Deforestation in the UK

by Judith Curry

More wood being burnt from British woods than since industrial revolution. – David Rose

While I’m in the UK, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on a UK environmental issue, and I was particularly struck by this recent article by David Rose on biomass burning for energy in the UK.  The article begins:

One gloomy day in March 2012, Pip Pountney, recently retired from Warwick University, went for a walk in Ryton Wood near Coventry with Ann Wilson, a former textile chemist. Ryton’s 216 acres are described by its owners, the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, as ‘one of the largest semi-natural ancient woodlands in Warwickshire’. A Site of Special Scientific Interest, it has long been famous for its bluebells, which flourished every spring beneath a canopy of English oaks. But what ex-teacher Pountney and Wilson saw looked to them like utter desolation. They came across a stand where about 50 mature oaks, some 300 years old, had been felled the previous winter. Their trunks lay in ragged piles, some sawn into roundels.

The oaks’ fate, the Trust has confirmed, was to be burnt: as ‘sustainable’ heating fuel in log-burning stoves – a market which is expanding rapidly. According to trade group HETUS, almost 200,000 such stoves are installed every year – a five-fold increase since 2007.

Logs, however, feed only a part of Britain’s expanding appetite for ‘green’ wood-sourced energy. Adding to demand is the even faster-growing market for heating and hot-water systems fuelled by wood chips and pellets – which is heavily subsidised by taxpayers.

The Forestry Commission and the biomass industry’s lobby group, the Woodland Heat Association, insist this policy is justified on environmental grounds. They say the new ‘biomass’ energy market can improve the quality of forests, by creating new financial incentives to ‘manage’ woods that have been neglected and allowed to run wild.

However, other experts fear that in some forests, the consequences will be disastrous. Oxford University ecologist Clive Hambler said: ‘Subsidising biomass is one of the most counter-productive policies ever invented, and about the most bizarre thing you could possibly do to counter climate change.’

In his view, felling British hard wood forests in order to burn them is harming biodiversity, destroying habitats, and may well increase emissions. He said: ‘Big, hardwood trees are enormous carbon sinks, and take hundreds of years to be replaced.’

Dr Mark Fisher, research fellow at the Wildland Research Institute at Leeds University, agreed, saying: ‘Forests are being butchered in the service of an ideology. This new industry incentivises devastation, and no one is looking at the long-term consequences for our woods.’

Carbon neutral?

An interesting post from Unearthed address the debate over the carbon neutrality of burning wood for energy.  Excerpts:

Some people may regard burning wood chips as carbon neutral because they think the carbon released from burning wood chips can be offset, compared to burning fossil fuels. According to the calculator’s user guide, the previous versions of the calculator regarded biomass as carbon neutral. When trees die, they release carbon into the atmosphere. As other trees grow, the carbon will be recaptured by photosynthesis. Thus, the total amount of carbon in the cycle doesn’t increase.

What’s more, according the guide, the carbon released from burning fossil fuels has been kept in the ground for millions of years, whereas the carbon emitted from burning wood chips is adding only a little carbon to what already exists in the cycle. So when fossil fuels are burned, much carbon is created without enough plants or trees to offset it. Wood, however, can be regrown.

Trees are about half carbon, and when they are burned, the carbon is released into that atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Whether the carbon can be offset by regrowth of trees depends on many factors, such as type of energy produced, types of wood used and how much wood that is harvested, and so on.

One of the major concerns is that the regrowth of trees is not guaranteed and it takes time. Based on the latest scientific studies from around the country, the period of time for recapturing carbon can be 35 to more than 100 years.

An article in the Telegraph Are wood chips really worse than burning coal? states:

Some campaigners believe that using apparently environmentally friendly wood can be three times worse for the climate

Impact on human health

Last February, the American Chemical Society issued a press release on Understanding air pollution from biomass burners used for heating.  Excerpts:

Aki Kortelainen and colleagues note that in Europe, burning wood for heat is one of the biggest sources of fine particulate emissions, contributing about the same amount of these tiny bits of pollution to the air as vehicles on a busy street. All totaled, these emissions — which have been linked to irregular heartbeats, breathing problems and nonfatal heart attacks — are associated with 350,000 premature deaths every year across Europe. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a 10 percent reduction in these particles of dust, soot and smoke could save at least 13,000 lives annually. With the rise in wood chip burners, Kortelainen’s team wanted to better understand the technology’s potential impacts on pollution and health.

The researchers measured fine particulate emissions from a wood-chip burner and found that emissions varied as the fuel went through different stages of combustion. They conclude that emissions can be reduced if burning efficiency can be maintained at a high level. The finding, they say, could help the industry design units that are less polluting and less harmful to people.

