Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

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11 April 2013

European Energy Silliness: Wood is Top Renewable Fuel

Despite the huge investments in wind and solar renewable energy in Europe, the top form of renewable energy is wood biomass.  About half of Europe's much hyped effort to advance renewable forms of energy has wound up in wood fuel according to the 6 - 12 April issue of the Economist.  Even in Germany, 38% of non-fossil fuel consumption is wood.  In Poland and Finland, 80% of the renewable energy is from wood.

Wood, unlike wind and solar, is at least reliable.  The EU effort to get 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 is impossible based on wind and solar.  Wood makes this possible.

Coal-fired power plants have been under pressure due to the production of carbon dioxide, which according to fable will cause catastrophic man-made global warming.  So, the power companies with coal-fired power plants like wood because they can easily modify a coal-fired power plant to mix in 10% wood pellets.  In Great Britain, power plants are given a huge subsidy to use wood and this is causing a number of coal-fired power plants to convert to wood use.

So much wood is being used for fuel that Europe is importing considerable wood.  In 2012, Europe used 13 million tonnes or 13 billion kilograms.  A tonne is a metric ton or 2204.6 pounds.  Europe is expected to use 25 to 30 million tonnes of wood pellets in 2020.  In 2010, wood pellet imports increased by 50%.  Global trade in wood pellets is expected to shoot up from about 10 to 12 million tonnes now to about 60 million tonnes by 2020.  Much of this wood comes from western Canada and the southern U.S.

Consequently, prices for wood are rising rapidly.  Wood pellet prices rose from $116 a tonne in August 2010 to $129 a tonne in December 2012.  Prices of hardwood from western Canada rose by 60% since the end of 2011.  These wood price increases have contributed to the closing of about 20 large saw mills making particle board in Europe over the last five years.  The higher prices are creating difficult times for pulp and paper companies, as well as furniture makers.

Burning wood pellets in coal-fired power plants makes no sense at all.  It was early on claimed that burning wood was carbon neutral, since as the trees grew, they removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  There are many problems with this.  If you use hardwood pellets from western Canada, the output of CO2 from coal-fired plants using 10% wood pellets occurs now and it may take 100 years of new trees growing in western Canada to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as is being emitted now.  In addition, making the wood pellets uses considerable energy and transporting them from North America to Europe uses still more.  It has been calculated that with the British subsidy of 45 Pounds per MWH of electricity, switching from gas to wood saves one tonne of CO2 emission at a cost of 225 pounds.  That is very expensive for an idea based on a failed hypothesis of catastrophic man-made global warming and a bad accounting of the total carbon dioxide emissions due to using wood pellet as fuel.

There are other considerations.  Land not used to grow trees can be used for other purposes that have value.  Taxpayers have to pay the subsidy money.  Consumers pay higher electricity costs, as well as higher particle board, paper, cardboard, board, and furniture costs.  They are forced to do this on the basis of a false hypothesis of catastrophic man-made global warming and concern for fossil fuel supplies in the face of the huge supplies of coal and natural gas now made available by hydraulic fracturing technology.

European socialism can sure cause Europeans to pursue and enforce some very silly ideas.

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