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Hundreds of Scientists Write To Biden To Stop Dirty Biomass Industry

February 11, 2021

By Paul Homewood

h/t Robin Guenier



I have been covering the scandal of burning forests for power, only made possible by obscene subsidies and EU rules that class it as “zero carbon”.

I am pleased to see that several hundred scientists have now written to Biden von der Leyen and others, objecting to the practice on scientific rather than environmental grounds:




PLUS 27 PAGES OF OTHER SIGNATORIES.,%20von%20der%20Leyen,%20Michel,%20Suga%20&%20Moon%20%20Re.%20Forest%20Biomass%20(February%2011,%202021).pdf?dl=0


Their basic argument is that the new biomass industry is not sustained by offcuttings, as claimed, but by wholly new harvesting. As I have been arguing, it could take decades for the carbon dioxide released from burning to be offset by regrowth. And that assumes that these forests will be replaced, an unlikely scenario.

In the meantime of course, more trees will be chopped down for burning, leaving a permanent “carbon debt”. As they point out, burning wood for power is far more carbon intensive than coal or gas, as it has a lower energy content.

Worse still, more than half of the wood is lost in harvesting and processing, long before it reaches the power station, adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere without even replacing fossil fuels. (They might also have mentioned the emissions resulting from processing and shipping).

And if that’s not bad enough, there are concerns that palm oil will be used in biomass plants. As we know, carbon dense tropical forests have been cleared already for palm oil plantations. Demand for more palm oil will be a catastrophic consequence of biomass policy.


Unfortunately biomass is now big business, not only in Europe but also in the US and Japan. Companies like Drax will fight tooth and nail to protect their generous subsidies.

Meanwhile governments will continue to turn a blind eye to this dirty industry, as without it they would find it impossible to achieve their climate targets.

  1. Phillip Bratby permalink
    February 11, 2021 7:37 pm

    Nuclear is the only answer, but good luck getting the greenblob to admit that. They love their dirty biomass, solar and wind.

    • Michael Rennoldson permalink
      February 11, 2021 8:12 pm

      I totally agree, but the problem with nuclear is that we are 50 years too late!

    • Stonyground permalink
      February 11, 2021 8:59 pm

      Why does it require scientists to point out that burning biomass is a terrible idea. Anyone who isn’t an idiot could have pointed it out.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      February 12, 2021 9:31 am

      The problem with Greens is that they hate stuff. They hate nuclear, hate free markets, hate people doing what they think they shouldn’t, hate the fact others get on, hate the fact the plebs can go on holiday. They only want a cleaner world if it involves getting rid of all those things. And they are quite happy to get rid if all those things without getting a cleaner world.

  2. February 11, 2021 7:52 pm

    I think things are changing, Michael Moore, Shellenberger and Zion lights of XR have all retracted their former renewables position to tell us that Nuclear is the only power source that will keep the lights on (so will fossil fuels obviously, but they will never admit to that)

  3. Is it just me? permalink
    February 11, 2021 7:54 pm

    I’m pleased this is coming up the agenda now. In one of Stockholm’s suburbs, is a huge biomass installation. The air quality in the vicinity has nose-dived since it’s opening, and also it is (as the scientists rightly call) a fool’s ‘solution’.

  4. Michael Rennoldson permalink
    February 11, 2021 8:15 pm

    Nuclear is the only answer…
    I totally agree, except that we are 50 years too late!

  5. It doesn't add up... permalink
    February 11, 2021 8:16 pm

    Expect a fight back from the CCC. Remember Drax has a key representative on the Committee

    Dr Rebecca Heaton FICFor

    Rebecca Heaton is responsible for Drax Group’s efforts to mitigate climate change, ensuring that sound science underpins climate change polices and business strategy. She is also responsible for developing sustainability and climate change research programmes.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      February 12, 2021 9:36 am

      It’s extraordinary that a person charged with ensuring a neutral approachfor the country – the “science” – has a total conflict of interest, both professionally and commercially.

      People don’t get the point that scientists are just as ego-driven as anybody else, and will fiercely resist any challenge to their authority or their work, particularly if their academic career has been entirely built on that.

      • dave permalink
        February 12, 2021 9:57 am

        “…just as ego-driven as anybody else…”

        Let us add the descriptions ‘zealots’ and ‘keepers of the faith.’

    • Robert Jones permalink
      February 12, 2021 9:53 am

      The CCC has yet to make its mark as an authoritative and plausible body to take the UK forward along a sensible path to the future. The CCC needs to be overhauled to give more representation to pragmatic and sensible people to bypass the ‘sky’s falling in!’ nonsense currently being promoted. Lord Ridley should become the CCC’s Chairman as a vital first step.

