Louise Vet and Martijn Katan, Trouw (Dutch newspaper), October 9 (online), October 10 (print)

Wood as a source of energy is harmful to the climate, 35 scientists argue.

Burning wood for energy? Completely wrong. But the Lower House is still struggling with decision-making on this matter. With the excuse that there is no scientific consensus. We, 35 scientists, know better. This is not about opinions but about facts. We give ten of them here.

1.     There is already too much CO2 in the atmosphere! If we want to meet the climate targets for 2030 and 2050, we must reduce it within the next 10 years, not increase it. The best way to do this is to allow trees to grow because trees are good at CO2 storage.

2.     Combustion of biomass produces 16% more CO2 per unit of energy than coal and 94% more than gas emissions. 1] Over a period of decades this CO2 could be absorbed by trees again, but then it will be too late.

3.     Wood as a source of energy requires immense amounts of land because plants only capture a few percent of solar energy. Biomass provides fifty to one hundred times less energy per square meter than solar panels. 2]

4.     The motivation for burning wood for energy is that a new tree can be planted for every tree felled. It would therefore be CO2-free energy, because this new planting removes the CO2 released from the air. But this ignores the delay involved: it takes decades before the newly planted tree has absorbed the CO2 emitted when the cut tree was burned, and even longer before the extra CO2 that an uncut tree would have absorbed has been compensated for as well. The short carbon cycle is therefore an illusion. It has been scientifically established that the use of woody biomass instead of fossil fuel for energy increases CO2 in the atmosphere for thirty to more than a hundred years. [3]

5.     Within the EU, the CO2 emitted during the burning of imported biomass – which constitutes the majority - does not need to be counted. This causes a completely wrong picture (publications PBL and EU). [4]

6.     An argument frequently cited by the pro-biomass lobby: 'If you don't burn pruning waste, it rots and the CO2 is still released'. This ignores the time factor. Combustion emits all CO2 at once, wood that decays only emits a quarter to a third of its CO2 in the first ten years. 5] Moreover, a large part of the CO2 is never emitted but captured in the soil. Such 'waste' is an important source of nutrients and therefore indispensable for the growth of the forest and the sequestration of CO2. Forests do not produce waste: dead biomass is converted and reused. Forests are a textbook example of a circular economy.

7.     The claim that woody biomass consists of residues and waste is incorrect. Only 12% of the wood for imported wood pellets is residual waste from the forest. 6] Documentaries from the Netherlands, the US, Denmark and Estonia show how whole trees are harvested and processed uprooted and processed [7] Why on the one hand recycle newspapers and on the other hand shred and burn massive amounts of the trees used to make newspapers?

8.     Huge subsidies now encourage the use of biomass for a low-grade purpose such as energy when it should be used for high-grade products.

9.     Sawdust and other residual waste produced by the wood industry is almost all utilized already, for example for chipboard and linoleum. Subsidies for energy purposes distort this market and lead to more logging.

10.  The global large-scale demand for biomass has major negative consequences for land use and biodiversity. A varied forest is multifunctional – it promotes air, soil and water quality, maximum carbon storage and biodiversity. Converting existing multifunctional forests into energy crops or into monocultures of fast-growing wood is a form of land use with many negative environmental and biodiversity effects.

