When the EU embarked upon its energy transition odyssey, regulators deemed the burning of biomass as climate neutral—which when done on a relatively small-scale and under controlled conditions, it can be. But taking advantage of the EU’s biomass baked-in carbon loophole, power generators soon began converting older, coal-fired plants to burning it instead. There’s only one catch: the climate science doesn’t add up. Biomass’ special carbon accounting loophole is creating a superficial impression of climate progress as forests disappear and emissions rise. Despite sunk capital and billions in government subsidies, the EU has vowed reform, but will regulators really change course? L. Michael Buchsbaum has the details.
Lauded internationally for reducing its coal dependency and cleaning up its economy, the United Kingdom’s energy transition has a dirty little secret: biomass. Misclassified as renewable and carbon free, tallying the biodiversity and environmental impacts of burning biomass depends on nuance: how tight the regulations are, how fast a forest can grow back, and how well you can tweak your numbers. Now the world leader in burning trees to make electricity, scientific evidence is piling up questioning biomass’ claims to climate neutrality. A new study by energy thinktank Ember, The Burning Question, alongside other ongoing citizen climate campaigns, demands London curtails future subsidies while tightening biomass’ dubious carbon loophole. L. Michael Buchsbaum reports.