  6. GeoffB permalink
    February 11, 2021 8:22 pm

    Removing the subsidy is a good way to stop this Chris Huhne inspired tragedy.

  7. Nigel Hill permalink
    February 11, 2021 8:39 pm

    I agree that burning trees Is not sensible unless there is nothing else.

    The least that can be said is that it keeps the Drax twins going. I like Drax partly because I designed a lot of bolted column splices for it.

    My youngest daughter works for the CCC and recently went to a promotion interview. I suggested that as a Mission Statement she would say that she wanted to preserve Drax for the Nation. Funny but not usable.

    To curry favour I then complimented he and her chums for conserving coal stocks for future generations. No luck there either.

    With Drax safe I turned my attention to the two other rare survivors, West Burton and Ratcliffe. How can we help them if they are not into wood burning. How to stop them being demolished soon? Answer:- Grade I Listed Buildings.

  8. Robin Guenier permalink
    February 11, 2021 9:07 pm

    Our PM is not an addressee of this letter. I’ll ask my MP to forward it to him.

    • February 11, 2021 9:43 pm

      Too late, Robin!

      The subsidy contracts for Drax and co are watertight – they cannot be undone.

      We have the idiot Ed Davey to thank for that, supported by Call Me Dave.

      I think even DECC recognized that biomass was not a proper way forward even then

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        February 11, 2021 9:55 pm

        Well I’ve emailed my MP anyway. Anyway, if the contracts for Drax are watertight, why would they – as you put it – ‘fight tooth and nail to protect their generous subsidies‘?

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        February 11, 2021 10:02 pm

        In any case, it can do no harm to communicate the problem. Make people think – and hopefully jeopardise any current or future biomass proposals.

        PS: sorry about the two ‘anyways’ in my reply to you. Pity there’s no ‘edit’ option.

      • February 12, 2021 8:54 am

        Hello Pau,

        I read an article recently (I forget where) that Drax is byuing or has bought out a Canadian Biomass manufacturer to cuit Drax’s costs and it mentioned the subsidies end in 2027 for biomass.
        Better late than never.

    • Robin Guenier permalink
      February 17, 2021 12:55 pm

      I’ve received a reply from my MP to my request that the letter be forwarded to the PM. He makes some interesting points. Here are five:

      1. He says that ‘ low carbon bioenergy has helped the UK move to a low-carbon energy mix’. But is there such a thing as ‘low carbon bioenergy’?

      2. He claims that ‘generating stations utilising biomass only receive subsidies in respect of compliant biomass’, but goes on to say that one requirement for compliance is ‘that biomass fuels are derived from forest waste wood and residues’. But does Drax for example never use wood from felled timber?

      3. Another requirement he specifies is ‘ a minimum 60 per cent lifecycle greenhouse gas saving’. What might that mean?

      4. He claims that the criteria applicable in the UK ‘ are amongst the toughest in the world and any generators that do not comply lose this financial support’. Has that ever happened?

      5. He assures me that my ‘concerns’ will be passed to his ‘ministerial colleagues’.

      I intend to reply and would be grateful for any comments, advice or suggestions.

  9. Mack permalink
    February 11, 2021 9:23 pm

    I think these ‘scientists’ might be on to something. But, taking things a step further, rather than chopping live trees down and burning them, let’s let them all fall down naturally and, a few million years later, recover the fossilised remnants and then burn them. The co2 footprint of the residue is much smaller than the live wood equivalent and has a much higher energy density. I think it’s called ‘coal’.

    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      February 12, 2021 4:11 am

      I’m not going to look this up, but you can.
      The remnants, meaning coal, will not now happen with forests. Fungi (or the right enzymes) did not exist that could effectively digest the “wood”, thus allowing an accumulation of material that was buried and compressed.
      Now most trees and related material is decomposed.

      • Mack permalink
        February 12, 2021 9:50 am

        I think I should have extracted my tongue, firmly embedded in my cheek, before posting John! Merely alluding to the insanity of inefficiently burning ’emission rich’ recently felled wood when there is a much more environmentally friendly alternative beneath our feet.

  10. Paul H permalink
    February 11, 2021 10:32 pm

    …and you think Biden will read this let alone understand it?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      February 12, 2021 4:10 pm

      Dementia Joe will have forgotten what the first page said before he gets halfway down page 2.