Also on behalf of:
Bert Brunekreef, Em. Prof. Environmental Epidemiology, Univ. Utrecht
Hans de Kroon, Prof. of Plant Ecology, Radboud Univ. Nijmegen
Geert de Snoo, Prof. Conservation Biology, Univ. Leiden and NIOO-KNAW
Jan den Ouden, University lecturer in Forest Ecology and Forest Management Wageningen Univ.
Marcel Dicke, Prof. of Entomology, Wageningen Univ.
Ben Feringa, Jacobus van 't Hoff Distinguished Prof. of Molecular Sciences, Univ. of Groningen
Daan Frenkel, Em. Prof. of Chemistry, Cambridge Univ.
Kees Hummelen, Em. Prof. of Chemistry of (bio)organic materials, Univ. Groningen
Patrick Jansen, UHD Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Wageningen Univ.
Tjeerd Jongsma, Director Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT)
Frits Mohren, Prof. of Forest Ecology and Forest Management, Wageningen Univ.
Han Ollf, Prof. of Community and Conservation Ecology, Univ. Groningen
Jos Raaijmakers, Prof. of Microbial interactions, Univ. Leiden and NIOO-KNAW
Rudy Rabbinge, Em. Prof. Theoretical Production Ecology, Wageningen Univ.
Joost Reek, Prof. Supramolecular Catalysis, University of Amsterdam
Huub Rijnaarts, Prof. Environmental Technology, Wageningen Univ.
Daan Schram, Em. Prof. Technical Physics, Techn. Univ. Eindhoven
David Smeulders, Prof. Energy Technology, Techn. Univ. Eindhoven
Richard van de Sanden, Prof. Plasma Physics and Chemistry, Techn. Univ. Eindhoven
Jos van der Meer, Em. Prof. General Internal Medicine, Radboud Univ. Nijmegen
Klaas van Egmond, em. Prof. Environmental Sciences and Sustainability, Univ. Utrecht.
Rienk van Grondelle, Em. Prof. Biophysics Vrije Univ. Amsterdam
Joop van Lenteren, Em. Prof. entomology, Wageningen Univ.
Wim van Saarloos, Prof. of Theoretical physics, Leiden University,
Wim van der Putten. Prof. Functional Biodiversity, Wageningen Univ. and NIOO-KNAW
Pier Vellinga, em. Prof. Climate Change, Vrije Univ. Amsterdam
Marcel Visser, Prof. of Ecological Genetics, Wageningen Univ. RUG, and NIOO-KNAW
Rene Wijffels, Prof. in Bioprocess Engineering, Wageningen Univ.
Mary Booth Ph.D., Director, Partnership for Policy Integrity
Bill Moomaw, Co-director Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts Univ. Boston
Mike Norton, Prof. Tokyo Institute of Technology, Shinshu Univ. and EASAC Environment Programme Director
Tim Searchinger, Research Scholar, Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment, Princeton Univ.
Tarmo Soomere, President, Estonian Academy of Sciences,Tallinn, Estonia.

1] Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland RVO, and Zijlema, P.J. (2017). Dutch list of energy carriers and standard CO2 emission factors.

[2]van Zalk, J., and Behrens, P. (2018). The spatial extent of renewable and non-renewable power generation: A review and meta-analysis of power densities and their application in the U.S. Energy Policy 123, 83-91.

[3]Bentsen, N.S. (2017). Carbon debt and payback time - Lost in the forest? Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 73, 1211-1217.
Sterman, J.D., Siegel, L., and Rooney-Varga, J.N. (2018). Does replacing coal with wood lower CO2 emissions? Dynamic lifecycle analysis of wood bioenergy. Environ. Res. Lett. 13, 015007.
Alessandro Agostini, Jacopo Giuntoli, and Aikaterini Boulamanti (2014). Carbon accounting of forest bioenergy : Conclusions and recommendations from a critical literature review (European Commission Joint Research Centre).

[4]Ros, J.P., Minnen, J.G., Arets, E.J.M.M., 2013. Climate effects of wood used for bioenergy. PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. www.pbl.nl/publicaties/klimaateffecten-door-gebruik-van-hout-voor-bio-energie Pagina 21

Searchinger, T.D. 2009. Fixing a Critical Climate Accounting Error. Science 326, 527-528. doi:10.1126/science.1178797

Strange Olesen, A., Bager, S.L., Kittler, B., Price, W., Aguilar, F., European Commission, Directorate-General for the Environment, COWI, and Pinchot Institute for Conservation (2016). Environmental implications of increased reliance of the EU on biomass from the South East US: final report. (Luxembourg: Publications Office). P 185: 'Emissions from biomass combustion are counted as zero in the energy sector. This, however, assumes that the sourcing and use of the biomass does not lead to Greenhouse Gas emissions, or that any such emissions are properly accounted elsewhere, such as in the LULUCF sector of the country where the biomass originates from.'

De Europese Commissie erkent dit en wil dit afschaffen: 'Emissions of biomass used in energy will be recorded and accounted towards each Member State's 2030 climate commitments'. European Commission (2016). Land use and forestry regulation for 2021-2030.

