The Use of Biomass Likely Increases Carbon Pollution – Chatham House

Image Source: Savannah River Site, CC BY 2.0

The UK-based think tank, Chatham House, has recently released a report stating that biomass is likely increasing carbon pollution, instead of reducing it.

Titled “Woody Biomass for Power and Heat: Impacts on the Global Climate”, the report challenges a fundamental assumption in Europe’s renewable energy policy. That is—burning such a fuel source to generate electricity is “carbon neutral”. Now, it is calling for restrictions on current government incentives for the industry in the European Union (EU).

Energy producers are cutting forests to produce wood pellets for export to Europe, claiming that energy from plant material is renewable and clean. Now, the report questions the action of EU regulators to treat the discharge from biomass plants’ smokestacks as “zero carbon”, though the combustion releases carbon dioxide into the air. It even underscores that, in many cases, these emissions will stay in the atmosphere for many years.

One of the report’s conclusions states that biomass plants cause pollution at levels comparable to fossil fuels. An excerpt of the report states:

“… in most circumstances, comparing technologies of similar ages, the use of woody biomass for energy will release higher levels of emissions than coal and considerably higher levels than gas.”

The findings were also corroborated by an established institution in the UK with a history of rigorous, independent research. This means that using biomass should now be considered carefully by policymakers throughout Europe when creating policies to reduce carbon emissions.