  11. February 11, 2021 11:10 pm

    I imagine that each politician has a Big Green hedgefund staffer sitting in the corner of their office and they just pass green questions onto them
    who in return funds their election expenses.

  12. JohnP permalink
    February 12, 2021 10:54 am

    Until recently I would have supported the criticisms of biomass burning wholeheartedly however, I have just finished Patrick Moore’s new book (Fake Invisible Catastrophes And Threats Of Doom). In it he argues in favour of burning wood as a fuel, though he believes that wood should come from properly managed forest cultivation. As an example he cites woodland on a 50year rotation plan when only 1/50th is harvested each year as. Perhaps it is not as black and white as I previously thought – I’d hate becoming a groupthinker.

    Nevertheless I do not believe that the monster that is Drax is run on such principles and Dr Moore does not consider the transport and other CO2 costs of that or similar schemes. Overall I remain anti biomass burning.

    Interesting that the concerned authors of the letter fail to offer an alternative source of energy though judging by the tone of the letter I would expect their preference would be for wind and solar rather than nuclear. Dr Moore, on the other hand, is strongly pro-nuclear and argues against ‘the demonization of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide’.

    • February 12, 2021 11:30 am

      John, I am a big fan of Dr Moore. That does not mean everything he thinks or says is 100% perfect or correct. He is a fallible human being, like all other human beings. In general his science is sound. However where it all falls down is that if only the hysteria surrounding coal could be put aside it would be seen that IF the problem really is CO2 ( it most definitely is not) then burning wood per calorie of heat obtained produces far more CO2 than burning coal. It is an energy density issue. Coal after all is just highly compressed and metamorphosed plant material. We have very efficient clean burn technologies for coal. The Drax situation is an obscenity.

  13. Dave Gardner permalink
    February 12, 2021 10:55 am

    The idea of burning wood is ingrained in the ‘culture’ of environmentalists. Back in the 1970s it was put forward as the prescribed hippy alternative to nuclear power in some well-forested countries like the USA. There was even a slogan to encapsulate the idea: “Split Wood Not Atoms”.

    I suspect environmentalists will always want to keep burning wood even though it is clearly insane from the point of view of keeping CO2 emissions down. It is just part of what they do.

    For people not familiar with “Split Wood Not Atoms”, this page of Google search engine images may be useful:

    The hippy folk singer Donovan (whose heyday was in the late 1960s) released a track called “Split Wood Not Atoms” back in that era.

  14. February 12, 2021 11:23 am

    It is interesting to see that the BBC report low temperatures (weather) completely factually
    (as it should be).

    No speculation or platforms offered to dubiously qualified sages to spout not science but opinion.

    Strange how it all changes when temperature (also weather) goes up.

  15. February 12, 2021 12:17 pm

    If Biden closes the door on US exports of so-called biomass, how long until Drax turns to decimating Britain’s forests and woodlands?!

  16. Jackington permalink
    February 12, 2021 12:34 pm

    D. Teleg Business reports Drax is paying £226m to acquire Pinnacle Renewable Energy; a Canadian producer of wood pellets with 9 plants in British Columbia and Alberta and another two under construction.
    In March the company will turn off its two remaining coal generating units , having converted four coal fired plants already. This switch is costing UK tax payers hundreds of millions of pounds of subsidies every year.
    Clearly an energy policy gone mad.

  17. David permalink
    February 12, 2021 2:52 pm

    Surely nuclear fission power stations will be very expensive to build and totally in the future as they seem to take about thirty years to build and finally will not be able to take over when the wind drops because they cannot be switched on and off quickly. Nuclear fusion might be different but when? The only answer is CCGT for at least another thirty years.

  18. Dave Andrews permalink
    February 12, 2021 5:37 pm

    I’ve seen estimates that around 14million trees in Scotland have been felled to make way for multiple wind farms. Does anyone know what happened to those trees? Were they convertedinto pellets for burning at Drax or similar plants?

  19. February 13, 2021 7:40 am

    I am appalled that it hasn’t been mentioned that the basis for this letter has not been picked up or questioned:

    “The undersigned scientists and economists commend each of you for the ambitious goals you have announced for the United States, the European Union, Japan and South Korea to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.”

    Presumably all the 27 extra pages of signatories (possibly renowned names in their fields) are signed up to the death-wish of the World’s leading economies.

    What an enormous hurdle we face if we are to prevail against the totally false claim of CO2 being the cause of their threat to life on our beautiful planet.

  20. Dan permalink
    February 14, 2021 12:01 am

    UK rules

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