[5]Booth, M.S. (2018). Not carbon neutral: Assessing the net emissions impact of residues burned for bioenergy. Environmental Research Letters 13, 035001.

(RISI) Walker, S., Lyddan, C., Perritt, W. & Pilla, L. An Analysis of UK Biomass Power Policy, US South Pellet Production and Impacts on Wood Fiber Markets (RISI, 2015). https://docplayer.net/25281897-An-analysis-of-uk-biomass-power-policy-us-south-pellet- production-and-impacts-on-wood-fiber-markets-prepared-for-the-american-forest-paper.html

Oswalt, S.N., Smith, W.B., Miles, P.D., and Pugh, S.A. (2014). Forest Resources of the United States, 2012: a technical document supporting the Forest Service 2010 update of the RPA Assessment (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service). P. 21: 'During 2011, timber-processing facilities in the United States produced nearly 59.3 million dry tons of wood residues, with just 492,000 tons (less than 1 percent) of that residue not used for a product'.

Erik Berg, Todd Morgan, Eric Simmons (2016). Timber Products Output (TPO) - Forest Inventory, Timber Harvest, Mill and Logging Residue - Essential Feedstock Information Needed to Characterize the NARA Supply Chain (Univ. of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research). P. 9: 'the vast majority of mill residue <99.8%> is currently utilized....Nearly 80 percent .. is currently used for pulp <d.w.z. papier en karton> and composite panels <spaanplaat>'.

Videos showing how whole trees are harvested for wood pellets:

6 sept 2020: ARD 1. Europamagazin ∙ Das Erste. Estland: Waldrodungen für die Pelletindustrie. Harvesting forests for wood pellets in Estland.   www.ardmediathek.de/daserste/video/europamagazin/estland-waldrodungen-fuer-die-pelletindustrie/das-erste/Y3JpZDovL2Rhc2Vyc3RlLmRlL2V1cm9wYW1hZ2F6aW4vNzQzN2ZmODktMjdjOS00OWU1LTk2MGEtZGRhZDA4ZTMzMWQ4/?fbclid=IwAR0rm79g0v-CDhrxDu4B7n8wu8jP3cccVJEle69SztjPapKs09VI7wPs1AE
30 augustus 2020 Mongabay. Pellet production in the USA
19 juli 2020. French pellet factory Biosylva shows how they convert large trees into wood pellets https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PA77mKuc8gc&feature=youtu.be  
4 juni 2020. Fragile Forests – Estonia 2020. Cutting forests in Estonia. Select in Youtube > settings > English subtitles www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=lzUcHXTC6vo&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=PriiduSaartLaten
22 febr 2020. EenVandaag.TV, Netherlands. How Enviva in US converts forests to pellets. https://eenvandaag.avrotros.nl/embed/524402/
March 2019. Belgium: Ecopower CVBA in Ham demonstrates how they make pellets from tree trunks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fet2zceG9VI&feature=youtu.be of https://youtu.be/Fet2zceG9VI
2019. Denmark TV2, cutting trees in Estonia for biomass woodpellets. https://nyheder.tv2.dk/samfund/2019-09-09-tv-2-afsloerer-fejl-i-klimakontrol-helt-sort-siger-ekspert 
2019. Dogwood/NRDC document: Global Markets for Biomass Energy are Devastating U.S. Forests https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Biomass-Investigation-Booklet-2019.pdf
Jan 18, 2018. Platform Wald-Klima.de. The Calculation Error – or: Why Burning Wood is not Carbon Neutral. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YC4tqu8-oSo
22 mei 2017 Zembla TV, Netherlands: Forests as fuel www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LHGbiyvZto
2017. Link TV. Burned: are trees the new coal? https://burnedthemovie.com/ https://vimeo.com/286550378  www.linktv.org/shows/burned-are-trees-the-new-coal/episodes/burned-are-trees-the-new-coal
2015. Climate Central.  Enviva employees show where wood pellets come from http://ccentralassets.s3.amazonaws.com/specialreports/pulp-fiction/videos/packages/making-of-a-pellet-720p.mp4
18 dec 2015 Bio-energie plant Cuijk, Netherlands showing tree trunks www.youtube.com/watch?v=38nw09mDyss&feature=youtu.be&t=53