Sunrise in winter over Drax in north Yorkshire with the sun rising behind a water vapour trail from the cooling towers of a power plant.

Burning Imported Wood in Drax Power Plant ‘Doesn’t Make Sense’, Says Kwarteng


By Paul Homewood

h/t Frank

Better late than never!

The importing of wood to burn in Drax power station “is not sustainable” and “doesn’t make any sense”, the business and energy secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, told a private meeting of MPs this week.

The remarks are significant as the burning of biomass to produce energy is an important part of the UK government’s net zero strategy and has received £5.6bn in subsidies from energy bill payers over the last decade. Scientists and campaigners have long argued that burning wood to produce electricity is far from green and can even increase the CO2 emissions driving the climate crisis.

In a recording of the meeting obtained by the Guardian, Kwarteng also admitted “we haven’t actually questioned some of the [sustainability] premises of it”. He said the government’s advisers, the Climate Change Committee, had said biomass was a necessary part of climate action in the UK.

But Kwarteng added: “I can well see a point where we just draw the line and say: This isn’t working, this doesn’t help carbon emission reduction, that’s it – we should end it. All I’m saying is that we haven’t quite reached that point yet.” Drax’s share price fell 10% in early trading on Wednesday, wiping about £280m off the value of the company.

About 80% of the wood pellets burned by Drax come from North America. Kwarteng said: “There’s no point getting it from Louisiana – that isn’t sustainable … transporting these wood pellets halfway across the world – that doesn’t make any sense to me at all.” Since 2019, when Kwarteng became an energy minister, Drax has received £2.5bn in subsidies for its power station, which previously burned coal.

The subsidies are due to end in 2027, but Drax is hoping to gain new subsidies by adding carbon capture technology to its plant. This would mean the CO2 taken from the atmosphere when the trees grew would end up buried underground, potentially reducing CO2 levels. This process accounts for about three-quarters of the “negative emissions” that the government’s net zero strategy says the UK must capture.

The European Academies Science Advisory Council said last year that burning wood in power stations was “not effective in mitigating climate change and may even increase the risk of dangerous climate change”. Environmental campaigners also say harvesting the wood damages forests.

One MP at the meeting told Kwarteng: “It can take 100 years to grow a tree but 100 seconds to combust it. So, unless we actually have a measure of how much CO2 is being released in the same period of time as is being sequestered by new growth, it seems to me ludicrous to say that this is carbon neutral.” Another MP said: “It’s cutting down huge numbers of forests and it’s not defensible.”

Biomass generation is far from insignificant, producing more electricity than onshore wind in the UK and a tenth of our power. To lose it would seriously create further imbalance in the grid.

But it is foolish and dishonest to pretend that it will lower emissions of carbon dioxide in our lifetime.

5 16 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Peter F Gill
August 12, 2022 6:21 am

Kwasi Kwarteng has became an MP shortly after the enactment of the Climate Change Act. So he has had quite a long time to realise all the nonsenses of the conversion of Drax to imported wood chips. Perhaps he swallowed the initial story that the source was waste wood and not virgin forest. Whatever the case it is good that some of the stupid energy policy decisions look like they may be soon reversed. I hope people here will not think that carbon dioxide should feature at all in what would be a sensible decision to move back to pulverised coal firing.

Reply to  Peter F Gill
August 12, 2022 9:26 am

Ah yes, but dared not speak his mind openly while princess nut-nut was determining the UK’s green policies from no10 Drowning /sc/ street.

Reply to  Vuk
August 12, 2022 3:16 pm

But surely Carrie Antoinette is a Great Climate Expert – doesn’t she think that the handsomest man who ever lived [ahead even of her spouse, Boris!] is Joe Stalin?


Chris Wright
Reply to  Vuk
August 13, 2022 3:39 am

Yes, I have wondered about that.
Until a couple of years ago I was a Boris supporter. One reason was that he was actually a bit of a climate sceptic. In one piece in the Telegraph he called climate alarmists “doomsters”, then one of his favourite words. He was also keen on fracking.
But now he probably doesn’t use the word “doomsters” any more, as he has become one of them. I wonder why?
Of course, both his father and wife are eco nuts. I suspect it’s his wife who has turned him. For this reason I’m glad he’s on the way out.

