Aletho News - December 11, 2009
“Wood is very quickly becoming a very important part of the energy mix and in a few years will be a global commodity much like oil” Heinrich Unland, CEO at Novus Energy GmbH. (photo – Bloomberg)
The proposed construction of a new generation of nuclear plants is just one aspect of the environmental threat posed by cap and trade or carbon taxes. In this report I will address yet another threat, biomass energy generation. Wood chips and wood pellets are exempt from European Union permit rules for carbon emissions, ostensibly because the chipped trees recently absorbed carbon from the atmosphere. The fact that the trees would have sequestered the carbon for centuries if left as living natural habitat and soil regenerative decomposing matter is conveniently overlooked.
Energy legislation in the U.S. has yet to be passed but current bills similarly promote the wholesale clearing of forests for combustion. Bloomberg describes it as energy sprawl:
More forests, deserts and grasslands in the U.S. will be used to produce energy under a proposal to cap greenhouse gases, an unintended consequence of efforts to fight global warming, according to a Nature Conservancy report.
A bill that boosts energy from wind turbines and biofuels will increase the amount of land needed for energy development as much as 48 percent, or almost 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles) during the next 20 years, said Robert McDonald, a scientist with the Arlington, Virginia-based Nature Conservancy environmental group.
America’s publicly owned national forests will be made available for this new private industry if Obama appointee Tom Tidwell, Director of the U.S. Forest Service, gets his way. Biomass electric power generating plants can consume as much as one semi-trailer truck load of chipped forest every ten minutes. While harvesters may be required to re-plant the stripped landscapes they leave behind, it should be remembered that mono-crop plantation forests are not ecosystems and massive quantities of herbicides are needed to prevent weeds from overtaking the seedlings.
Extraordinary conjecture is utilized to rationalize the removal of our forests:
“… many of our Western forests are at risk of turning from a carbon sink to a carbon source,” Tom Tidwell, the head of the Forest Service, told a Senate subcommittee on Nov. 18 in a hearing on forest management and climate change.
“Projections indicate that while these forests continue to sequester more carbon in the short-term, in 30 to 50 years, disturbances such as fire and insects and disease could dramatically change the role of forests, thereby emitting more carbon than currently sequestering.”
So on the one hand, the scientific community considers forests to be carbon sinks, and, when convenient, forests are presented as a carbon threat by government officials. Professors at Oregon State University are unconvinced, and suggest that clearing forests for biofuel could potentially release more carbon through transport and processing than if the material were simply burned in the woods.
Portland’s Oregonian presents further carbon sequestration rationalizations for logging our forests:
Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, said to maximize carbon capture, forests should be logged and turned into lumber, which would store the carbon in the form of two-by-fours and other long-lived wood products.
The Wyoming senator’s view is supported by analysis done by Elaine Oneil at the University of Washington’s forestry school.
Oneil said more carbon is released into the atmosphere by producing wood alternatives like concrete and steel, outweighing the carbon benefit of leaving forests standing.”The best thing to do, in terms of a carbon benefit, is to manage these forests on fairly rapid rotations,” Oneil said of Oregon’s wet, west-side forests… cut more often and plant fast-growing young forests.
All of this was anticipated by Jeffrey St. Clair last summer upon Tidwell’s appointment by President Obama. As Regional Forester for the Northern Rockies Tidwell had a 32 year track record as a “facilitator of forest destruction“… continue