I told you so

According to a new study published by Chatham House burning wood pellets is not carbon neutral and creates more emissions than burning coal. I told you so and have been telling you so on these pages for many years.
Governments do not listen. I told them so too, but they obviously thought they knew better. The UK government created a Renewable Heat Incentive based around burning wood pellets under which they subsidised the fuel and the subsidies, paid out of our taxes were very high indeed. In fact in Northern Ireland the RHI became a source of income as the subsidy was greater than the cost of the fuel. 

It gives me no pleasure to have my views confirmed by an authoritative source; I would rather be proved wrong, for the sake of the environment.

If I knew about the problems of wood burning and wrote about hem so many years ago, why did it take until 2017 for these problems to “emerge”?

The problems that Governments make when dealing with the need to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases is that they look for a quick fix, and there are no quick fixes. You see, when reducing emissions we have to look at the whole picture, because the knock on effects of any policy and their unintended consequences are usually ignored in the hunt for a political sound bite claiming to fix a problem.

It was the same with the incentivisation of diesel vehicles, which cut down carbon dioxide emissions but increased emissions of nitrous gases, again producing undesirable effects which should be apparent to anyone looking at the picture as a whole.

Of course it is not just the politicians that are to blame; they are advised by highly paid consultants and civil servants who, when it comes to directing environmental policy have proved not only useless but in some cases positively dangerous.



5 Responses

  1. If the belief in manmade Global Warming is not actually superstition it might as well be for all the good it does. By calculation, the UK emits 1% of the world’s total manmade emissions of CO2 ( we are virtually surrounded by a large ocean of natural CO2 emitter) So, even if we reduce our CO2 emission to zero there will be no noticeable effect on global CO2.

    So why do politicians subsidise all kinds or rediculous schemes with our money? when simple arithmetic shows we cannot make any difference on our own.

    1. They are misguided.
    2. They are stupid.
    3. They are virtue signalling.
    4. They are corrupt.

    In my view 3 and 4 go together very nicely. Large companies exploit the Canutesque attitude of some politicians but also their desperate need to be liberal ‘do gooders’. So large corporations seduce vain politicians into subsidising expensive schemes on the basis that ‘they’re saving the planet’. So we have wood pellet burning and windmills, both mediaeval technologies. Solar furnaces also work well too in California and Spain, especially if you like to cook all the birds and flying insects in the surrounding areas.

    In my view Chris Huhne made the perfect selfish/politician’s choice.

    He had spent a political career pontificating about the environment until he became Secretary of State for the Environment. Of course gaining a PPE at Oxford is an essential to understanding the science of climatology. (not!) He spoke at Climate Change conferences and was clearly a champion of saving the planet. He championed the burning of wood instead of coal. I’m sure he was advised that the UK woudl have to import wood in the quantities needed to fuel powerstations, but obviously he was also advised by the importers of wood for burning, i.e. his friend Michael Zilkha. However, his (dubious?) personal life eventually overwhelmed his political one. He resigned and went to prison.

    Immediately on leaving prison after serving his sentence for perverting the course of justice he was appointed CEO of Zilkha Biomass Energy. Who owns this company? his long time friend and school chum at Westminster, Michael Zilka.

    So, why did the environmentalist Chris Huhne decide on burning wood instead of coal?

  2. Hi Mr Eppel, isn’t the report just nitpicking?

    • Not sure about nitpicking. In any case, this issue keeps going round in circles. It seems to me that the bottom line is this (to quote an eminent energy expert from a recent message in the Claverton group – http://www.claverton-energy.com/):

      “Yes burning trees is bad. But fast growing crops can suck CO2 out of the air fast. You may get a better carbon outcome than from just leaving carbon stocks alone – they rot!”

  3. I dont think burning trees is bad, but that’s simply because I disagree with the UK’s stance on CO2 emissions.

    However, logically, if burning trees is intended to be CO2 neutral simply planting one tree for each tree burned doesn’t add up. One pine tree will have 30 years growth and 30 years of sucking in CO2. So the replacement regime ought to be at least 30 trees planted for one tree burned. This amount of tree replacement is not envisaged by wood burning advocates.

    As for fast growing trees sucking in CO2, such CO2 is usually prioritised to foliage rather than trunk growth, Trunk is what we burn and the foliage is shredded and used as compost which does release CO2.So fast growing trees offer little advantage

    One tree, if left alone, will grow not rot. When it eventually dies it will not release much of its carbon it will become peat and eventually, if left long enough, coal.

    In my view burning wood pellets cannot be CO2 neutral unless the CO2 released is fully replaced by planting ever expanding areas of woodland. The idea of replacing burned wood with trees can only be a short term answer due to the near exponential increase in woodland it requires.

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