I support Liz Truss. Although she made some of the usual climate nonsense remarks as environment secretary, so far (although I haven’t seen all her remarks) she doesn’t seem to be currently saying anything about climate change. In contrast Sunak said that if they abandoned net zero the voters would never forgive them. Really? When the cost of living is a huge – and, unlike climate change, real – crisis? He’s completely lost it.
Clearly, for climate sceptics Liz Truss is by far the better choice. She wants to stimulate the economy by cutting taxes, and that includes green taxes.

There have been calls to add Boris to the vote, though it won’t happen. But a name I would LOVE to see on the voting form is Lord Frost. He is right on so many issues, including net zero and the need for more gas and nuclear, and to restore fracking.
I know it won’t happen but I can dream! And, who knows, in a few years maybe he will re-enter politics, become an MP and go on to lead the Tories – and then to become prime minister. That’s probably the only scenario that would have me voting Conservative again – they lost my vote years ago because of the green madness.
In a recent piece in the Telegraph, Frost made some very good points. For example, he pointed out that over the long term UK average rainfall has been remarkably constant, which is certainly true. He clearly has some knowledge of the climate, unlike most of the morons who run the planet.

A Conservative government that leans towards climate scepticism – now that’s something worth fighting for!
Kwarteng’s remarks about biomass shows that there is a slight possibility that the Tories might return to reality and abandon the green madness that is literally costing us the earth. But I’m not holding my breath….

Last edited 1 month ago by Chris Wright
Right-Handed Shark
August 12, 2022 6:27 am

Well done Kwarteng for finally noticing the bleeding obvious. All that remains now is to realize that wind and solar add costs as well as destabilize the grid, there is not now nor will there ever be sufficient backup from batteries, and even if the mythical “climate emergency” did exist, bankrupting the UK will not even register in the global average temperature.

Reply to  Right-Handed Shark
August 12, 2022 7:41 am

Don’t worry, as soon as the new PM is chosen he’ll forget all about it.

Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat – have committed to maintaining the government’s legally binding goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

A short but welcome burst of energy could come from the burning embers of Parliament.

“Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.

The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.

[Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.]

And V was entirely right.

Peta of Newark
August 12, 2022 6:31 am

Drax Power Station is leaving a desert in its wake. period.
A desert that will take centuries to recover, if it ever does.

That nobody even realised that from the outset and patently doesn’t still – kiss your ass goodbye.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 12, 2022 6:44 am

Are you seriously trying to convince us that it takes more than a single growing season to replace an entire forest chopped down to provide fuel for Drax?

Pull the other one mate, those 50 foot trees only take months to grow………

Ron Long
Reply to  HotScot
August 12, 2022 8:38 am

Well, if all the children in Lake Wobegone are exceptional, Ozzie trees might just rocket upward…..on the other hand all of the children in Lake Wobegone might not be exceptional…..

Reply to  Ron Long
August 12, 2022 4:09 pm

Lake Woebegone, where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  CWinNY
August 13, 2022 2:19 am

With above-average genders.”
(H/T blogger Alexy Scherbackoff elsewhere on WUWT.)
Geoff S

Reply to  HotScot
August 12, 2022 10:02 am

Drax is rated at 2.6 GW on the biomass side… by my rough calcs calcs…
2.6 E 9 x3.414 Btu/W / 20000 Btu/lb/30% effic/2000 lbs/ton= 740 tons of wood chips per HOUR… thinking that there is that much human cultivated regrowth per hour in NA is believing in wood fairies….

Steve C
Reply to  HotScot
August 12, 2022 10:20 am

The tress used for fuel are a crop that in the climate of the SE US grows rapidly. They ain’t cutting down cypress in the LA swaps.

