22/09/2014 Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire


Is the Drax power station's conversion from coal to biomass energy doing harm to the environment? Can the north/south divide be bridged to bring more prosperity to the north?

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Good evening and welcome to Inside Out.


Good evening and welcome to Inside Out.


Tonight, is Drax Power Station's conversion


from coal to green biomass `ny worse for the environment?


Should Drax stop its conversion programme?


After the Scottish vote, should the North of England be


asking for more autonomy to help us narroa the North South divide.


Until recently, Drax Power Station near Selby was


known as a serial polluter, pumping CO2 into the atmosphere


They have been using governlent cash to move from burning coal


Far from being a green policy, some people think that is


For a million years man has burnt wood for heat and light,


But now it's being used on an industrial scale to satisfy our


need for low pollution, gredn energy and that's led to questions about


Burning these forests is worse than coal in terms of the amount


of carbon that is going to be put into the atmosphere.


There are good ways of burning biomass and bad ways


If you procure it from a sizeable source,


The future of Drax Power St`tion relies on burning wood, what's


Drax is Western Europe's largest power plant and it's working hard to


lose the label of Britain's biggest pollutdr.


That means burning less coal to generate electricity.


And this is how it will happen, burning tonnes and tonnes


To start with three of the six generating units in Drax


I think it is important for the future of the UK, actually.


We are one of the most efficient power stations and low on elissions


If it remains a coal station, it will shut down next


What biomass does is it turns us into a renewable power stathon,


gives us a long`term future, preserves that 7% of generation for


the UK, preserves jobs in Yorkshire and it is a good renewable.


So far so good but an operation this large needs a lot of wood,


according to some estimates as much as nine million tonnes everx year.


That's nearly double the entire UK forestry output.


So Drax has needed to look dlsewhere and that's meant going to the


United States where they sax they have more than enough wood to meet


Every half an hour 24 hours a day seven days a week,


these biomass trains arrive from the Humber ports and from Tdesport.


Most of the material does come from the US and to many people,


cutting down trees in the States, shipping them here to Drax via the


Humber ports is a long journey to justify us being carbon fridndly.


We thought from the beginning there was no sense in us importing


this biomass if we can't be confident it is a low carbon fuel.


The only way you can know that is you have to measure the carbon cost


from the forest or the field all the way through the supply chain,


through any processing, through the shipping, right the way through the


ports, trains to tracks, look at that compared to other ftels


We know we deliver 80% savings relative to coal.


Drax's conversion from coal to wood is all supported


by public subsidy, but on the condition that it produces


Drax needs to prove its bushness isn't harming the environment.


With so much wood to source, Drax has to rely on contractors


I've been invited to see part of the Drax wood pellet operation


in the United States so I'm off to Savannah,


Georgia to find out where the wood that's burnt here is coming from.


This is a tree nursery ` part of one of the biggest operations


Matthew Rivers from Drax is showing me how it works.


This site is 85 acres and is producing ?60 million a year.


The company running this nursery is called Plum Creek owns nearly 7


million acres of wood across 19 states.


It provides employment in some of the poorest areas of the USA


and is proud of its commitment to the environment.


Plum Creek is a main supplier to Drax.


About 85% of our fuel is this raw matdrial.


We are always looking to assess in our diligence upfront beford we sign


up with the supplier and thdn on monetary verification afterwards.


The harvest is within annual reliable cut.


We're not moving into an arda where we will deplete the carbon stock.


The forest is managed sustahnably and we can satisfy ourselves


and external auditors that our fuel is generally sustainably sotrced.


These trees play an important role in absorbing greenhouse gasds.


But Drax insists what it's cutting down here is waste wood


When Plum Creek's trees are bigger, they are harvested for sawmhlls to


But the smaller or misshapen trees, called thinning, go for pellets


We are sitting on our high`value saw logs.


Nice clear wood, preferable in a sawmill.


They are picked out and grown for their quality.


There is waste in the forest as well, stuff you can't usd.


It is waste material or bi`products of growing a sawn log.


Of course the lumber industry has existed for


centuries in the US ` Drax says all it's doing is buying up a cheap bi`


product of this industry, that in the past has gone to paper lills.


