Is biomass really dirtier than coal? – Response from the Initiat

I thought I would post Andrew Llanwarne’s letter in response to iCARBS press release against the FoE, Greenpeace and RSPB report on Biomass: Dirtier than Coal? Any form of incineration produces CO, CO2, NOx and particulates, and is an old technology.  But the UK Government keeps trying to push incineration, biomass and waste, as the answer to our energy problems.  It also does not have the strict regulations, standards and enforcement that the rest of the EU has.  It is time the UK Government rethinks it’s strategy towards renewable energy and adopts a strategy fit for the 21st Century and not it’s 19th Century one.

Thu Nov 29, 2012 3:17 am (PST) . Posted by:

“Andrew Llanwarne” andrew.llanwarne

The Biomass Energy Centre report referred to below challenges the findings in the Dirtier than Coal report, based largely on the practices and pricing structure in the UK timber market, with only a passing reference to overseas markets which would be the primary sources of timber for major UK biomass power stations. There is reference at the end to the “extensive work” of the British Govt with industry and NGOs in ensuring overseas supplies will be sustainable, but there is plenty of evidence elsewhere to show that these standards are not assured by assessors paid by the developers. These sources do not seem to take into account the very poor efficiency standards which push up emissions relative to output when timber is used for electricity generation. Locally based CHP or heat-only is the best way to use biomass for energy, where it can make use of locally-sourced waste materials and surplus timber. This is the Scottish Government’s stated policy, but its proposals for future allocation of ROCs are directly contrary to the policy. Although Scottish Government proposes to limit subsidies for electricity-

only plants to 10MW, there is a loophole for biomass power stations of any capacity with a token heat production such as those proposed by Forth Energy (SSE and Forth Ports joint venture). These Scottish plants will only have to meet the DECC “good quality” efficiency standard of 35%, which is only half the 70% efficiency requirement from the EU for CHP production. A second loophole has been left for converting coal-fired power stations to biomass, in the belief that this will result in reduced emissions. The RSPB report undermines that belief.
The overall plea from ICARB is for more careful analysis and peer review, which is a reasonable request, but decisions are being made now on large-scale biomass for electricity developments across the UK, Europe and elsewhere. These will tie us in to reliance on a massive scale of overseas timber production for at least the next 25 years, dramatically increase demand on world markets and ensure that, even if some companies manage to secure relatively “sustainable” supplies, others will have few scruples over social and environmental standards if their investments are at risk. The EU Biofuels Directive has demonstrated what happens to communities and ecosystems when there is a sudden increase in demand for different commercial crops. Any assessment really has to look at the systemic consequences of UK policies on a global scale. The findings would be unlikely to support the large-scale use of imported biomass to generate electricity. Andrew Andrew Llanwarne
8 Glasclune Way
Broughty Ferry
Dundee DD5 3TJ
Tel: 01382 732457
Mob: 0791 294 5325
Sustainable Solutions….Working with Knowledge….Exploring the FutureTo:
Date: Wed, 28 Nov 2012 17:56:29 +0000
Subject: [localsustuk] Is biomass really dirtier than coal? – Response from the Initiative for Carbon (ICARB)Hi all,

Please see the press release below and please forward to others.

For those of you who don’t know about us I should stress that it’s highly unusual for us to decide to go to the press.

Cheers and thanks,



Is biomass really dirtier than coal?

Contact Prof Susan Roaf / Dr Keith Baker 0788 412 5540 /

Is biomass really dirtier than coal? This is what is being claimed in a new report by RSPB, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth [1].

However the report, called ‘Dirtier Than Coal’, is based largely on a new paper by Tim Searchinger of Princeton University [2] that has yet to be peer-reviewed.

ICARB [3] questions why the authors of the ‘Dirtier Than Coal’ do not appear to have consulted the UK-based experts whose peer-reviewed work is referenced by Searchinger.

The Biomass Energy Centre has issued a critical response to the report [4] and ICARB welcomes further submissions from those named in the reports.

We have previously raised concerns over carbon accounting-based claims for biomass because of a lack of transparency and peer-review. In this case ICARB wants to raise that Searchinger’s understanding of practices specific to the UK has been questioned by at least one of the

authoritative sources he references.

ICARB is not commenting on specific aspects of these reports but we do call for a more balanced coverage of the work.

[1] The report, published by RSPB, Greenpeace (UK), and Friends of the Earth (England, Wales

and Northern Ireland), is available at:

[3] The Initiative for Carbon Accounting (ICARB) exists to advance the field of carbon accounting to facilitate the reductions in carbon emissions necessary for a sustainable society. We are an independent expert group supported by Heriot-Watt University, Glasgow Caledonian University, the Crichton Carbon Centre, and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, and funded by the Scottish Government. Website:

An army of benefit scroungers? The evidence just doesn’t stack up | Matt Barnes | Comment is free |

The working-class, not the scroungers, the media and politicians try and portray them as.  These people have been failed by successive Governments, Labour and Conservatives who have pushed a broken economic model, based on ‘growth at any cost’.  They have allowed multi-nationals to strip this country of almost everything, whilst lining their enormous pockets.  In the meantime, the ordinary people have suffered along with the environment.

