Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Small success for Stop Burning Our Trees campaign against power station subsid


Small success for Stop Burning Our Trees campaign against power station subsidy

A month long campaign Stop Burning Our Trees has had a small success in attempting to make the UK Government change its policy of subsidising the burning of Britain's home grown trees in large scale power stations. The group believe such an action puts in jeopardy domestic wood processing, will drive up carbon emissions, and push up the cost of everyday wood-based products.

Stop Burning Our Wood CampaignThe Stop Burning Our Trees campaign has welcomed the Committee on Climate Change's key recommendation this month that "the use of woody biomass in construction (rather than energy use) should be given a high priority". The report also recommends subsidies should be removed from new large scale wood fired electricity plants.

The Stop Buring Our Wood campaign is also pleased that an MP has ignited the debate on subsidies for burning trees by calling on the government to protect jobs and the environment by reassessing the role of wood in the UK's energy plans.

The Rt Hon Anne McGuire MP, the Member of Parliament for Stirling in Scotland, spoke out on the level of subsidies available to energy companies for burning wood in biomass power stations recently at Westminster, and asked Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change Charles Hendry to take on board the plight of industries affected by the issue.

The wood panel industry provides vital employment in rural communities and is the biggest recycler of wood in the country. The Norbord plant in Anne's Stirling constituency alone provides 250 jobs, without considering those employed at other points along the supply chain.

Anne McGuire said: "Incentivising biomass energy generation is already having serious ramifications on our forest industries. Through the Renewables Obligation, the Government continues to offer substantial subsidies as part of a scheme which is distorting the UK wood market. As a result, the valuable forest industries are being irreparably damaged as they are priced out of the wood market.

"Using wood to generate electricity is a very inefficient use of a valuable resource. It damages the environment, it is one of the least efficient electricity generation processes, it increases carbon emissions, and it obliterates the productive UK industries that use and recycle wood thereby locking carbon into construction and furniture products. All the while this is going to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds.

Norbord visit by Anne McGuire MP"It is regrettable that the Minister has not yet had time to meet with those industries that are being so negatively affected by this policy, and I hope he will agree to meet them in the near future."

The Stop Burning Our Trees campaign has been brought together companies small and large affected by the issue to try and persuade the government there is a need to adjust the subsidies now before the economic and environmental impact is too great.

The SBOT campaign aims to collect 100,000 signatures to enable a debate to be raised in the House of Commons about the problems caused by the subsidy for burning UK tress in biomass power stations, and has been asking members of the public to sign the petition online at www.stopburningourtrees.org.

SBOT say this burning of trees in power stations releases all their stored carbon in one go and prevents them being made into useful things like tables, wardrobes, kitchens and flooring. Wood products like these `lock-in' carbon, often for decades.

Although the campign group agree that burning wood is greener than burning coal in the long term, they think that power stations should only burn wood that has no other use and would otherwise go to landfill, rather than trees straight from Britain's forests.

They point out that right now UK householders are paying for this subsidy via their electricity bills.

Stop Burning Our Wood CampaignThe SBOT campaign is pushing for the introduction of measures that recognise the limited nature and competing interests for the domestic wood resource, and to get across to Government that, for energy use, the sustainable option for this resource is to encourage small scale heat or efficient heat and power plant. The campaigners believe the carbon storage potential of wood and wood-based products isn't being sufficiently recognised within Government policy, and want to draw attention to the emission abatement potential that would be accrued if the wood resource was increased.

With utility bills continuing to soar at the same rate as energy companies profits, and wood prices having been driven up by 55.1% over the past the past five years, many believe that, at current levels, subsidies to large scale electricity generators will distort the market so much that wood processing businesses are in serious danger of being put out of business, threatening thousands of jobs.

The Wood Panel Industries Federation, which represents chipboard, MDF and OSB producers, is backing the Stop Burning Our Trees campaign.

Stop Burning Our Wood CampaignAlastair Kerr of the Wood Panel Industries Federation said: "In addition to the economic arguments, we have also calculated that CO2 emissions could actually increase by six million tonnes each year if the government continues to put resources into biomass power stations to the point where our industry is displaced, effectively cancelling out any environmental benefits into the bargain. The domestic wood resource is of insufficient size to cope with the demands of large scale electricity, but unless Government amends its policy, these energy generators will destabilise the domestic wood market and threaten any significant new investment into wood processing in the UK."

Kerr added, "The time for effective action is running out, so we are appealing to a wider audience and we are asking the general public to question whether it's better in the first instance to burn wood inefficiently and lose all the benefits in an instant or to make something from it and, in doing so, maximise the economic and carbon benefits of this unique resource."

The UK Government is currently consulting on the Renewables Obligation Banding Review until 12th January 2012.

Stop Burning our Trees www.stopburningourtrees.org
Committee on Climate Change - Bioenergy Review www.theccc.org.uk/reports/bioenergy-review
Department of Energy and Climate Change - consulting on the Renewables Obligation Banding Review www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations
Wood Panel Industries Federation www.wpif.org.uk
Rt Hon Anne McGuire MP, Member of Parliament for Stirling www.annemcguiremp.org.uk

Posted on Environment Times Online on 15th December 2011.


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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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