The biofuel power station will burn around 24,000 tonnes of vegetable oil and, possibly, tallow a year. EcoPellets speaks about burning tallow and used cooking sourced locally, yet in the planning documents they state that they intend to buy biofuels including “rape seed oil and other natural oils” available from Halifax and Merseyside”. This wording would allow them to burn any type of vegetable oil, even palm oil, with the UK’s first palm oil refinery as well as one of the main ports for palm oil imports being in Merseyside. In Italy and Germany, large numbers of biofuel power stations and CHP plants are in operation and virtually all of them are run on palm oil since this is the cheapest vegetable oil. It is thus very doubtful whether running a power station of the size proposed by EcoPellets without palm oil would be economically viable, even with subsidies.
Biofuels from rapeseed oil have been shown to result in higher overall greenhouse gases than burning an equivalent amount of mineral oil, due to emissions linked to nitrogen fertiliser use. Furthermore, as more and more rapeseed oil is burned for fuel, food and cosmetics companies are importing ever more palm oil, thus leading to more destruction of rainforests and peatlands and more communities in countries such as Indonesia or Cameroon being displaced and losing their livelihoods. The company has admitted that, if the biofuel power station was to be run 100% on rapeseed oil, it would use up 8% of the UK’s entire rapeseed oil. This would require around 32,000 hectares of land that could otherwise be used to grow food. Burning tallow for biofuels has the same effect on oil palm expansion sine it is otherwise used for soap and cosmetics, according to a report commissioned by the UK Government and the Renewable Fuels Agency. Used cooking oil is in short supply and large quantities are being imported for biofuels from other European countries which themselves burn palm and soya biofuels.
Biofuelwatch also has serious concerns about EcoPellets’ proposal for a biomass power station and pellet factory. Altogether, EcoPellets will require 400,000 tonnes of wood a year, 180,000 of which will be burnt at the site. Although the application speaks about sourcing `local wood’, it is very doubtful that this would be possible in view of the fast growing competitive demand bioenergy. All UK power station plans published by companies so far will require over 55 million tonnes of biomass, mainly wood a year yet total UK wood production is less than 9 million tonnes annually. In Anglesey, a decision on an application for a 300 million tonne biomass power station (Anglesey Aluminium, Holyhead) is currently pending. Across Wales, plans for biomass power stations which will, altogether, burn over 6.5 million tonnes of wood are pending or have been approved. There is thus a high chance that wood will be imported and the Planning Department have indeed been informed of plans to import some of it from Nova Scotia. Over 50 organisations in Nova Scotia have recently expressed their concerns that the states’ domestic plans for bioenergy will lead to a dramatic increase in clearcutting of boreal forests. Industrial wood burning, especially of trees cut down for this purpose, has been shown to result in a carbon debt of decades or centuries, worsening climate change at a time when emissions must be drastically reduced.
Locally, EcoPellets’ plans will mean more air pollution, threatening the health of people working and living nearby and significantly more traffic (with all deliveries to be made by road).
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