U.K. furniture makers criticize government biomass subsidies they say have helped push up wood costs by 55% since 2009/2010

LOS ANGELES , April 17, 2012 () – The U.K.'s Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) is blaming the bioenergy industry for helping driving up the price of furniture wood, and says waste wood should be burned before trees, Letsrecycle.com reported April 16.

FIRA said wood should have first uses designated, such as panel manufacture, and afterwards be burnt for power generation.

Wood costs rose 55% over the past five years, said FIRA's COO Johnny Westbrook. The furniture lobby opposes the growing of virgin trees for biomass, as well as the significant government subsidies to pay for harvesting trees to burn them for power.

Stephen McPartland MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Furniture Group, said that, while renewable energy subsidies currently pose the biggest threat to the furniture sector, they are a byproduct of a flawed government policy, Letsrecycle.com reported.

Rising wood prices and resultant price increases for British-made furniture will drive consumers to buy imported furniture, according to McPartland, who said policies for subsidies to the bioenergy industry are being used on a growing, non-sustainable scale that is pushing up prices for lumber and panels. By comparison, small-scale, combined heat and power biomass plants provide economic and environmental benefits, he added.

Government subsidies to energy suppliers amounted to more than £100M (US$160 million) in 2009/10 and the figure continues to rise, McPartland said. The subsidies encourage new power stations designed to burn large quantities of biomass.

However, biomass energy supporters, including Selby, Yorkshire-based power company Drax Group PLC, are lobbying the government for guaranteed subsidies for the biomass energy in a “Back Biomass” campaign, Letsrecycle.com reported.

Development of the U.K.'s bioenergy supply would lead to better managed woodlands, including short-rotation forestry, and enhance related industries such as agriculture through integrating biomass crops into farming, the campaign said Monday.

The primary source of this article is Letsrecycle.com, London, England, April 16, 2012.

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