back to article Minister: Waste wood is 'huge potential resource'

UK Minister for Climate Change and Waste Joan Ruddock reckons that the government has cracked - or anyway, largely cracked - the tricky problems of keeping the lights on, saving carbon emissions and minimising landfill. The answer is to burn wood - specifically waste wood which is normally thrown away. "It has been estimated …


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  1. Steve Woods

    Another huge wasted resource...

    ... is the amount of hot air generated by useless ministers making vacuous statements.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >wood in landfill eventually rots away and gives up carbon to the atmosphere

    ..and also that otherwise the electricity would be generated by coal or gas which would vent more CO2, and other stuff.

  3. Andrew Torrance
    Thumb Down

    Yeah Right

    I live down wind of Port Talbot where one of these word burners on steroids is being plaved. Waste wood ? B@ll@x all the local forestry is crammed full of recently felled trees all sitting there for when the power station needs them . They are basically chooping down the forestry to feed it and they have not even started yet

  4. Sordid Details
    Thumb Up

    The wheel comes full circle?

    So we've all been going wrong by filling in those fireplaces and installing central heating? Bring back the steam trains I say! And Jenny Agutter.

  5. Tom Silver badge

    I hope not!

    I heat my house from waste wood form skips and local builders so I want it!

    Also the report is in PDF so you probably have to kill trees to read it comfortably!

    C'est La Vie!

  6. Richard

    I'm just waiting for the advertising campaign...

    Got Wood?

  7. Fred


    burn coal or wood... whats the difference? both produce CO2... am i missing something?

  8. David

    What a waste of apples!

    'Turning the 4.4 million apples thrown away daily into ethanol biofuel'

    What a waste, what's wrong with turning all those lovely apples into Cider through the miracle of fermentation??

  9. malcolmus_rex

    @ Fred

    Fred - you are missing something....

    The CO2 released from burning wood was absorbed from the atmosphere at some point in the last 10-100 years. That means that burning wood isn't going to have an impact on the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere as it's just releasing CO2 that has only recently been absorbed (in geologic time anyway). That's what is usually meant by a carbon neutral fuel source.

    The CO2 released from burning coal (and all fossil fuels) was absorbed from the atmosphere hundreds of millions of years ago. The atmosphere and climate has long since readjusted to not having that carbon around, so by burning coal you increase the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    yes you are missing something.

    The idea is you cut down tree, burn wood, produce Co2, plant tree to replace cut down tree, uses Co2.

    It's called the carbon cycle.


    Burn fossil fuel, release co2, then what? The carbon has come from miles under ground, so unless you can place it back underground, you end up with extra i the air.

    Burning wood is carbon neutral, but on one condition. Like for like is replaced. Cut down a broad leaf tree, replace with broad leaf. Not only that, cut down 100 year old tree, need to allow new tree to grow to 100 to balance out.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Wood Decays Naturally

    "The idea is that wood in landfill would eventually rot away and give up all its carbon to the atmosphere"

    So if a tree falls over in a forest and decays naturally does it not do the same thing?

    The bigger issue is that large areas of the worlds forests are being cut down for cattle rearing.

    Trees absorb Carbon Dioxide, less trees more Co2

    The Cattle fart and produce methane which is bad

    The Cattle is turned into Mcdonalds and they may us all fart.

    i.e. Stop eating MaccieD's and save the Planet.

    OK flawed logic, but I always like to blame McDonalds for all the ill's of the world.

  12. Bill P. Godfrey

    "burn coal or wood... whats the difference?"

    The CO2 from wood was taken out of the atmosphere years or decades ago. The CO2 of coal was taken out of the atmosphere millions of years ago.

    By burning wood, you create demand for more wood. This stimulates supply resulting in planting more trees, which takes the CO2 you just produced back out of the atmosphere, to be burnt again a few years down the line.

    There isn't any way to produce coal from CO2 in the atmosphere without waiting a few million years. Coal is finite, while wood, well, grows on trees.

  13. Mike Richards Silver badge

    @Anonymous coward

    Wood does decay naturally, but decay produces a good amount of methane which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

    Burning wood turns it into CO2 which can be captured by the next generation of trees.

    Actually, the world's forests are currently largely being felled to provide land for soya and oil palm. So I prefer to blame deforestation on ecohippies and their biodiesel VW Beetles. ;)

  14. James Pickett
    Paris Hilton

    Throw away line

    "waste wood which is normally thrown away"

    That would be why it's waste, presumably.. :-)

    Pales into insignificance next to waste paper, though.

  15. Slaine

    a minor typo

    the government [has] cracked...

    the government *is* cracked

    mmm Jenny Agutter, thanks.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    waste of petrol

    All well and good but how does all the wood get to the power stations? by road on *big* lorries i imagine ... lucky they're building bioethanol plants so there's enough fuel to get it to the power stations ...

