biomass 'needs to be part of our low-carbon future'

Protecting people and the environment must be at the forefront of all energy policy decisions; but unfortunately there's no single ‘silver bullet' technology to the key challenges of cost-effectiveness, emissions reductions, energy security and economic growth. However,while the world is still dependent on fossil fuels, we have a responsibility to seriously consider affordable low carbon options that are deliverable today to lower emissions.

A recent EU study found biomass provides more jobs than any other renewable industry. As a mature, proven technology, the capital and operating costs are very competitive relative to high risk ‘first of a kind' technologies. It's also capable of producing a 35-90 per cent reduction in emissions compared to fossil fuels. This has led numerous experts and analysts including AEA Technology, the International Panel on Climate Change, Imperial College's UK Energy Research Council and the Forestry Commission's Biomass Energy Centre, to rank biomass as among the most cost-effective ways to deliver carbon savings, especially when heat and power are generated together.

Despite such authoritative support, biomass is victim to some common myths and misunderstandings (rarely backed up by evidence), typified by a recent article by Biofuelswatch in the Ecologist. The Back Biomass campaign is grateful for the opportunity to set the story straight.

As fossil fuels supplies dwindle, it's clear prices are only going one way. Not so with biomass, where the long term prospects of the industry depend on actively encouraging continual feedstock renewal - there is no ‘peak biomass'. It's also wrong to suggest that solid biomass is limited to wood. A diverse range of sources exist, including: recovered waste wood, energy crops grown on marginal land or alongside food crops; and agricultural by-products from food production.

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