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Ministers need to avoid handing out generous new subsidies for biomass

Seventeen times a day, deliveries of wood pellets arrive at a UK power plant to be burnt for electricity, following a lengthy journey across the Atlantic in enormous diesel ships.

Yet more fossil fuels are burned as the waste wood is harvested from the forest, and then turned into pellets, releasing further emissions into the atmosphere.

We label woody biomass ‘clean energy’, but its supply chain alone has a substantial impact on the climate.

CO2 bellows out of biomass power stations in the UK, supposedly made up for by forest growth elsewhere. But trees take decades to grow back to their former size, so this process can take years. It is a pollute now, clean up later approach that our planet cannot afford.

UK bill payers cannot afford it either. Biomass relies heavily on subsidies, receiving over £13 billion already, and the industry is asking for over £30 billion more to capture and store their emissions.

That is the equivalent of asking every person in the UK to pay £500.

It is time for a rethink. Switching from coal to biomass has helped us stop burning some fossil fuels for electricity. But despite all the subsidies, biomass is not as cheap or secure as new wind or solar projects, which have fallen to record-low prices.

We need to find ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere, offsetting emissions from flying and farming which cannot yet eliminate their emissions entirely.

But rather than subsidising biomass with carbon capture, which may not reverse climate change as the industry promises, taxpayers' money would be better spent on nature-based solutions to climate change, like salt marshes, seagrass meadows, and woodland to lock up carbon permanently.

Ministers need to avoid handing out generous new subsidies for biomass. Instead, the government should back energy sources like wind, solar and nuclear that can create many more jobs, keep bills low and tackle climate change.

First published by Daily Express. Sally-Ann Hart MP (Hastings and Rye) is a member of the Conservative Environment Network.


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