Skip to main content

Exploring the Massive Clean Energy Boondoggle of Burning Trees as Carbon Neutral

To the shock of everyone with any semblance of common sense, we are clearcutting forests and burning the trees based on the idea the process is carbon neutral.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:
Image from Smithsonian article below

Image from Smithsonian article below

EPA Declared That Burning Wood Is Carbon Neutral

In 2018, the EPA Declared That Burning Wood Is Carbon Neutral.

Yesterday [April 23, 2018], the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would begin to count the burning of "forest biomass"—a.k.a. wood—as carbon neutral. The change will classify burning of wood pellets a renewable energy similar to solar or wind power.

[But] Even if a tree is planted for every tree converted to fuel pellets, trees regrown on plantations don't store the same carbon as natural forests. One recent study suggests it would take 40 to 100 years for a managed forest to capture the same amount of carbon as a natural forest. And since most plantation forests are harvested at 20 year intervals, they will never make it to the carbon-neutral point.

“Unless forests are guaranteed to regrow to carbon parity, production of wood pellets for fuel is likely to result in more CO2 in the atmosphere and fewer species than there are today,” William Schlesinger, President Emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies writes for Science.

Doomberg picked up on this idea in an extensive set of Tweets. 

Doomberg Tweet Thread

  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?  
Scroll to Continue


Hey, let's cut down old growth forests and 200 year old oaks, then replace them with lodgepole pines harvested after 20 years and call it an even carbon deal. 

While we are at it, let's criticize Brazil for doing similar things to their rain forests. 

This post originated at MishTalk.Com

Please Subscribe!

Like these reports? I hope so, and if you do, please Subscribe to MishTalk Email Alerts.

Subscribers get an email alert of each post as they happen. Read the ones you like and you can unsubscribe at any time.

If you have subscribed and do not get email alerts, please check your spam folder.