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08 June 2010

Europe's Green Energy Portfolio Up in Smoke?

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Europe seems hell-bent on burning the world's forests for bioenergy, even as it offers billions of euros to save them, critics say.

The dirty secret of Europe's vaunted green energy revolution is the fact that 68.5 percent of its renewable energy portfolio comes from biofuels and burning wood for energy, according to a report released in Brussels last week. Modern technologies like wind and solar get all the press, but burning wood is well, prehistoric.

"We estimate at least 27 million tonnes of wood biomass will be needed annually to supply planned power stations in the UK (United Kingdom) alone," said Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch, a British NGO focused on bioenergy issues.

In a story broken by IPS last fall, at least one million hectares of forest annually will be needed to feed the dozens of planned wood-fired power plants in Britain alone. The Netherlands is already burning one million tonnes of wood. Germany is up 23 million cubic meters (16.5 million tonnes) - mostly imported - and plans to double this figure by 2020, said the report, "Wood Based Bioenergy: The Green Lie".

"It's getting pretty scary," Ernsting, a report co-author, told IPS.

There is already a huge problem of deforestation without bioenergy, said Anne Petermann, executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project, an international environmental NGO based in the U.S.

Deforestation has long been a dangerously intractable problem, eating up 13 to 16 million hectares every year and responsible for 20 percent of the global warming emissions that are destabilising the climate.

"Current deforestation is having serious impacts on forests and forest peoples around the world," Petermann said in a phone interview.

The centrepiece of Europe's climate-change reduction strategy is the production of 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. That objective has become a classic "good idea gone wrong", said Petermann. She was in Brussels to tell members of the European Parliament their policies are killing forests and hurting indigenous and local forest peoples.

(IPS News)

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