Robin Trow believes I am missing the point regarding emissions from biomass. He contends that, in spite of biomass producing significantly more CO2 per unit of electricity when burned in power stations, this is unimportant as the vegetation planted to replace that used to produce the biomass will absorb the CO2 so generated. He gives no timescale for this regeneration. This self-sufficiency may become partially true over what would appear to be a relatively long but presently un-quantified cycle, but what happens to the increase in CO2 discharged in the atmosphere in the meantime? After all, biomass produces 50% more CO2 than coal for the same output.
Further, it has been clearly established (and is common sense) that mature plants and trees absorb considerably more CO2 than can be achieved with replacement planting. Hence the system is not as evidently self-sufficient as it may seem, and certainly not for some considerable time, as the effectiveness of replacement crops will be significantly reduced unless the quantity of new planting is on a massive scale. Like for like will clearly be inadequate.
I have no argument with the burning of biomass as a means of usefully and economically disposing of waste material that would otherwise find its way into landfill, but to grow as fuel a material that produces significantly more CO2 than fossil fuel would appear to be a waste of valuable agricultural resources. We are frequently told that we face food shortages in the years to come and have already seen the effect on grain prices of energy substitution. Cutting down mature trees that will take tens of years to replicate strikes me as being somewhat unwise, given that we are told that in the same timescale an even more dangerous concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will already have occurred.
Carbon Capture may eventually become a useful tool with which to reduce the amount of CO2 exhausted into the atmosphere, but it will take many years, and many millions of pounds of development and construction before it becomes viable, if at all, and of itself will require a considerable consumption of energy.
No climate scientist has yet satisfactorily explained why the global ambient temperature has effectively stabilised over the past 15 years whilst the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere has continued to increase apace. Until they can, we should be very wary of burdening our industry and our families with very significant costs that may well prove to be nugatory. Further, when viewed against the very small human contribution UK makes towards the global generation of CO2 (at the very most 2%), is it really worth the investment and subsidies involved in trying to reduce our emissions at the expense of money that could be spent more productively in our economy? It is a noble act to make a sacrifice in order to set a good example, and is justified if one can assume that others will follow one’s lead, otherwise it becomes martyrdom. All the indications are that for the foreseeable future the principal countries emitting significant quantities CO2 are not prepared to do so.
Geoffrey H L Glover, Ferndown, Dorset