JC reflections

All this looks to me like the ‘cure’ is worse than the ‘disease’.   The putative diseases are environmental pollution and climate change and expensive or unavailable energy.  The wood burning ‘cure’ exacerbates air quality problem, increases CO2 in the atmosphere, and damages ecosystems if whole trees are cut down.

“Renewable” energy, rather than fossil fuels, is not useful if it makes air quality worse, adds CO2 to the atmosphere, and damages ecosystems.

Can anyone figure out a defense of this practice (apart from UK homeowners being unable to afford grid energy prices as a result of, well, renewables)?



148 responses to “Deforestation in the UK

  1. Judith asks:

    Can anyone figure out a defense of this practice (apart from UK homeowners being unable to afford grid energy prices as a result of, well, renewables)?

    Maybe someone should check with the Pope’s latest and greatest. He has all the answers, doesn’t he?! /sarc

    • From the comments thread: ithakavi wrote “Sorry, but I’ll take a pass on this one. The encyclical is 189 pages long, and Francis didn’t write it. Perhaps JPII or BXVI could write on a subject with intellectual depth for 189 pages, but not Francis. This encyclical was written by a committee headed by Peter Cardinal Turkson, whose expertise in both physics and economics is approximately zero. Doing as he suggests (erecting an enormous unelected irresponsible corrupt international agency to forcibly restructure global industrial policy) will result in the starvation of tens if not hundreds of millions of people in the Third World. Francis has once again made a fool of himself and embarrassed the faithful.”

    • Judith

      There is actually a companion piece to this, as David wrote about US biomass being used to fuel Drax power station in the UK

      In answer to your question: Burning expensive fuel in an expensive wood burner is not an economic alternative to paying the grid for energy and will also not fuel most peoples central heating or water.

      I suspect the reason for the huge upturn in use in recent years is firstly fashion, second, a return to old time values, three it provides a focal point to a room, four it is an alternative to the grid if that fails due to coal fired power stations being retired and lastly it may be perceived as green


      • Yes, covered the DRAX piece previously, forgot to mention

      • Tony,

        We have a woodburing stove in out house – because we love having a real fire. It’s just about the one definite thing my wife and I agree on when house-hunting. They have really become popular over the last 5 years or so, but as you say the wood isn’t cheap – it’s a really expensive way to heat a room. Nothing quite like it, though.

        Surely only a maniac would ever think domestic wood burning could ever be green.

      • Jonathan

        That’s why I placed being green at number 5. Guardian readers are naive enough to believe the propaganda.

      • There’s something primaeval about a hearty fire which most humans can relate too. It must be hard wired from the genes of our ancestors.

      • My sister heats her whole house exclusively with wood, and it’s a 5 bedroom. Actually had them come a few years ago and remove her propane tank and everything. Course Indiana got hit bad by the emerald ash borer, so firewood’s been cheap lately.

        We really went through a wood revival a few years ago. Corn burners were big back then to. But then the price of Natural Gas dropped and corn skyrocketed.

        Now days most of the rural folks around here and even some in town can heat their houses several different ways. Mom’s place has a gas furnace, electric baseboard heaters as backup, high efficiency fireplace and a corn burner.

        The last few winters, you need all the options you can git :p

  2. Can anyone figure out a defense of this practice (apart from UK homeowners being unable to afford grid energy prices as a result of, well, renewables)?

    Wealthy landowners making a tidy profit on their forests?

    • and besides,
      We don’t need knowlege to act!
      So there!

    • I have a very efficient wood burning stove, but I live in a very rural area, so any particles given off can have very little impact. I source my own logs simply from maintenance of my own trees and I dry all logs for at least 3 years, most probably for 6 years, so they burn very cleanly. My costs are minimal in terms of chainsaw and consumables.

      It is the fashionable elite with woodburners in cities who are the problem.

  3. “A system such as classical mechanics may be ‘scientific’ to any degree you like; but those who uphold it dogmatically—believing, perhaps, that it is their business to defend such a successful system against criticism as long as it is not conclusively disproved—are adopting the very reverse of that critical attitude which in my view is the proper one for the scientist.” ~ Karl Popper

  4. “Aki Kortelainen and colleagues note that in Europe, burning wood for heat is one of the biggest sources of fine particulate emissions, contributing about the same amount of these tiny bits of pollution to the air as vehicles on a busy street. All totaled, these emissions — which have been linked to irregular heartbeats, breathing problems and nonfatal heart attacks — are associated with 350,000 premature deaths every year across Europe.”

    No real information as to the “linkages” or what a “premature death” actually is. I assume the author of these figures can also “link” the heat from burning wood to the avoidance of irregular heartbeats, breathing problems, and heart attacks, both fatal and non fatal. All of these problems, and many others, can result from hypothermia, due to lack of heat sources.

    So how many people are saved from “premature death” by burning wood? If it less than 350,000, then wood burning should be banned. If the people usually burning wood for heat and cooking complain, the Government advisers should merely say “let them use clean, renewable, very expensive electricity”.

