Climate Change

Inaccurate carbon accounting

The Drax Group claims its huge power station in northern England is “enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future.”  That plant has been converted to burn wood pellets instead of coal.

According to the New Yorker:

In essence, Drax is a gigantic woodstove. In 2019, Drax emitted more than fifteen million tons of CO2, which is roughly equivalent to the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by three million typical passenger vehicles in one year… 

The result was what many scientists call the “carbon accounting loophole.” By international agreement, if a nation or industry burns megatons of wood, thereby emitting megatons of carbon, it can be defined as a largely carbon-neutral event. “The wood biomass energy claims of carbon neutrality are incorrect and misleading,” Beverly Law, a professor of global climate-change biology at Oregon State, told me. “It can worsen climate change even if wood displaces coal.”

The Narwhal provided a direct connection between Drax and British Columbia:

In March, Drax bought Pinnacle Renewable Energy in Prince George, the second largest wood-pellet manufacturer in the world — and it wants to keep expanding its operations…

Environmentalists and foresters in British Columbia worry that the industry is becoming so large so quickly that there’s only one place left for pellet companies to go to meet rising demand: into B.C.’s already over-logged forests.

Last year, 16.6 per cent of Drax’s biomass was sourced from Canada, much of which originated in British Columbia’s forests. With Pinnacle under its belt, that figure is set to increase immensely. The deal will more than double the plant’s biomass production capacity to nearly five million tonnes...

Calling bioenergy “carbon-neutral” suggests that emissions are instantaneously offset, when in reality it can take trees decades to absorb all the carbon emitted by burning wood, say critics.

“It will take a century for trees to grow up and for the CO2 to be taken up by the trees. We don’t have that time if we want to fulfill Paris agreement goals,” said Christina Moberg, emeritus professor and president of the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council.

2 replies »

  1. Burning wood is the environmental equivalent of cheque kiting.

    Seems to me that this planet would be in much better shape in the future if humanity pursued nuclear power. Not from sources that some are promoting, where very dangerous waste is created with no known way of eliminating it, and the monumental problem is left for our descendants to deal with. But from a nuclear reactor 93 million miles away, guaranteed to continually produce more waste-free energy than we could ever use for the next 5 billion years.

    It is there for the taking. Surely we can and should develop and continually improve technology to effectively harness it. It would have already been accomplished if royalty rights to the Sun were corporately owned.


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