Theresa May and her Conservative government has promised to phase out the burning of coal in the UK by 2025. This should be a cause of celebration for climate change campaigners. But the plans have three dangerous loopholes, which means activists must remain vigilant, argues ALMUTH ERNSTING
Just imagine: gas for your cooking and heating made by composting home-grown British grass, writes Almuth Ernsting. What's not to like? Well, it would need almost all the UK's grassland to match our gas demand, leaving cows and sheep to starve or forcing them into sheds to eat foreign-grown feeds. And methane leakage could easily wipe out any climate benefit.
The Drax power station in North Yorkshire is among Britain's greatest greenhouse gas emitters, writes Almuth Ernsting. Not only is it burning some 6 million tonnes of coal every year, it is also burning its way through forests in the USA and other countries as it converts to biomass-fired units, rewarded by £1.3 million a day in subsidies. Join the #AxeDrax protest this weekend!
This month wood pellet mills in the southern US that supply the UK's Drax power station were awarded 'sustainability' certificates under a voluntary scheme governed entirely by energy companies. The certificates provide no credible guarantee that the fuel does not come from ecologically valuable natural forests and wetlands, clear-cut and replaced by industrial plantations.
A synthetic biology plant producing the anti-malarial drug artemisinin has just shut down as it's much cheaper to use wormwood grown by African farmers, writes Almuth Ernsting. The technology is even further from making affordable diesel, with a production cost of $20-50 per litre. No wonder investors are losing patience - and confidence - in loss-making synbio companies.
The biofuels of the future will depend on microbes, writes Almuth Ernsting: algae to produce the biomass, and fungi or bacteria to break cellulose down into useful molecules. Just one problem: wild strains aren't up to the job. So scientists are trying to genetically engineer supercharged 'synthetic biology' variants - which will inevitably enter the environment. What could possibly go wrong?
A new coal and biomass-fired power station could soon be built at Drax in Yorkshire, already the UK's biggest coal burner, writes Almuth Ernsting. It comes with a weak promise of possible 'carbon capture and storage' - an expensive, inefficient technology shunned elsewhere. As the Government's nuclear dream fades, could this be its equally flawed replacement?
Who and what are biofuel sustainability standards designed to benefit? They are meant to safeguard forests and communities, writes Almuth Ernsting - but their real purpose is to protect the biofuel industry ...
Biochar - the charcoaled remains of agricultural waste - is being hailed as a huge opportunity to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But is the science sound, and do we have enough waste to go around?