A new report by Spain-based Carbon Trade Watch critiques plans by the United Kingdom government and European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) to ramp up industrial-scale biomass energy production under the guise of “carbon neutrality,” despite its massive greenhouse gas emissions and threats to public health and global biodiversity. An estimated 80 to 300 million tons of wood would be required to fuel the planned expansion of bioenergy incineration in the UK, much of which would be sourced outside the country, including from the United States and the global South.


Instead of moving the UK towards community-scale clean energy, Nothing Neutral Here: Large-scale biomass subsidies in the UK and the role of the EU ETS argues that the “expansion of biomass-fueled power plants will maintain existing high-carbon infrastructure and the dominance of large multinational energy corporations.” The report characterizes the EU’s perpetuation of biomass industry “carbon neutral” claims as a “dramatic failure to generate truly sustainable climate and energy policies.” This form of “deceptive accounting” ignores the vast carbon dioxide emissions from biomass incineration that come from logging forests, degrading soils, shipping, and combustion, says the report. 

“The British government seems determined to lock the country into a dirty energy pathway that fuels climate chaos, arguably the greatest modern day threat to human survival,” said report author, Joseph Zacune. “Why should we continue to subsidize polluters in favor of appropriate energy solutions like wind, solar and tidal energy?” 

The report also covers concerns with wood imports from the Global South, where the conversion of natural forests to monocrop tree plantations “frequently dispossess[es] local communities of their lands.” Companies, such as Arbor Gen, are already cultivating genetically engineered trees (GE) for potential use as biofuels, including cold-hardy Eucalyptus in the southeastern US. The UK’s 750 megawatt Tilbury biomass incinerator intends to source 30-40 per cent of its wood from the RWE pellet facility in Waycross, Georgia.

“To continue the same over-production and over-consumption of energy is a dead-end,” said Tamra Gilbertson, co-director of Carbon Trade Watch, “but governments continue to ensure that profit-seeking corporations control the energy systems and pollute our skies.”

The report cites a European Commission finding that predicts “energy demand for biomass would exceed available material demand within Europe between 2015 and 2020.” Currently, 82.5 per cent of UK’s “renewable” energy consists of bioenergy.