Confidence in biofuel and wood combustion misplaced

12 January 2015

Tuesday 13 January 2015, the Dutch House of Representatives will be discussing the Energy Agreement. The agreement is based on principles that would seem to be scientifically untenable. That is the conclusion of the position paper Biofuel and Wood as Energy Sources [Biobrandstof en hout als energiebronnen], as published by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

The document summarises the views of leading, independent experts, both Dutch and foreign. It takes a close look at a number of debatable assumptions underlying the policies of both the Dutch government and the European Commission. It is doubtful, for example, whether the climate in fact benefits from the use of biofuel or from wood being co-fired with coal at power stations. This throws a different light on the provision of subsidies for these supposed alternatives to the use of fossil fuels. The Academy concludes that biomass – which includes used cooking oil and agricultural waste – should not be seen as fuel but as raw material.

Conclusion

The conclusion of the document is that burning wood in power stations and fuelling cars with bio‑ethanol and bio‑diesel would seem to make virtually no contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. These technologies are therefore unsuitable for making the transition to sustainable energy generation.