  17. dervheid

    Burning Wood is Carbon Neutral?

    My arse!

    Are you bothering to factor in the carbon produced in felling, transporting logs, processing the logs into something burnable with any sort of efficiency, transporting said 'fuel' to biomass generator plant, disposal of the 'unburnable' (ie WASTE!) portion of the trees (leaves/needles/small branches etc.)


    Doesn't sound too 'carbon neutral' now!

    Besides, I'd be far more worried about the effects of methane and NOx as greenhouse gasses.

  18. Anonymous Coward


    Sounds to me like the first move in a campaign to drive humanity back to living around campfires and scavenging for food.

    Bet the politicians get to live in the castle.

    The flame icon because it might keep the wolves away at night.

  19. Mark

    I've got wood

    Send Paris Hilton round to collect it!

  20. A J Stiles

    No good reason not to

    There's still no compelling reason not to be burning that wood in power stations, as opposed to leaving it in landfill where it will decompose into methane {which has about 20 times the heat trapping potential of CO2} *and* burning fossil fuels in power stations in the meantime.

  21. bothwell

    @Stu Reeves

    "Burn fossil fuel, release co2, then what?"

    1. Burn fossil fuel

    2. Release C02

    3. PROFIT!!

  22. David Pollard

    Better than compact fluorescents (CFLs)

    Lighting accounts for 3% of domestic energy consumption (

    The potential energy saving with CFLs is about 75% compared to incandescents. But lighting is generally used when it's coolish, and with central heating (or thermostatic control) 'waste' heat from lighting isn't actually wasted because it's directly offset by the reduced heating requirement. So the possible saving from CFLs is around 1% of domestic consumption.

    If waste wood can save 0.7% of total consumption then this is rather better than CFLs, so we should perhaps expect to see a similar or greater level of legislation/tax breaks/promotions/fat cats.

  23. Anonymous Coward


    As you may note it is WASTE wood, going to Landfill.

    So lorries driving to tip, dumping wood, rotting in anaerobic conditions, producing methane and Co2


    Lorries going to power plant, burning wood, producing Co2 that is reclaimed by said tree planting.

    if your being pedantic, NO energy is CO2 neutral.

    Solar, wind? Yes but what about power plants to make the electric to power the factories that uses chemicals and metals to make the panels, that then are transported to site, that are connected to metals made in factories that use power etc etc etc

    What is wrong with this world?

    ooo it's only tiny amount of total power consumed so what a waste of time.

    Add that to tiny amount from wind, tiny amount from tidal, tiny amount from solar, and they start adding up. Bit like the my one light buld won't make a difference. But hey ho, lets keep hoping for the BIG fix....

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Stu Reeves

    "But hey ho, lets keep hoping for the BIG fix...."

    Keep up, Stu, keep up! The majority of us are already on that particular wagon.

  25. dervheid
    Thumb Up


    someone other than me gets it!


    Now, you REALLY don't want to get me started on the waste of time that all that "renewables" pish is, believe me. But you have, so...

    Wind; great in theory, crap in practice. Narrow wind speed envelope (don't work if its not windy enough or too windy) Do the maths, Our nearest coal fired station can crank out up to 2600 Megawatts. Averages about 1800 (worked there, I know!), your average Windmill is capable of, say 20 MW, but not CONSTANTLY, due to aforementioned envelope. let's give it the benefit of the doubt, and give it a massive 75%, so that's 15 MW

    1800 / 15 = 120 windmills (at 75% production)

    At a more realistic 50% you need 180, just to take up the load of ONE station.

    Multiply that by all the coal/gas powerplants and you'd have to coat the nation in windmills, and then some.

    Solar, in the UK, get a grip!


    Similar problems to wind, at least for wave power (operating envelope).

    Oh, the BIG FIX, BTW, is (dahn dahn dahn!) Nuclear!

    No carbon emissions once its up and running.

    Consistant generation.

    But I will concede that the waste's a bit of a problem!


    electricity = pollution (one way or another, until we crack fusion)

    Take your pick, eco warrior. Coz I don't see the developed world charging back to candles and campfires.

  26. Frank Bough

    This is What Happens

    when people who simply do not understand science try and find 'solutions' to real problems - they cannot comprehend the problem, so how can they possibly devise a solution?

    I'll try one more time here to explain the CO2 climate change problem. IF human-released CO2 is causing and will cause significant climate change (and I suspect that it is and will) then IT'S FAR TOO LATE TO STOP IT. If we do want to stop it, nothing less than a reversion to an agrarian society/economy will do. We all know that's not going to happen absent a nuclear war, so let's stop arsing around trying to find new ways to tax people and get on with increasing energy efficiency through REGULATION (rather than taxation).