    Unfortunately, people in cold climates prefer to keep warm. Using wood as a fuel is not easy. Preparing it yourself is hard work. It has to be split, stacked out of the rain, it splinters, creates soot and ash, and needs constant maintenance of its combustion site. Bummer, but it’s preferable to freezing to death!

    Going outside at midnight, in sub zero temperatures, to chop and carry wood, is no fun. Fires are hard to regulate, and provide radiant heat. Boil on one side, freeze on the other – people with open fireplaces and cold winters will relate to this.

    However, if it is cheaper, or more cost effective why not? It’s only delayed solar power, after all! Horses for courses. And of course, Goverments may decide that your right to burn wood is trumped by the right of others not to be subjected to the smoke, smell and adverse health effects of you exercising your rights.

    One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Ain’t it the truth.

    • We have a cabin on 152 acres we keep in an eco-agreement to preserve some extremely rare plants. We use wood to heat our cabin the odd time we do stay out there. I must say, the amount of wood required to heat the place in spring is astonishing. We go through about four aspen trees during such a weekend of evening only heat. A fellow nearby heats in winter with wood and he prepares a pile of wood larger than his house to get through the winter. And yes there is all that smoke and ash and preplanning to have wood so you don’t have to stumble outside in night. The wood often has insects in it. Moving insects around is what has resulted in the stuff like the devastation following Dutch elm disease. I have to be so careful about not inhaling the smoke and making sure the chimney heated. Plus we can’t get insurance because, frankly, burning wood is dangerous and a major source of fires. I try to imagine a bunch of city people with no connection to the land all switching to wood and all I can see is devastation.

      • Aspen is among the lowest BTU per cord around. Additionally, if you are not seasoning the wood to get the water content down to around 15 to 20% of the weight, you are spending a lot of those BTUs just boiling the water in the wood.

      • Aspen is indeed a poor wood for heating. I live in the parkland in Canada, a mixed zone between boreal and prairie. Here a tree of two stories high and more than 6 inches in girth is a very big tall. So Ishould have been more precise about what I mean by a “tree”. There isn’t real a lot of other wood to choose. Aspen in the predominant wood. We usually cut and stack our wood and it has time for a couple of years of seasoning. When we first arrived there was a long track of logs strung up in trees, uprooted and hung there by a tornado. Based on when the general store replaced their roof those had been seasoning for about seven years. Wood is a fine heat source out in the country where population density is low and cutting is sustainable but I am not a big fan of shipping wood into the city.

  5. So if they paid people a living wage they wouldn’t be forced to burn their heritage forests? There may be two sides to this story.

    • If they burned coal, energy would be much cheaper

      • If they burned dung it would be cheaper still.

      • thomas, “If they burned dung it would be cheaper still.”

        Nope. Dung can fall into the 1100 C combustion range requiring something like a plasma furnace to legally burn it in the UK/EU. It is cheaper to ship waste back to places like Asia, Africa and South America and import US wood chips/pellets because of regulations and (dis)incentives.

        There is a trash triangle growing thanks to NIMBY. Sanitary incineration should really be on the top of the warm and fuzzy agenda, but it just ain’t as sexy as proper biofuel and solar is it?

      • Capt’nDallas

        “There is a trash triangle growing thanks to NIMBY.” I don’t know what you mean. What is a “trash triangle”?

        I am familiar with urban trash incinerators that produce steam for large building heating and steam for the local electric utility. The important calculus is the plastic content of the trash. High plastic content produces your fossil fuel energy source which can not only reduce the transpiration of garbage out of town to a landfill miles and miles away, as well as provide revenue to your municipal utility.

        Sanitary sewers take the effluent to a central processing treatment plant where the solids can and are be sterilized and sold as fertilizer. Are you saying that the dried solids can also be burned as well such as being done in Minnesota with turkey poop?

      • RiH008, “What is a “trash triangle”?”

        Trash is more often than not shipped back to countries of origin than actually being recycled in the EU, thanks to EU regulations on incinerators, land fill taxes and safety guidelines for recycling workers, it is actually cheaper to reload containers with “recyclable” materials and ship it to Africa or Asia. A lot of that is perfectly legal, but some “recyclable” materials that don’t meet EU safety guidelines are more easily dealt with by inexpensive labor in other countries. Most of illegal trash is E-waste with a bit more than E-waste cling on since it was once part of the general rubbish pickup.

        As for poop power, turkey’s got squat on humans :)

        In the US milorganite is generally restricted to ornamental/lawn use. There is some taboo associated with milorganite for food crops. In the EU it is about the same it seems with only about 40% of sludge being used in agriculture while the rest is landfilled or incinerated.