Reply to  Steve C
August 12, 2022 2:46 pm

I really wish that post made sense.

Reply to  HotScot
August 12, 2022 3:17 pm

Actually, pines in large area of the SE get lots of rain and grow fast.

Wish I had pictures, but a clear cut about 5 acre corner lot near my brother’s home in costal Virginia, which I have visited 3 years running, was overall about 3 feet or less high 3 years ago allowing easy view of the cross road when coming to the stop sign, last fall I had to creep up to the sign and ACTUALLY STOP because I could not see past the trees, over 8 feet tall.

BTW, not planted, natural regrowth. 100% tree coverage, the trees are growing so fast that brush didn’t even have a chance. It was clear cut about 6 years ago, and my brother said they thinned the lot this summer. He told me today that they clear cut pines every 20 years.

Richard Page
Reply to  Drake
August 13, 2022 9:59 am

Drax gets it’s wood mainly from these pine areas but also from any land clearance that they can buy. They will use anything – hardwood, softwood, mature trees or cultivated thinning. I have yet to see any evidence that there has been intentional land clearance of mature hardwood to sell to Drax.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 13, 2022 1:21 pm

Yeah, Peta, the SE U.S. is going to become a desert because of a single UK power plant.

August 12, 2022 6:33 am

Yes, this always was insane, but at last someone in public life is prepared to call it so. The whole idea of Net Zero is mad. If only this were the maddest part of it! The rest of it is even madder.

Richard Page
Reply to  michel
August 13, 2022 10:02 am

Ah but he hasn’t – he’s called ‘importing’ wood pellets insane whilst saying wood burning hasn’t reached the end in the UK. What that means is anyones guess though – is he eyeing up forests in the UK perhaps?

August 12, 2022 6:38 am

No Sh*t Sherlock!

It took Kwarting since 2019 to figure this out?

WUWT and notalotofpeopleknowthat ought to be required reading for these muppet politicians.

Julian Flood
Reply to  HotScot
August 12, 2022 11:55 am

Well, what do you expect from a chap with an Oxford first class degree?


August 12, 2022 6:46 am

Net zero for whom? It sounds more like the new colonialism version of net zero in which pillaging is outside the local/domestic equation.

Ron Long
Reply to  ResourceGuy
August 12, 2022 8:39 am

NIMBY writ large and dysfunctional?

Coach Springer
August 12, 2022 6:48 am

Quote from the movie “Little Big Man” that has stayed with me:

The world was too ridiculous to even bother to live in.”

Reply to  Coach Springer
August 12, 2022 7:45 am

Now, that film caused my heart to soar like a hawk…

A B O'Brien
August 12, 2022 7:29 am

Correct me if I a wrong but I thought that the Drax power station, one of the largest stations in Europe, was built next to a coal mine for obvious economic reasons. So what happened to the coal mine? Did it run out coal or did ‘green greed’ take over?

Reply to  A B O'Brien
August 12, 2022 9:08 am

It had nothing to do with running out of coal. More to do with a political drive to stop using it.

Mark BLR
Reply to  A B O'Brien
August 12, 2022 9:31 am

Did it run out coal or did ‘green greed’ take over?

5th and 6th paragraphs :

Since 2019, when Kwarteng became an energy minister, Drax has received £2.5bn in subsidies for its power station, which previously burned coal.

The subsidies are due to end in 2027, but Drax is hoping to gain new subsidies by adding carbon capture technology to its plant.

Note also that the two (of six) “units” (5 & 6) at Drax that still burn coal are part of the UK “Capacity Market” … i.e. they are only used as “winter peak” providers when the price per MWh goes eye-wateringly high due to “excessive” demand from freezing Brits.

Units 5 & 6 were supposed to be taken off-line for “conversion” — to CCGT + CCS [ with associated subsidies … ] + “big” batteries, not biomass — next month (September), but the repercussions of Ukraine may change that (TBC).

Does that answer your (rhetorical ?) question ?

August 12, 2022 7:32 am

“All I’m saying is that we haven’t quite reached that point yet.”