  27. Rob Aley
    Thumb Up

    Re: Better than compact fluorescents (CFLs)

    With our properly insulated 1930's semi, we usually have the heating on for a max of 4-5 months a year. That means that for 7-8 months a year our CFLs are saving the full wack of energy.

    Still sounds worth it to me.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sorry, clicked too soon. Must concentrate on one thing at a time. Should have been:

    "But hey ho, lets keep hoping for the BIG fix...."

    Keep up, Stu, keep up! Most of us are already on that particular bandwagon and have no intention of switching!

    We can always burn the bandwagon if we get desperate!

  29. John Savard Silver badge

    Even More Valuable

    Electricity can always be produced by nuclear power plants, but petrol for cars is more difficult to replace. Waste wood can be used to make methanol, which would require modified engines, as Robert Zubrin (of Mars fame) pointed out, and more recently a means of making a petrol equivalent from cellulose through the use of catalysts has been found.

  30. Nigel Rook

    2600GWh! Why that's enough...

    ... to power a time-travelling De Lorean for almost three months!

  31. Mark Allen


    Isn't the burning of wood just going to bring back smog? Particles thrown back up into the air? This is why burning wood is banned in citys - open fires need to use smokeless coal.

    I know when my neighbour breaks those rules, there is a clear messy plume of smoke from the chimney and you can taste the rubbish in the air.

    So I hope they are planning to add some good air-scrubbers to this power station. :)

    OR... is this a cunning way to using Global Cooling to fight Global Warming? Stick lots of rubbish up in the atmosphere to block out the sun.... Errr.... yeah... clever planning.... (Sorry - wrong word - none of this is "planned"... it's all knee-jerk reactions....)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Waste wood is 'tiny potential resource'

    Well if someone offered you a 0.7% pay rise would you describe that as huge or tiny?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Mark Allen

    Seasoned wood (that has been dried out) produces no smoke.

  34. Mister Cheese

    I wonder... a few thousand years after the human-race has died out because of excessive health+safety measures, if the aliens that come to infest the planet will be confused by the layers of different ores within our landfills?

    Anyway, now I have your attention, my theory that global-warming (sorry, climate-change) is a man-made phenomenon. Over the past few million years, lots of CO2 was gradually taken out of the atmosphere, by animals and trees that had the misfortune to die and end up getting buried and turning to oil/gas/coal/peat/chalk/salt/whatever. Then in the past 200 years, we've released a large percentage of it back into the atmosphere - and the ecosystem we live in today isn't used to it. I know ice-cores have been analysed showing that the co2 levels fluctuate - but latest predictions are the ice-caps, including these million-year-old samples - will melt away. Which hasn't happened in the past as there are samples from previous fluctuations.

    Personally I use CFLs because they last much longer than filament bulbs, and I can't be bothered with the hassle of changing light-bulbs. And they're not much more expensive now anyway.

  35. david

    >wood in landfill eventually rots away and gives up carbon to the atmosphere

    ...over thousands of years, which avoids the immediate problem caused by burning it now.

    You have to carefully manage your compost heap if you want good methane generation. Most landfills are not like that: when you dig them up for study, you find the 10 year old lettuce still as green and wilted as the day it was buried.

  36. Dave Bell

    Here we go again

    Ever since the oil crisis of the Seventies, there have been proposals for burning waste, including wood, and often the waste material from crops (such as straw).

    What happens is that the system is set up for a year-round supply of fuel, and then the actual plant to burn it never gets built.

    In some cases this has involved farmers planting special fuel crops.

    With that pattern in mind, this looks like another con game. Expect to see some nice office furniture sold at auction in a couple of years.

  37. TeeCee Gold badge


    Does this mean that by using a Zippo lighter, which runs on petrol, rather than matches, which run on burning wood, I'm killing the planet, supporting the terroristically-inclined and contributing to the rebuilding of the Iron Curtain leading to World War three?

    Now I'm very worried. Being worried, I'm off to have a cigarette to calm down, which means I'll use my Zippo to light it.

    Conclusion: The end of the world is YOUR FAULT for publishing this article which caused me to be worried in the first place.

  38. Anymouse

    NuLab to bring in new tax

    Since volcanoes are serious emitters of millions of tons of poison greenhouse gases (CO2,H2S,NO2 & SO2 etc.), your "Democratically elected, wise and caring Government" (c) has decreed that ownership and operation of volcanoes will now be taxed in varying bands, worked out on an above inflation adjusted scale that depends on how many MP's and their relatives may be claiming expenses and allowances.

    In a seperate statement, The Mayor of "NuGreen" London stated that daily charges for eruptions within the M25 and any surrounding local area up to 500 Nautical Miles would be introduced, however electric and geo-thermal powered geysers and hot springs would be exempt or pay less than dormant or active volcanoes, extinct volcanoes would be offered a discount if they were already resident and registered with the Ordnance Survey.

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