York & North Yorkshire

Drax renewable energy move 'could harm forests'

Drax power station
Image caption Drax is converting half of its boilers from coal to wood

The UK's biggest coal power station has been accused of causing environmental damage as it moves to produce electricity from "renewable" resources.

Drax in North Yorkshire is converting half of its boilers to burn wood.

Environmentalists are worried the huge demand for wood pellets from Drax and other UK power stations will damage forests in the US.

Drax chief executive Dorothy Thompson said pellets would come from areas that are "not protected".

"When you burn trees, the CO2 goes straight out the chimney and into the atmosphere," said Harry Huyton, head of climate change at the RSPB.

"For a long time it was thought that the forest will re-grow and absorb that carbon dioxide, but it's common sense that trees take a bit of time to grow."

'Preserve jobs'

The wood pellets are to be shipped across the Atlantic as there are not enough trees in the UK to supply the power station.

Environmentalist Derb Carter, of the Southern Environmental Law Center in North Carolina, said: "People can see there's a lot that will be lost if these trees are cut and burnt for fuel."

But Ms Thompson said: "We would only deal with pellet producers who deliver biomass from areas that are not protected.

"By turning us into a renewable power station, biomass gives us a long-term future, it preserves jobs in Yorkshire and actually it's a really good renewable."

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