Posts Tagged ‘carbon emissions’

End rewarding Drax for pollution

Friday, August 9th, 2019

I’ve never felt bad about having a bonfire in the garden. We generate a lot of small branches from various shrubs and trees that have to be regularly cut back, and it’s material that mostly won’t compost. And although we have several large compost bins, we’ve found from experience that they don’t get hot enough to destroy a few really tough and troublesome weeds, So these often get put on the bonfire too, though we could pay for the council to collect them as garden waste.

All this carbon release is of short-term carbon, mostly this year’s carbon, and there is no net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by our gardening.

And of course the bonfire produces carbon dioxide, but firstly it is only a fraction of the carbon dioxide which has been turned into wood and leaf in our garden, with the rest remaining locked in as our bushes and trees grow bushier and taller, or being eaten (and thus released) as fruit and vegetables. More too gets back in to the atmosphere from the green waste that does go into our compost bins.

Of course there are other pollutants from our very occasional garden bonfires, including particulates and doubtless toxic chemicals. But I am fairly sure that the amounts of these are relatively small and will add little to those already in our air here from the nearby roads, motorways and Heathrow.

But burning wood to produce electricity at Drax is a quite different matter. One obvious difference is that of scale: Last year Drax burnt 7.2 million tonnes of wood pellets, equivalent to at least twice that amount of green wood, and more than the UK’s total annual wood production, and released 13.02 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere (in addition to another  4.36 million tonnes from coal and other fossil fuels.)

The wood burnt at Drax is ‘old’, having grown over many years, and even with the most sustainable forest planting to replace it will take more than 50 years. The majority of it comes as pellets from the USA, mostly produced from hardwood from the clear-cutting of biodiverse forest ecosystems, and the major producer, Enviva has been subject to heavy criticism both for its destruction of these swamp and wetland forests, and for locating its highly polluting pellet plants in areas of social deprivation already exposed to high levels of industrial pollution.

Drax’s carbon-producing wood burning is only financially viable because it gets huge subsidies. In 2018 these amounted to £789.2 million, This money comes from our energy bills which carry a surcharge, intended for promoting renewable electricity. It should not be used to promote highly polluting and essentially non-renewable wood burning. The subsidies are greater than the company’s annual profits and without them wood-burning would not be viable.

Drax also gets subsidies from the government for burning coal, though on a rather smaller scale, but also impossible to justify. For 2019/20 this is  £22 million, and similar subsidies are expected until 2025. It is also expected to be subsidised for burning gas, and wants to greatly expand its generation from gas.

These huge subsidies to Drax for its contribution to global warming come at at time when our government has slashed subsidies for truly renewable energy production from onshore wind and solar power as well as those for energy efficiency and conservation.

More about the protest outside Drax’s AGM in the City of London, and later outside the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) demanding an end to environmental subsidies for massive pollution in two posts on My London Diary:
Drax wood burning must end
Drax Protest at BEIS


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