Biomass fuels include wood, energy crops such as oilseed rape or miscanthus (‘elephant grass’), animal wastes and other agricultural by-products such as straw and grain husks. Different fuels can be used in different scales.
When burned, these fuels release carbon dioxide (CO2) that they absorbed whilst growing - unlike the carbon in coal, oil and gas, which was absorbed over millions of years but is being released in the space of a few decades. The energy used to harvest, process and transport the fuel does need to be factored in as well. When used locally it is a very low-carbon option.
Planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide may provide temporary mitigation from climate change but it takes many years for replanted trees to re-absorb this, and it doesn’t address the fundamental problem. To meet our energy needs in a zero-carbon future we must make sustainable use of trees as fuel, and replant them as we harvest them – creating a continuous carbon cycle. Growing our own fuel also creates jobs and is ideal for strong, local economies.