Use Wood, Don't Burn It
We've had an interesting email from the Make Wood Work campaign.
In essence, the UK Government's Renewables Obligation (RO) policy encourages the use of bio-mass burners for electricity generation with financial subsidies. Whilst, from an environmentally-friendly point of view, biomass burning creates energy from waste materials, the forest products industry is concerned that using wood for bio-mass burners will damage their industry.
They have a good point. If the waste material from the wood industry is used for biomass burning then it is being diverted away from the recycled wood industry where collected waste wood is used to created further products. If biomass burning is encouraged then the wood will be burnt and the capacity for the energy industry to a) be heavily subsidised and b) burn vast amounts of timber is not only a worry for the forest products and wood panel industries, but also for the environment, for local economies and for the greater social good too.
By using wood and waste wood in products, there is greater environmental good with the carbon being "locked up" in the products and reused and recycled, stimulating initiatives to find further ways to innovatively use waste wood. The biomass energy industry would simply burn the timber and produce greater carbon emissions than the waste wood recycling and reprocessing industries.
Basically, the government's well-intended renewables obligation policy is distorting an "already fragile wood supply and demand balance in the UK". You only have to look at Channel 4 News' report Timber prices up as power plants boost biomass use to see what the subsidised energy industry is having knock-on effects elsewhere by voraciously burning timber.
So, quite simply put:
RO means wood and waste wood go stright to burners to generate "renewable" energy. Wood, that takes 30/40 years to grow, is burnt. Waste wood is burnt. Wood and waste wood are simply destroyed.
A rethink of RO means wood goes to the wood products industry and actually makes useful products. More people are gainfully employed in business and industry and there is innovation in creating from wood and waste wood.
We're not against biomass energy as it does have the potential for energy production from sources that would not otherwise be of any use, but to use wood and waste wood is a short-sighted and destructive path.