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Invitation to the Biomess Awards 2014. Image by BioFuelWatch.
Invitation to the Biomess Awards 2014. Image by BioFuelWatch.
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    Invitation to the Biomess Awards 2014. Image by BioFuelWatch.

Fighting the Big Biomass Baddies

Sophie Bastable

7th April 2014

It's your chance to choose who's the worst of the six Big Biomass Baddies - the companies making a killing from burning forests in power stations. And please join us at the 'Biomess' Awards ceremony on Weds 9th April in London.

Drax: Just because we're going with biomass doesn't mean we don't like coal!

This April, Biofuelwatch are hosting the Biomess Awards Ceremony, an event which recognises the biggest contributors to environmental destruction and social injustice in the biomass industry.

The event will coincide with a conference taking place in London on the 9th of April, which will see the biggest corporate names in big biomass gathered to hold their own ceremony to celebrate 'outstanding contributions' to the industry.

Members of the public are invited to vote online from six of the Biggest Biomass Baddies who will be attending, to choose the winner of our alternative award.

The spotlight will be kept trained on the worst environmental offenders when, on 23rd April, we make our presence felt at the Drax AGM. At this we will be calling for an end to the subsidies that allow operators like Drax to make vast profits at the expense of many.

Why is Big Biomass Bad?

Due to the sheer scale of the demand - 42 new biomass power stations are currently proposed across the UK. If all of these are realised, we will need up to 68.9 million tonnes of wood per year and we currently produce less than 10 million tonnes of wood per year in the UK.

This means that we will have to import at least 80% of the biomass we want to burn by 2020.

This is threatening forests world-wide, for it is already encouraging an increase in logging and the planting of monoculture tree plantations in the place of wildlife-rich forests around the world.

Then, when the biomass is burnt it harms peoples' health. Biomass power stations emit harmful pollutants into the atmosphere which impact negatively on the health of people living near to them.

Abroad, the biomass industry is undermining people's ability to depend on healthy forests ecosystems for survival.

Add to this the fact that biomass contains carbon, so when it is burned it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Even if a tree is grown to replace what was destroyed, we cannot afford even a short-term rise in emissions at a time when the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere must be stabilised and reduced immediately.

Who are the Big Biomass Baddies?

There are many who seek to profit from a burgeoning biomass industry. Biofuelwatch have created a short-list of the worst offenders, which the public is invited to vote from in order to help determine the winner of the Biomess Award.

1. Drax Plc

This company is responsible for burning more wood than any other company in the UK. So far they have converted one of their six power station units to biomass and they want to convert two more.

This would allow them to burn pellets made from almost 16 million tonnes of wood every year - 1.6 times the UK's entire annual wood production.

As their Chair pointed out during their 2013 AGM, this conversion is not an effort to reduce environmental impact: "Just because we're going with biomass doesn't mean we don't like coal!"

Indeed not - without partly converting to biomass, Drax would have to close down because they cannot meet new EU rules on sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions.

2. The Department for Energy and Climate Change

Next on the list is DECC, who are responsible for drawing up and implementing the rules for renewable energy subsidies. These have been increasingly skewed in favour of big biomass, while support for wind and solar energy is being cut.

Thanks to DECC, companies like Drax can look forward to raking in around £694 million of subsidies every year - guaranteeing them great profits.

3. Green Investment Bank

The Green Investment Bank features of course, thanks to their decision to award their first ever large loan to Drax, a £100 million to be precise, to help them partially convert from coal to biomass.

According to Secretary of State Vince Cable, without this GIB loan Drax "would have closed down because it has to meet European rules on coal use and it wouldn't have been able to survive."

4. Renewable Energy Association

Then there is the REA. Instead of campaigning for genuine renewable energy, they have been busy helping some of the Big Six energy companies, including Drax and Eggborough, to lock us into decades of more of inefficient and polluting power stations.

They've also found time to lobby for more biofuels to be burnt in cars - undermining any attempts to limit the amount of palm oil, soya and other crops turned into fuel.

But they have not seemingly had time to comment on why the government is cutting back on support for wind and solar.

5. ENVIVA

Further from home we have ENVIVA, North America's largest pellet producer and a key supplier to Drax. They have four large wood pellet mills in operation and another one under construction.

One of these mills, Ahoskie in North Carolina, has been found to use at least 80% native hardwood trees sourced from the clear-cutting of rare wetland forests.

6. Wood Pellet Association of Canada

The last baddie on the list is the Wood Pellet Association of Canada, who work closely with coal power station operators across Europe, who also happen to be their key customers.

They claim that pellets made from old growth forests are sustainable and are working on opening up markets in the Boreal forest.

 


 

Sophie Bastable is an energy campaigner with Biofuelwatch, living in Edinburgh, as well as ecologist, activist and gardener.

 


Participate in the Biomess Alternative Awards Ceremony - 9th April, London

If you think one of these six offenders deserves to be awarded the title of Biggest Biomass Baddie, vote for them here.

Then, join us in showing contempt for the celebration of the profits of a few at the expense of many, by coming along to the Alternative Awards Ceremony.

It's at 7pm on Wednesday 9th April, outside the Gibson Hall, 13 Bishopsgate, London, EC2N 3BA (near Bank, Monument and Liverpool tube stations).


Join in the Drax AGM protest - 23rd April, London

Join us outside the Drax AGM at 12 noon to call for an end to big biomass and coal, an end to subsidies that allow operators like Drax to keep profiting from destruction, and for genuinely just and sustainable energy alternatives.

We will be gathered outside the Grocers' Hall, Princes Street, London EC2R 8AD.

The Alternative Awards Ceremony and Drax AGM Protest are part of a month of events which put the spotlight on the destructive biomass industry.


Visit our website: www.biofuelwatch.org.uk for more information or call 07751 109 523.

Find out more about why biomass is bad.

 

 

 

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