Yet he attended the CoP in Glasgow, right? The message coming out of that was we have reached, even passed, the point.

Drax should be returned to burning coal with present day technologies that would make a cleaner burn. But forget idiotic ideas like CCS, let the plants make use of it.

Last edited 1 month ago by fretslider
Reply to  fretslider
August 12, 2022 9:15 am

Yes, Kwarteng was up in Glasgow, shedding tears at the vacuous announcements.

Richard Page
Reply to  fretslider
August 13, 2022 10:05 am

Yep, Kwasi Kwarteng, the master of mixed messages and the sharp about-face!

August 12, 2022 7:33 am


As every green group in the UK has been saying since the wretched thing fired up!

Last edited 1 month ago by griff
Reply to  griff
August 12, 2022 7:44 am

So, nothing to do with you or your precious EU.

Have you taken up ‘queer archaeology’, griff? I gather it’s all the rage.

Reply to  griff
August 12, 2022 8:34 am


So you will agree that burning the coal that is under the Drax site would be a better alternative, albeit using modern cleaner burning technology?


Old Man Winter
Reply to  griff
August 12, 2022 9:16 am

Regular folks jeered & sneered at the obviously stupid idea of converting
Drax to bio so it had to have been stupid Greenies gullible enough to buy
into the obvious virtue signalling that was being done. While it should
be converted back to coal as soon as practicable, they’ll protest that
just like they protested nuclear power, both of which will save the UK
from the unreliable solar & wind (SAW).

You may not want to turn up your nose too much on bio as it’s been a
“Steady Eddy” 2 GW while solar averaged <2 GW of its 14 GW nameplate in
July & only 1.17 GW all of 2021- 40% < 2 GW. Wind has averaged only
slightly better than Drax’s 2 GW over the past 9 days, despite its 14
GW nameplate. Bio, along with nuclear’s 5 GW, will be what keeps you
warm this winter! Beggars can’t be choosers, especially when they were
gullible enough to think SAW was the answer to a problem as real as

Alan Millar
Reply to  griff
August 12, 2022 9:27 am

I don’t recall Greens pointing out that burning coal produces less CO2 per watt of energy than burning wood and that is before you take the energy cost of shipping wood half way around the world, compared to digging coal up on your doorstep.

Reply to  Alan Millar
August 12, 2022 9:45 am

It’s a testament to the power of tax policy distortion on markets, industry, and shipping logistics. We should be thankful there is no big tax credit for mining road gravel on the moon and asteroids.

Reply to  griff
August 13, 2022 3:51 am

Where’s the giant ash dump?

Peta of Newark
August 12, 2022 7:45 am

Things are on a roll, this has ‘just come in

Headline:Liz Truss’ solar panel crackdown ‘more pain for farmers’ MPs and campaigners warn

I think we know who ‘campaigners‘ are and No. Sorry ‘campaigners’ – it’s YOU who are The Pain

The Indy

Last edited 1 month ago by Peta of Newark
August 12, 2022 8:01 am

If burning wood shipped across the ocean on FOSSIL FUEL BURNING ships can be considered green, anything can be considered “green”. Maybe they could dye coal green, AND THEN WE WOULD HAVE GREEN COAL?

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
Reply to  Richard Greene
August 12, 2022 8:25 am

2014 – ie 2 years before the referendum

EU Plan to Burn Wood Instead of Coal Threatens Forests

It’s the rave in Europe: Instead of burning coal and fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity, wood chips and pellets are being fed into Europe’s boilers.

“European commission approves Drax biomass subsidy”


Drax biomass conversion must comply with EU state aid rules

Hands up anyone who spotted any [of griff’s] objections….

Last edited 1 month ago by fretslider
Reply to  Richard Greene
August 12, 2022 9:15 am

Using green green dye, of course, to ensure sustainability.

Reply to  DaveS
August 12, 2022 1:02 pm

I was taught in my geology classes that coal came from plants, doesn’t that make it a BIOMASS?

