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Sep 17, 2022 24 tweets 4 min read
1/ In the second half of the 16th century, Britain plunged into an energy crisis. At the time, the primary source of energy driving the British economy was heat derived from the burning of wood, and Britain was literally running out of trees.
2/ As the supply of wood dried up, its price began to soar and inflation set in, compounding the problem and spreading it to all corners of the economy. With imports from continental Europe insufficient to close the growing supply gap, the resulting crisis was dire.
3/ And then they discovered coal. Well, they didn’t exactly “discover” coal – it had been known for centuries that coal could be a useful fuel – but they did learn that coal could replace wood in many important applications. They also recognized that they had a lot of it.
4/ With a higher energy density than wood, coal is a superior fuel that enabled meaningful improvements in the British economy. Trees could be preserved for construction purposes, homes could be more efficiently heated, and companies could leapfrog their competitors.
5/ It is now well understood that the wide adoption of primary fuels with high energy density enables a better standard of living. Transitioning to higher density fuels is something that usually occurs spontaneously in an economy unless politicians interfere.
6/ It took little encouragement from the British government for its economy to realize the benefits of coal over wood – the inherent advantages of the material and the phenomenon of creative destruction were sufficient.
7/ In another example, the history of propulsion technology at sea is marked by a completely sensible journey up the energy density ladder. Wind power gave way to coal, which was displaced by diesel, which ultimately gave way to nuclear technology in military vessels.
8/ Given this, it might surprise our followers to learn that the European Union and Britain are incentivizing a return to the primitive concept of burning wood for energy on a massive scale.
9/ Not only are they going back to the future, but they also claim doing so is carbon neutral (spoiler alert: it isn’t, not even close). Nearly 40% of Europe’s so-called renewable energy is currently obtained by combusting wood, much of it coming from forests in the US.
10/ In a farce so perverted and obscene that it can only be the work of bloated and arrogant bureaucracies, a carbon accounting loophole is causing huge amounts of CO2 to be pumped into the atmosphere today that will take decades to abate using natural means.
11/ All across the US Southeast, massive industrial feller bunchers are cutting down and stacking mature trees with ruthless efficiency. The resulting logs are loaded onto trailers and hauled by diesel-powered trucks to wood pellet factories.
12/ Once there, the logs are milled, dried, and pressed through specialty extruders at high pressure, all of which require significant primary energy and raise local pollution issues. The resulting pellets are transported to coastal ports where they are loaded onto cargo ships.
13/ The diesel-powered cargo ships make their way across the ocean, emitting CO2 along each of their several thousands of miles traveled. Once in Europe, the pellets are burned, emitting more CO2 per unit of heat generated than any other fuel source currently used at scale.
14/ We are meant to believe THIS process is somehow carbon neutral. The loophole that enables this orgy of deforestation boils down to how and where emissions are counted. In the current framework, burning wood is zero-carbon at the point of combustion.
15/ From the perspective of Britain and the EU, the wood pellets they burn were immaculately conceived – the manner in which the pellets arrived at their power plants is not relevant to their carbon emission calculations.
16/ By burning “carbon neutral” wood pellets and decreasing their use of coal, European environmentalists get to brag to the rest of us about what wonderful stewards of this shared planet they are, all while being among its worst offenders.
17/ Further, the fact that mature trees sequester huge amounts of CO2 compared to newly planted saplings is ignored, making the premature death of that generation irrelevant to the political calculations of environmental impact.
18/ The time value of carbon emissions does not matter to the European environmental elite, despite their repeated hand wringing about how urgent the carbon crisis is, what little time we have to reduce emissions, and the devastating consequences of not acting immediately.
19/ Studies show that the burning of mature US trees absolutely overwhelms the carbon impact of all electric vehicles ever sold in the UK. All the economic sacrifices made in the name of minimizing our impact on the climate are turned into a mockery by this one insanity.
20/ To the credit of some 800 scientists from virtually all disciplines, serious efforts to reverse course have been made. In 2018, a letter was penned that accurately pointed out the environmental bankruptcy of the current biomass accounting policy. They were ignored.
21/ Back in the US, publicly traded companies like Enviva are rushing to meet Europe’s virtually insatiable demand for “carbon neutral” wood. There’s lots of happy talk about responsible forest management, good corporate citizenship, low-impact supply chains, and so on.
22/ Enviva recently announced it is expanding into Germany. On its last earnings call, the company’s CEO proudly announced the signing of the first in a series of agreements with a German utility operator
23/ Germany – a country proactively shutting down nuclear power plants despite suffering a massive energy crisis – is back to burning wood for power on an enormous scale. For the planet, of course. You could not make it up if you tried.
24/ A single pellet of uranium fuel no bigger than your fingertip provides as much energy as a ton of coal (and certainly even more wood). How many trees will be clearcut before this boondoggle of absurdity is stopped? <fin>

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Dec 23, 2022
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