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UK Taxpayers Lost $574 Million In 4th Green Energy Scandal This Year

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The U.K. wasted $574 million in 2015 subsidizing burning wood pellets for power, marking the country’s fourth major green energy scandal this year.

Now a new government assessment finds that the mandated shift from coal power to wood pellets ignored carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from actually burning the pellets.

“It is ridiculous for the same kind of subsidies that go to genuine zero-carbon technologies, like solar and wind, to go to biomass use that might be increasing carbon emissions,” Duncan Brack, who wrote the government report, told The Times. “It’s not a good use of money.”

The subsidies financed chopping down trees and transporting the wood from the U.S. to the U.K., which generated more greenhouse gases than the local coal power it replaced, according to the report. The U.K. government blames its failure to meet EU renewable energy targets on the false assumption that burning trees was carbon dioxide (CO2) neutral.

“This report clearly shows that burning wood is not a climate change solution,” Gareth Redmond-King, head of Britain’s World Wildlife Fund, told Bloomberg. “Bioenergy only makes sense when using wastes and residues, not wood or crops.”

The wood pellets were provided by the company Zilkha Biomass, which has ties to former senior British government officials. The company is chaired by Chris Huhne who was Britain’s energy and climate change secretary in the coalition government before he was thrown in jail on corruption-related charges in 2013.

The U.K. has already been struck by three other major green energy scandals so far this year.

More than $206 million was wasted on a failed green subsidy scheme to develop Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from power plants, then store it underground, according to a report by the British National Audit Office (NAO).

Ultimately, the British treasury canceled the program due to its rising costs. NAO found the government started the CCS competition without an agreement on the cost. This ultimately led to the Treasury withdrawing $1.21 billion in pledged financial support for the project, triggering its cancellation.

The U.K.’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy spent an initial $84 million on CCS, but then pumped another $123 million into a second competition after the first failed.

The second scandal was a heavily-subsidized anaerobic digester power plant discharged toxic waste into an eight-mile stretch of river, killing thousands of fish earlier in January. The individual plant has been responsible for 12 other “serious pollution incidents” since 2015, according to locals who spoke to The Daily Mail.

One day later, a third scandal broke. A botched green energy subsidy scheme called the Renewable Heat Incentive brought down Northern Ireland’s governing coalition. The program cost U.K. taxpayers more than $1.4 billion, despite initially projected to cost $40 million.

A whistleblower claimed program recipients manipulated it to receive about $200 dollars in subsidies for every $120 they spent on green fuel, according to The Times. A report by Northern Ireland’s auditor-general acknowledged that some individuals may have reaped about $1.1 million in profits though the scheme.

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Andrew Follett
the authorAndrew Follett
I hold a Master of Public Policy with a concentration in Science and Technology Policy from George Mason University, as well as a Bachelor of Science from the College of William & Mary, where I double-majored in Government and Geology and authored two theses. I have done research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. I have also worked as an analyst providing research and analytical support for the Department of Energy, the Office of Petroleum Reserves, NOAA, and FEMA.

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