Alexander Vissers
August 12, 2022 9:14 am

It is great for the CO2 budget, under the Paris agreement biofuels do not count as CO2! The objective is to meet the objectives, not to make sense.

Richard Hughes
August 12, 2022 9:27 am

What took him so long? Is it something about politicians that it takes them ten times as long as normal human beings to “get it”.

Steve Case
August 12, 2022 9:38 am

“Burning Imported Wood in Drax Power Plant ‘Doesn’t Make Sense”

In other news the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning.

Reply to  Steve Case
August 12, 2022 10:23 am

In other news, water is wet.

The Dark Lord
August 12, 2022 10:38 am

just burn coal you tools … put some scrubbers on the plants and leave the trees alone … a mature tree sequesters much more CO2 than a seedling … or maybe switch to nat gas … or G*d forbid nukes …

Reply to  The Dark Lord
August 12, 2022 11:34 am

But think of all the unemployment in that will result in America. All those good, high-paying green jobs making and transporting the pellets. Think of the children.

Reply to  The Dark Lord
August 12, 2022 1:05 pm

G*d didn’t forbid, very dumb stupid people did. Don’t look up, you’ll see a big bright G*d provided nuke.

Last edited 1 month ago by Yooper
August 12, 2022 10:44 am

“Drax’s share price fell 10% in early trading on Wednesday, wiping about £280m off the value of the company.”.
Oh dear, what a shame, never mind.

August 12, 2022 11:32 am

December 2013. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey turns up at Drax to open the first of the generators to be converted to biomass burning. He states

“This is a real landmark for Drax and for Britain’s energy security. Drax’s ambitious plans have made it one of Europe’s biggest renewable generators, helping to increase our green energy supplies.”

And that is what the game was and is all about. Get the CO2 emissions number down, even if it’s a sham, and damn the cost to consumers.

Reply to  Charlie
August 14, 2022 7:53 am

How can becoming dependent on imported wood pellets increase your green power supplies?

Bruce Cobb
August 12, 2022 11:40 am

Captain Obvious? Paging Captain Obvious! Ah, there you are. Haven’t seen you in a while. How ya doin’?

John Hardy
August 12, 2022 11:48 am

A bright chap Kwarteng. First in Classics and history

But like most politicians not a scientist or engineer and thus vulnerable to the views of biased scientific advisers

Derek Smith
August 12, 2022 1:06 pm

I was an Engineer at Tilbury power station London UK a coal fired plant that like Drax had successfully converted to burning wood pellets imported from the USA until 2013 when the plant closed essentially because the government at the time recognised that the subsidy levels were ridiculous, and pulled the plug on the Tilbury plant. I remember that the green subsidies were at a level whereby the electricity production was almost considered as a bi-product. Drax having 6 X 660MW generators was at the time such a large contributor to the UK Grid system it was considered too big to fail whereas the Tilbury plant had only 3 X 340MW generators so got the chop sending the signal to other coal plant operators.

The Irony of all this both Tilbury and Drax when burning coal were both very efficient and operated within stringent emission to air standards, Drax actually sat atop its own coal mine albeit relatively high sulphur content but perfect steaming coal. The UK government seems to still be deluded that wind can fill the gap for fossil fuels despite that even at the time of writing wind is contributing less than 10% of the UK electricity needs.

The sad fact is both Tilbury and Drax were vanity virtue signalling eco projects that quickly proved wildly expensive, Drax being too big to fail meant Tilbury got the chop, in essence though it was a massive Eco failure hidden as I suspect wind generation will eventually become.

alastair gray
August 12, 2022 1:13 pm

Kwarteng is my constituency MP and so I have been in regular contact pointing out the folly of his ways. Alas it fell on deaf ears-see below

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: KWARTENG, Kwasi <>
To: alastair gray <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at 10:53:04 AM GMT
Subject: RE: Wind Power Intermittent unrealiable and expensive

Dear Mr Gray

Thank you for your email about energy production.