But for some there's a darkdr side to the biomass industry,


which is worrying campaigners on both sides of the Atlanthc.


We are at the edge of the rhver on the edge of the floodplahn.


Drax stands accused of destroying hardwood natural forests in the USA


Not just using waste wood but cutting down trees


which environmentalists say should be protected.


The biomass industry want you to see an artificial plantation th`t is


They don't want you to see a natural forest like these


hardwoods in part because anyone can look around here and say th`t there


is a lot that wood be lost hf these are cut and burned for fuel.


The southern environmental law centre isn't a lone voice


Earlier this year 60 leading US scientists wrote to the British


government urging it to reconsider its biomass policy.


The easiest way to see what they're worried about is from the ahr.


Some of these forests are ddscribed as endangered


The forests below me under pressure an expanding from biomass


Derb Carter shows me a largd area of cleared forest which he believes


He claims this was recently cut down by one of Drax's main supplhers


And just a few miles away from the clearing is


a large pellet mill ` one of three operating in the rdgion.


Derb Carter believes the trdes which are visible on the wood pile


Historically, we have lost ` lot of this forest over many decades.


We were just getting to a point where the loss was stabilishng.


Now this industry is putting pressure on the forests


and we are starting to see lore loss than we have been actually


Having seen the forests of North Carolina from the air,


Tim McCormick has been a river guide in the swamps for most of hhs life.


There is not a lot of peopld round here that of these forests.


They never consider doing anything but coming.


It is the way people make money around here.


The timber industry is to this place what


It is the bread and butter `nd what makes a lot of money for people


Environmentalists like Adam Macon believe the biomass industrx


and its growing demand for pellets is a big factor


They are sourcing what they are using, that power,


They're sourcing from right here in the south, from our southern forest,


from the forest that we relx on to protect us from the worst effects of


climate change, that we relx on to improve water quality and wd rely on


to providers habitat for all of the amazing diversity th`t exists


It doesn't seem that Drax is taking that into account,


the impacts of what they ard having here in the southern United States.


As well as being a bio diversity hotspot, North Carolina is `lso the


America is the largest exporter of wood pellets in the world.


Enviva is another supplier tsed by Drax to source wood pelldts.


This is its factory in Ahoskie North Carolina, along with


Drax it was recently nominated by the Ecologist magazine as one


Do we know for sure that hardwood like this is


I understand that it is a major supplier of Drax.


We know many of these hardwood trees will end up being burned


Enviva insists it adheres to all state and national government


In fact they were happy to show me around a wood pellet facility `


not in North Carolina but just 30 miles or so across state


It's a 24/7 operation turning trees into pellets


It is the scale of this industry that is so striking.


This one factory on its own produces half 1 lillion


Enviva says all the wood here is low qualitx waste `


The company says it's confident that the logging firms which supply it


are acting responsibly and not depleting natural h`bitat.


We have quite strict policids in place that we track to the land We


know where it comes from, what happens, why every piece of fibre


ended up on our lot and it didn t have a use in a sawmill. It is


audited by third parties and we feel confident that what we are doing is


sustainable for the convershon of the generation in counties like the


UK. They are busy school of thought that says that you should bd going


to your suppliers and saying we are strict about the criteria. The


criticism is that you are not strict enough. We actually think wd are


very strict. We have a 0 tolerance policy. If we find people do not


comply with the best managelent practices, comply with endangered


species act and the clean w`ter act, we will cut off the supplier. We


have not had to do it very luch but we would do it definitely.


These pellets will shortly begin their journey to Europe.


evidence that we?ve collectdd and a list of questions to put to the


In recent months, the UK government has also had questions to ask.


It is spending hundreds of lillions of pounds subsidising Drax?s


conversion from coal to biolass and has raised its own concdrns


The government recently published its so`called ?Carbon Calculator?


That said that in some instances burning trees for


power could actually be worse for the environment than burning coal.


Here at the RSPB it?s something they?re also concerned about.


The report the government ptblished really confirmed something we have


known for a long time, that there is a serious risk when we burn wood in


power stations like Drax. It also said some sources are good for the


climate, but the big problel is the government are not responding to the


report by changing standards and making sure only good biomass is


used. Should Drax stop its conversion programme? For now, yes.


But back at Drax, they are `damant they have got it right. Biolass is


working to reduce greenhousd gases. Anything you can do, you can do it


in a good or bad way. We worked this out when we set up the strategy


that the first thing we did was we went around the world and looked at


what were the sustainabilitx standards for forestry and


agriculture and we set what we considered to be the best standard,


which set good requirements. The company has rejected claims that it


is destroying valuable wetl`nd habitat like the area we were shown


by campaigners in North Carolina. Some of the areas have wonddrful


diverse wildlife, and those are carefully assessed and protdcted. We


will only deal with pellet producers that produced biomass from `reas


that are not protected, that are not defined as special habitats. To


illustrate the concern, thex flew us over our area which had been cut


down next to an area of protected habitat. Very little differdnce The


question is, who made that definition? Where was the lhne drawn


and must have been drawn by an expert. We as an industry whll try


to be responsible but it is not our job to determine the law. From next


April, the government is brhnging in new laws for the sourcing of


biomass, mindful of habitat protection and carbon emisshons It


is unclear how these will bd enforced 4000 miles away in the


United States. But even thotgh the facility was opened by the Linister


for climate change himself, he has declined repeated requests for an


interview. There is continudd scientific debate about whether


burning trees is better or worse than call for the environment. What


is clear is that there is htge pressure for Drax to keep the lights


on in the UK, and the company sees biomass is very much the future for


this industrial giant. Well, it?s been said it will take


the creation of a Northern lega city stretching from Liverpool to


Newcastle to rebalance With Scotland likely to gain more


power after the independencd vote, many feel it?s time


for the Government to stop talking and act to ensure the North doesn?t


fall further behind It?s a global hub that sucks in the


brightest and best from all over But has it just become too big


and powerful, leaving the North with Whitehall feels very far reloved


from cities around the country. So is the North stuck


on the slow train while Are we starting to generate


the jobs needed to keep our brightest and best from heading


to the already overheated c`pital? People think engineering is dying


out, but there are so many jobs Working here, I?ve seen loads


of opportunities I?ve never really It?s morning rush hour and H?m


joining commuters I'm about to board a train to make


a journey, that for many, is a symbol of the yawning gap


between the North and London. I've joined Maurice Duffy, CEO of


Blackswan, an international business Today he's off to Manchester


to launch a new book. Anything between 2:30


to 2:45. That's if it's on time, of course,


and it doesn?t get delayed I?m guessing you could get to London


in much the same time. I do Newcastle to London twhce


a week and I can do that in 2:4 to three hours and that's


an extra 120 miles longer. So we're chugging along


on our transPennine journey, but many feel transport is just


a symbol of what's holding ts back. People


across the North were asked whether they agreed that the Governlent and


Parliament were responsive to issues Manchester was the most


positive with 21% agreeing. In Sheffield,


that figure dropped to just 7%. Liverpool


and Leeds were only marginally more positive at 8%, and in Hull


and Newcastle the number was 14 . That's how little


the North reckons London cares The Centre


for Cities is an influential think I've come to meet


its chief executive to find out how you go about bridging the g`p


between London and the North. We talk to business and thex say


if it's not London, it's New York. Usually second tier


cities are a certain size, but with ours, Leeds and Manchester


are not as big as you'd expdct. We would like to see not London


shrinking but the second`tidr cities getting bigger.


So is enough being done to rebalance England's economy?


Around three quarters of people in Leeds and Newcastle belidve


the location of Parliament in Westminster means political


decisions are too focused on London in comparison to the rest of the UK.


We would like to see more freedom for cities.


Making sure that cities can decide far more how they can spend money on


transport and skills. And if you're looking


for evidence of bias in favour Spending on public transport in


London amounts to ?5000 per head. Which leads many Northerners to


question the sense of spendhng tens of billions on HS2 onlx to


get people to London even qticker. Especially when you're stuck


on the slow train. Getting Manchester and Leeds and


Sheffield linked up better with public transport is hugely


important. Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds have responded to the


challenge set them by the Chancellor to compete more effectively with


London. The cities want a 15`year transport


infrastructure plan with It's great the five cities have come


together to create a single plan that chimes with the plan I have set


out. Cynics might say it?s easy to back


such a plan But Scotland's no vote has


reinforced the resentment of Yorkshire and the Humber has a


population equivalent to Scotland's. Greater Manchester has almost


as many as the whole of Walds. And Tyne and Wear is almost


as big as Northern Ireland. Yet none of those English rdgions


have anywhere near the same level of Many believe it's


about time that changed. But back on the slow train ht


could be decades before there's It?s 09:52,


right? that?s nearly two hours to get


from Newcastle to Leeds and we've Yes,


at York the train was cancelled We hopped off


and waited with the other p`ssengers 20 minutes later and we're


on this train headed Look, this isn't some Northdrn


whingeathon. Few believe the pavements of London


are actually paved with gold. That?s what?s happened here


at the Advanced Manufacturing Park on the border between Sheffheld


and Rotherham. It's attracted 200 businessds,


some small and some not so small. This is an innovative environment.


Manufacturing is at a 20 ye`r high in this region.


Performance Engineering Solttions was started up by Mike Maddock, an


ex`Formula 1 racing team engineer and an entrepreneur from thd South.


He hopes to expand fivefold in the next few years, if hd can get


Today, his design team is working on a new high`tech golf putter


and a factory cooling unit `s well as gear box for a wheelchair.


70% of their design commisshons are for overseas clients.


There has been a brain drain to the south but also out of the UK, and we


need to stop that. It can provide more opportunities. London hs very


busy, very big. I am from a mile down the road so it is great that I


can be so close to home and be able to develop my skill set without


moving further afield. I evdn looked at India and China at one point


There is a huge shortage of engineers and the skills gap could


stop the UK in its tracks. A hundred metres away they're


working at fixing just that problem. The AMRC training centre has 40


engineering apprentices with another 250 starting in September,


all learning the skills they need for thd jobs


they've already been guaranteed We spoke to two of the apprdntice is


currently being trained as engineers. I applied to go to


university but then this instead because I wanted the hands`on


approach. The companies are small which is why most people have not


heard of them but they can still take on apprentices.


So they?ve got a bright futtre as engineers but at some st`ge they


might need to travel farther afield for a job in another city.


I?ve found that can be problematic anywhere across the North.


We've been travelling now for 2 hours 45 minutes


and we're sat outside Manchdster, we don?t know why.


This train has travelled at an average of 60 miles an hour.


That's a third as quickly as the one that goes


Finally, journey's end and time to s`y


farewell to Maurice who'll be back on the same slow train very soon.


But it gives me a chance to see an example of how moving out


of London can create thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions


It was such an opportunity they even moved the most famous street in the


What the BBC and ITV have done here is they have helped bring slaller


media Enterprises year and created a hub.


Media City is a 200 acre site which straddles the canal


between Salford and Trafford, it's said to be the largest facility


of its type in Europe and it came about through a political ddcision


But this is just one small part of the jigsaw and it'll takd


a lot more political will to move power and money from London to


the North and enable our grdat cities to compete with the capital


Scotland might have said no to independence


And just south of the border that hasn't gone unnoticed.


That's all for tonight but lake sure you join us next week. We'll be


meeting some of the soldiers struggling to cope after serving in


Afghanistan, healing the incredible story of the Chatsworth ban`na and


visiting two cities vying for the title of city of ale.


Hello, I'm Sam Naz with your 90-second update.


14-year-old Alice Gross went missing three weeks ago.


Today, police carried out a finger-tip search of


600 officers, from eight forces, are working on the case.


It has overestimated its profits by a quarter of a billion pounds.


A new focus for Thai police looking into


They plan to test the DNA of every man on the island where David Miller


It is thought they were attacked by two Asian men.


Arranging a sham gay wedding to get someone UK citizenship.


A BBC investigation has found gangs will organise it for ?10,000.


Inside Out brings you the stories that matter in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

This week, Paul Murphy examines claims that Drax power station's conversion from coal to so-called 'green' biomass energy is doing more harm than good to the environment. And Toby Foster asks whether we can bridge the north-south divide and bring more jobs and prosperity to the North of England.

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