
    If your kids are playing at the back how much of the particulates they breathe in comes from the dual carriageway vs your neighbours chimney ?

    If it’s raining the particulates should be washed out the air PDQ
    Also is a short close burst of heavy pollution worse than sustain minor ?
    The mechanism is supposed to be that it causes lesions in your tubes which lets the bacteria in.
    I’m guessing Dr Fuller could answer the question.

    Tricky Jon Grigg’s famous research says that children of African mothers who cook indoors with wood show no worse health that mothers who use gas.
    But i am not sure his assumption that the children sit with their mother whilst she cooks is robust.

    • dave permalink
      August 22, 2017 7:45 am

      That is all common-sense, stewgreen. But publications like this are an example of “The Revolution eating its children” – so enjoy the schadenfreude.

      I still love the smell of my wood-fire, which uses old appletree wood and burns really hot and almost smokeless – and of my regular bonfires. But I only start a bonfire when the wind is blowing away from the neighbours. It was Burke who said that manners were more important to civil society than laws.

    • adamkristensson permalink
      August 24, 2017 3:26 pm

      My paper (Aerosol and air quality research 13, 24-35, 2013) answers exactly this question. In a community with a lot of domestic Wood combustion, this source contributes about 80 % to the lung deposited dose of particle surface and mass in average during winter in outdoor air. So, car traffic only accounts for 20% of lung deposited dose. If you only look at a single particle, there is a 22% likelihood that the surface or mass of traffic and biomass particle get deposited. Same numbers for the number of particles is 69 and 38 % respectively. Of course in the summer, the contribution also st zero for Wood combustion particles

  13. August 21, 2017 9:26 pm

    They will have to ban wood in the end – burning it I mean – ‘cos when they ban gas and the choice is between wood and an air conditioner running backwards – no-one is gonna choose the (now getting a tad pricey and unreliable) leccy option over the wood.

    Then what? Maybe it is worth getting the individuals who are brewing this stew to put on formal record that they are in agreement with it and its consequences. Unfortunately it will be impossible to hold anyone to account: when the scale of this is widely understood, they and we will be under the ground, or floating about in the air as bits of PM2.5 after having shot out of the crematorium chimney.

  14. August 21, 2017 10:41 pm

    Paul you are looking at this all wrong.

    Burning today’s trees: renewable, green, clean

    Burning *ancient* trees: dirty, polluting, immoral

  15. August 22, 2017 12:35 am

    In the 1980’s at Bonnybridge in Scotland a re-chem biomass incinerator was eventually shut down after public pressure due to Dioxin implication in birth defects in cattle and humans. The plant was eventually exonerated after a government whitewash, but never reopened see for further details

    The governments have been kicking this problem into the long grass for years, for further info google ‘bonnybridge and dioxin’


  16. Ben Vorlich permalink
    August 22, 2017 7:24 am

    This confirms what I’ve thought for quite a few years now.In rural France on still winter days most hamlets, villages and towns a haze of wood smoke hanging over them. Even in summer there can be some smoke about from traditional wood fired bakeries and the like.

    To me there are a couple of issues in comparing Lorries and domestic wood fires. First, even in the UK, there are two or three months when domestic wood fires contribute nothing whilst lorries are year round. Second, we live fairly close to a major route between Spain and Germany, with a peak of about 5-7000 lorries a day passing along it. Taking our village bypass as an example there are about 300 lorries an hour going through which equates to about 50g/h on the figures in the article. I’ve no idea how many wood fires there are in the village but considerably more than 10 for a lorry equivalent, These stoves are spread through the village whilst the lorries are restricted to one or two roads.

    From personal observation between Derby and Limoges and Poitiers; Derby has diesel buses, Limoges has electric trolley buses and Poitiers LPG buses. As a general rue sitting outside a cafe in summer in the two French cities having a coffee is a lot more pleasant than doing the same in Derby. So will making more people travel into cities on buses do anything to improve air quality?

    I don’t have any data to confirm this but I think it’s the case that wood burning is still a major method of domestic heating in Paris. Their air quality problems are much greater in winter than summer* which tends to suggest than motor vehicles might not be the sole source of the problem. * Like the rest of France Paris goes on holiday in August what effect that has I don’t know.

    • August 22, 2017 8:45 am

      Ben Vorlich writes a lot of common sense. We could do with more of that.
      The problem now is that most impending legislation relies on statistical reports which often appear somewhat dubious and often designed to frighten and close down opposition.
      For instance the statistical report which has led to the proposed ban on say diesel cars is a case in point.
      Back calculating the claim that some 29,000 deaths are caused by diesels you find that the report actually says is that the results indicate that between 1 and 22 days reduction of life expectancy is to be expected.
      Now as an 81 year old I quite frankly could not care less about that; but have no idea what the younger generations might think.
      All I can say is that presenting these figures in terms of “some 29,000 deaths” is little more than a political manipulation of the worst kind. False News does not quite describe this; as there is a concealed element of truth there; but the message is an implied lie.
      No wonder we don’t trust politicians these days.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 22, 2017 12:30 pm

        You mean reports produced by government agencies – a ruse to pretend they are not part of government – back calls for government action including taxation? Shock. Horror. Who’d have thought. Well, Eisenhower did when he warned of government funded science.

  17. keith permalink
    August 22, 2017 10:00 am

    Just another b**** up by totally incompetent Governments. Not a surprise really.

  18. tom0mason permalink
    August 22, 2017 11:05 am

    All we need now is a BMA report saying that shivering is good for you as it is an aerobic exercise that help you lose weight and conditions the teeth.

  19. Pat permalink
    August 22, 2017 11:48 am

    I wonder how many of those installing woodburners, or indeed just reactivating old fireplaces, are doing so in order to ensure heating is available in the event of a power cut?
    The cut becoming ever more likely because of the government’s apology for an energy policy.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 22, 2017 12:32 pm

      Me!!!! Was a godsend last December when the gas main flooded and there was no gas for nearly a week. It is used a secondary heat source at the moment but when I get a stove fitted I expect to use it more and will be considering adding a wood gasification boiler. Must go now as have got wood to chop.

      • Athelstan permalink
        August 22, 2017 1:43 pm

        axeman spare that tree!


      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 23, 2017 11:31 am

        No problem there, Athelstan, I am using a chainsaw!

  20. Greg Holmes permalink
    August 24, 2017 8:21 am

    If I was one of the so called elite, and I was watching the use of fossil fuel and I had a plan for my family for the next 100 years or so, I would like to have access to a power supply that I knew worked consistently. Therefore I would have to restrict the use of that tried and tested power by the masses who I intend to subjugate.
    Also I would wish that the masses pay for that changeover, easy peasy, CAGW, then AGW, then Global warming, then Climate change. No co incidence here, planned I reckon. Hence green taxes and restrictions, ho ho ho.

  21. August 25, 2017 8:02 am

    According to Wiki full biomass firing at Drax needs 4,600 sq mile of forest to supply it, over 3x the area of East Yorkshire.

    Completely crazy!

  22. kaykiser permalink
    August 27, 2017 8:28 pm

    Reblogged this on Science is distorted by progressive philosophy.

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