An army of benefit scroungers? The evidence just doesn’t stack up | Matt Barnes | Comment is free |

Government bullish over Energy Bill despite faltering renewables investment – 29 Nov 2012 – News from BusinessGreen

Because of the Governments ineptitude, companies have decided to not invest in this country or like PV Solar, a maker of silicon for Solar PV, possibly close down their manufacturing business.  The UK has consistently missed the boat, when it came to supporting renewables, instead investing in heavily in Nuclear and fossil fuels.  Will the UK, ever rid itself of the title, ‘The Dirty Man of Europe’?

Government bullish over Energy Bill despite faltering renewables investment – 29 Nov 2012 – News from BusinessGreen.

The situation is not helped when we have a very biased media, which appears determined to destroy the logical and sensible move to renewables, by giving it as much bad and incorrect press as possible:

Exclusive study confirms true scale of renewable bad press

This video sums up the UK Government’s attitude:

The History of Climate Change Negotiations in 83 seconds   

This article describes the subsidies the fossil-fuel industry has received and still receiving.  Also the different approaches taken by Germany and Denmark:

Israel’s Gaza Rampage: It’s Not Just War » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

An interview with John Pilger, in CounterPunch, about the conflict in Palestine.  How it is an American/Israeli attempt to exterminate the Palestinians.

Israel’s Gaza Rampage: It’s Not Just War » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

Mad Cycle Lanes of Manchester: Love Cycling Go Dutch – Manchester

This is a nice blog about a workshop on cycling, promoted by the Dutch that took place in Manchester.  The writer is optimistic that something positive may come from this.  Unfortunately, I believe the writer is naive and does not understand Manchester City Council and especially the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM).  The TfGM only employs motorists, so does not understand the needs of Public Transport users or cycles, their real priority is the motorist, like themselves.

Mad Cycle Lanes of Manchester: Love Cycling Go Dutch – Manchester.

Revealed: the coal industry’s plan to devastate the climate | Greenpeace International

Despite continuing warnings that we are getting close to a 2 degree global temperature rise, big business is still pushing the construction of old, dirty technology.  In the UK the Government is still pushing through waste and biomass incinerator plants which are also major contributors to CO2 rises.  But, Government and Big Business claim they are carbon neutral, which of course they are not.  There are better technologies to deal with waste and biomass which do not produce large amounts of CO2.  Such as AD biogesters, which have been for years in Europe and South America.
Also, energy efficiency is a subject talk about but little is actively being done about it.  Just wander around a large town or city to see how much energy is needlessly being wasted, mostly on advertisements.

Revealed: the coal industry’s plan to devastate the climate | Greenpeace International.

It is not just the Conservatives who want to dismantle the NHS but Labour as well.


I’ve been mocked by a Blairite ex-Dept of Health policy advisor for my recent post on Kettering General Hospital and the lies Tory health minister Daniel Poulter told to one of his own MPs about plans to downgrade the hospital.

Joseph Farrington-Douglas, who used to be Chief Health Advisor to John Healey (when he was Labour Minister for the NHS)  tweeted this message to his followers on Monday:


Here’s his comment in plain text, in case you have any problems with the image:

Silly HIMBYist Save Our Hospital shenanigans. An MRSA on all their houses.

An MRSA is Mr F-D’s attempt at a humorous variation on ‘a plague’. It stands for ‘multiply resistant staphylococcus aureus’ – the drug-resistant ‘superbug’ that regularly kills people in hospitals – especially if the private cleaning contractors cut back cleaning to enhance profits. So it’s nice of him to wish it on people who are…

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Latest Gaza Catastrophe
The media double standards in the West on the new and tragic Israeli escalation of violence directed at Gaza were epitomised by an absurdly partisan New York Times front page headline: “Rockets Target Jerusalem; Israel girds for Gaza Invasion” (NYT, Nov 16, 2012). Decoded somewhat, the message is this: Hamas is the aggressor, and Israel when and if it launches a ground attack on Gaza must expect itself to be further attacked by rockets. This is a stunningly Orwellian re-phrasing of reality.

The true situation is, of course, quite the opposite: Namely, that the defenseless population of Gaza can be assumed now to be acutely fearful of an all out imminent Israeli assault, while it is also true, without minimising the reality of a threat, that some rockets fired from Gaza fell harmlessly (although with admittedly menacing implications) on the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv…

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