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Home » European Union (EU), Feedstocks, Forestry/Wood, Health Concerns/Benefits, Opinions, Policy, Sustainability

Biomass Industry Responds to ‘Morbid Mathematics’ of FERN Study

Submitted by on January 22, 2018 – 7:32 pmNo Comment

by Daryl Worthington(Bioenergy Insight)  Two major associations for the biomass industry have responded to a study claiming the burning of biomass prematurely kills tens of thousands of people each year.

The study was commissioned by FERN, an NGO created in 1995 “to keep track of the European Union’s involvement in forests and coordinate NGO activities at the European level”. The research itself was carried out by Dr. Mike Holland, an independent expert with more than twenty years’ experience of quantifying the impacts of air pollution, according to FERN.

Dr. Holland’s results suggest tens of thousands of EU citizens could be dying prematurely every year as a result of exposure to air pollution from burning solid biomass. The study also points to other health impacts, including cancers, cardiac and respiratory complaints, asthma attacks and working days lost to ill health.

“We will need time to analyse the whole study and especially the numerous assumptions taken by Dr. Holland which according to our understanding haven’t been peer reviewed (so far),” said Jean-Marc Jossart, secretary of general of AEBIOM, the European Biomass Association.

The US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) meanwhile, defended the credentials of biomass energy. “Sustainably-sourced woody biomass has been proven time and time again to be a low-carbon replacement for coal and fossil fuels that is both good for the environment and beneficial for forest health,” USPIA executive director Seth Ginther told Bioenergy Insight.

“This type of fear-mongering from FERN and other extreme activist groups does not move us any closer towards decarbonising European energy systems, but instead these campaigns waste time and money while offering no real solutions to climate change.  The biomass industry on the other hand has for the last decade been providing a renewable substitute for coal-fired power that balances the grid and keeps the lights on, while also reducing carbon emissions across Europe and supporting sustainable forestry and small landowners.” READ MORE

AEBIOM: ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ in REDII biomass debate? (Bioenergy Insight)

Biomass industry defends position as renewable fuel ahead of RED II (updated) (Bioenergy Insight)


Excerpts from Bioenergy Insight: Pointing to statistics from the European Commission, Jossart reinforces claims that wood supplied for fuel does not make up a significant portion of trees felled when compared to other industries like timber. This, despite biomass becoming more popular for energy production. He also emphasises wood as part of a carbon cycle: absorbing carbon as the tree grows, releasing is when burnt and storing again as another tree grows in its place. Jossart presentes cultivating wood for burning and for carbon sequestration as tandem objectives.

With the viability of wood as a sustainable fuel depending on the ability to manage forests effectively, AEBIOM acknoledges that malpractice has to be addressed in the industry, reiterating a call for EU sustainability criteria for all bioenergy. READ MORE


Excerpt from updated Bioenergy Insight:  A new study from MIT adds to growing criticism of biomass ahead of RED II decision. The European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) and the US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) have both taken out editorial space to make their case for biomass before the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) is finalised.

In a new study slated to be published in Environmental Research Letters 19 January, researchers from the MIT Sloan School of Management, University of Massachusetts Lowell and Climate Interactive, researchers have found that burning biomass emits more CO2 per kilowatt hour than coal. The researchers say these increased emissions stem from wood’s less efficient combustion and that the supply chain and processing for biomass are more demanding than those of coal.  To pay off this ‘carbon debt’ through the absorption of CO2 by respiring trees, the researchers estimated that it would take 44 to 104 years of forest growth, depending on the type of tree.  READ MORE

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