The overwhelming consensus of international climate change scientists is that climate change is happening and, as you know, the UK was the first major economy to legislate to achieve net zero. Work is already underway to ensure the UK achieves this by 2050 and thereby eliminate our country’s contribution to climate change


It is important that as we work to decarbonise and reduce emissions our electricity supply is increasingly generated from renewable or low-carbon sources. The UK’s offshore and onshore wind industry provides a critical source of renewable energy for our growing economy. 


I agree that we need to ensure the UK’s energy mix is sustainable and reliable, and this means that wind and solar need to be complemented by technologies which provide power when the wind is not blowing, or the sun does not shine. This includes nuclear and gas with carbon capture and storage, and I welcome the Government commitment to invest in these areas as detailed in the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and the Net Zero Strategy. 


Yours sincerely

Kwasi Kwarteng MP

From: alastair gray <>
Sent: 21 December 2021 20:46
To: KWARTENG, Kwasi <>; PROIETTI, Filippo <>
Subject: Fw: Wind Power Intermittent unrealiable and expensive
Alastair Gray 
29 Harfield RD 
Sunbury on Thames  
TW16 5 PT
Dear Mr Kwarteng and Prioetti,
I hope that you can now see clearly what a ghastly mess your government is making of the energy sector.
Wind power today and for most of the last 2 weeks a measly 1 GW out of a nameplate capacity of 24 GW. It is only expensive gas that keeps us warm and you have squandered every opportunity to explore for, and develop our indigenous resources. 
The situation is catastrophically bad and set to get immensely worse.
Honestly Corbyn could not have done a worse job.
I enclose a little Christmas card. Pass it round your sorry party
Happy Christmas but don’t rely only vote next time round


Ed Zuiderwijk
August 12, 2022 3:58 pm

Drax used to burn coal. Without any subsidy. The writer forgot to mention that.
The whole concept of burning forests to achieve ‘net-zero’ is a ludicrous example of the idiocy induced by Milliband’s Climate Act of two decades ago, passed by a clueless Parliament with only a few against votes: those of the few MPs who actually had a grasp of physics or meteorology. Interesting detail: while the MPs were being herded by the equally ignorant ‘parliamentary whips’, it had begun to snow, a rarity in London. Wouldn’t it be nice to finally have an energy minister who gets it?

Mike Lowe
August 12, 2022 4:54 pm

Yes, it is madness. Until, just maybe, they realise that we do actually need far MORE Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. Which is precisely what most of their ridiculous policies are achieving. Many thanks, Greenies!

August 12, 2022 8:59 pm

Drax could save the trees by going back to pre-compressed forests, the way Nature intended.

Geoff Sherrington
August 13, 2022 2:22 am

Do we know if the ash from burning timber is being treated to recover growth elements like phosphorus and potassium?
It would be kind and just to return them to the land laid barren by their harvest.
Geoff S

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
August 13, 2022 5:45 am

No. But we do know that the CO2 from burning wood pellets in the UK do not count against the UK’s territorial emissions. Absurd!

August 13, 2022 3:49 am

What country is serving as the ash dump?

Joao Martins
August 13, 2022 4:16 am

Burning Imported Wood in Drax Power Plant ‘Doesn’t Make Sense’, Says Kwarteng
“Burning wood to produce electricity NEVER makes sense” (says I).

(By wood I mean good timber, not debris and materials discarded from cleaning well managed forests: these MAY be useful and economical)

August 13, 2022 4:51 am

no different than California importing 56pct of its oil from foreign countries and which generates more CO2 fueling the tankers to transport it than the emissions from all the automobiles in the state. It is like climate heroin, feels goid but isn’t good for you.

August 13, 2022 8:47 am

I second that opinion (Kwarteng’s) and raise with this: It doesn’t make sense to burn ANYTHING (with the possible exception of trash) just to produce heat to produce electricity.

Burning stuff for energy is so 18th century! We have better sources of energy than the wasting of valuable limited resources.

%d bloggers like this: