Interview with Stewart Boyle

Q Why write a book on Bio-energy?
A Based on our energy consumption and the climatic impacts of this we are in deep trouble on Planet Earth. Having spent a lot of time consulting on energy as well as working in woodlands I realised that bio-energy is one of the more important alternatives to fossil fuels. Though some regard wood and other biomass as 'old fashioned' in fact it offers really cool modern technology and a wide variety of fuels. Unlike other renewables it offers 24-7 power, heat and transport energy and a great transition to a low-carbon energy future.
Q You've got 30 Case Studies in the book - give us a brief flavour
A The Case Studies include Virgin Airlines who really kick-started the airline industries push into sustainable biofuels. Richard Branson knows how to market his brand but he also puts his money where his mouth is. Other Case Studies include one of the biggest bio-ethanol plants in Europe - the Vivergo plant in Eastern UK. This takes more than a million tonnes of wheat and turns it into 420,000 million litres of bio-ethanol, a range of chemicals, lots of CO2 for carbonated drinks and 500,000 tonnes of protein animal feed. I also show how modern wood heating with 85% efficient boilers are rejuvenating large Estates and woodland as well as inner city urban tower blocks. It's exciting stuff and is little known.
Q You used to be a green activist yet you are quite critical of Green NGOs such as Greenpeace and FOE. Why?
A I spent 12 years as a green activist fighting the good fight on energy and climate change. On the nuclear issue I was once described as "Britain's most passionate campaigner". And yes - I am now pretty critical of the Green NGOs stance on bio-energy. They use slogans such as 'Food vs Fuel' and suggestions that burning wood in coal power stations is worse than coal. I soon realised that only by distorting science and selectively choosing very unrealistic scenarios can you reach such conclusions. That is a bit dogmatic - almost Stalinist in approach and I hate dogma by people who don't know what they are talking about
Q What's the attraction to wood and other biomass fuels?
A I have always loved spending time in woodlands. I was lucky to purchase 20 acres of woodland a few years ago when I had some money so am really trying out practical solutions to managing woodland. I realised quickly that most woods need managing and that done well this can provide income, good products and fuel. Most of all I love sitting around a fire, drinking a few beers, singing and relaxing. Bringing the traditional aspects of woods and crops together with really modern, efficient and 'cool' technology is a kind of 'Back to the Future' scenario and I really like that type of solution.
Q - Any surprises in the book?
A - A few I hope. There is plenty of biomass available to run perhaps 30-40% of the global energy economy, if it is 'done right'. That means getting our energy economies a lot more efficient, using increasingly efficient bio-energy conversion technologies, and addressing other issues such as a diet obsessed with meat (which causes a lot more problems than any use of crops for fuel does). WEW are getting so late on the curve of cutting carbon emissions that we might need Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) - if so then Bio-energy CCS (BECCS) actually leads to NEGATIVE carbon emissions which no other option can offer. It might be a key technology to get us through to a better future
Q - Are you hopeful about the future in the UK and US?
Q - Well yes though I have to be realistic that the politics in both countries isn't working that well. Climate deniers get a lot more air time than they deserve - even though 97% of peer reviewed papers confirm human-induced climate change the deniers get a lot of undeserved media coverage. US politics has been corrupted by special interests including fossil fuel lobbies. The US gas fracking industry has effectively 'captured' the UK Tory party who are showering tax breaks, guarantees and streamlined planning on them. Even though people don't want this. Expect a big fight here. Despite this many great things are happening with bio-energy and it solves a lot of problems so I expect good sense to prevail.
Published 2013-09-13.
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Books by This Author

The Sleeping Giant Awakens: Bio-energy in the UK
Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 98,650. Language: English. Published: September 12, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Science & Nature » Energy
Bio-energy is the most important and versatile renewable energy option globally, yet is surrounded by confusion and controversy. This book provides a comprehensive and readable assessment of bio-energy fuels and technologies, with 30 real world case studies and many practical tips. The author concludes that a fifth of UK energy could come from this source - three times that from nuclear power