        Waste Management Systems in the US has a prototype plasma fired incinerator with temperatures high enough to safely dispose of nuclear waste so poop is child’s play.

      • Vietnam war era $hit burner:

  6. I think centralized burning of biomass and trash could potentially be very good. If the temperatures are hot enough and particulate is scrubbed little harmful pollution is produced, and if the exhaust is propelled high enough it is too diffuse to be a problem.

    Major issues with biomass are proper land management and competition with food production.

    • I should specify the biomass should be fast growing and done on marginal lands. Perhaps direct burning of switch grass.

      However, I think any biomass may be better used to feed animals for meat and dairy.

    • Aaron, what you have described is how most coal fired plants in the USA are operated today. It seems the EPA does not consider CO2 as “Little Harmful Pollution”, be it from coal or trash. Both trash and biomass are almost certainly going to be less efficient, if only for the water content of each, which does nothing for actually generating energy as in the C + O2 going to CO2 and heat from that reaction from burning coal.

  7. For the moment, IMO, the best thing to do with biomass is dump it into an anoxic ocean trench. Preferably one with a high deposition rate of inorganics, to cover it up before it can decay. Use that to offset fossil emissions.

    Note that this could be done with any sort of (e.g. agricultural) waste, it wouldn’t have to be flammable, or prepared for burning.

    • I’d prefer it to decay and stay in the biosphere.

      • Why? It not only produces CO2 when burned, it produces methane when it rots if you don’t burn it. Better to dump it and replace the ‘lost” CO2 with fossil CO2

      • Doesn’t decaying and rotting biomass give back lots of nutrients to the forest soil, hugely beneficial (even indispensible) to the other trees and plants around?
        That would a good reason imo.
        Could any forest/wood experts on the thread please comment?

      • Not only beneficial to the the plants, it makes them more water efficient and at the same time the increased plant growth will help capture more water on land. The increased IR, being mostly over bodies of water, will also increase evaporation, hopefully bringing more water to land.

      • And methane fuels nitrogen fixing.

  8. As soon as I read the title I thought, with my asthma, I better not visit England. I’m sure the greenies feel these sacrifices are small ones compared to the catastrophe of doing nothing.

    • I’m having an acute case of hay fever or something while over in the UK. Maybe i can blame it on wood chip burning :)

      • I had quite severe asthma at one time. It disappeared completely immediately after I had a minor operation so I put it down to the anaesthetic.

        The Met Office give the pollen count every day. At present it is VERY high. It was a little late starting this year as the season was delayed a couple of weeks by cooler weather

      • Strangely, I find my hay fever is only really bad in the UK – when I go abroad it gets better.

        I appear to be allergic to my native country :(

      • Hay, likewise, JA, but mainly on the plain and in Springtime.

      • curryja,

        If all else fails, you can try plain isotonic saline solution. The brand “Fess” looks like it’s available in the UK. It’s just salt water in a fancy package, but works well in some instances. No harmful side effects, I would think.

        Another option is Spraytish. Works for some, not for others. Contains tramazoline. Should have limited side effects unless overused, as far as I know.

        Being a long time sufferer of chronic sinusitis, I think there are demons resident in the sinus cavities who spend their time dreaming up new ways to torment the owner of said cavities.

        Face aches, headaches, toothaches, aching jaw, mild earache, brain squeeze, brain fag – you name, I’ve had it! Bilateral turbinoplasties, and a variety of other assorted -plastys and -ectomies on three occasions, all sorts of different drugs, acupuncture, ginseng biloba, horseradish, – if it exists, I’ve probably tried it.

        Verdict? Some things work, some things don’t. The things that don’t work this time, may work next time. If all else fails, fall about the place in a fit of despair, and keep repeating “What can’t be cured, must be endured!”

        This might get a laugh from others. Why should everybody be miserable?

        Good health.

      • Keep calm and Curry on.

      • KenW,

        You wouldn’t be trying to Curry favour, would you?

        That’s it. I can’t think of anything worse!

        Don’t get Curried away!

    • Six years ago I was in such bad shape with my asthma that my doctor and I were afraid I was going to die. Bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids barely controlled my symptoms. Now I can go weeks at a time with no meds at all. I have not needed oral prednesone for an acute attack in five years and I used to survive those only because of the stuff using it 4-6 times a year after a hospitalization. Retiring from the stress of academia, not being constantly exposed to bugs from patients in clinic, spending winters in the south, and what I think is most important, a respirologist who decided we had nothing to lose and I was probably going to die soon anyway, we might as well try the Hahn method using Zithromax, (Z-Pak). As for your allergy attack, I suspect it is mould. England is a damp place full of old houses and has a lot of mould. I have had friends return from trips to England and set off my asthma from mould spores in their clothing.

      • Yikes, glad to hear yours is under control. I think my problem is the grasses (I only suffer during June)

      • JC, yes, probably grass pollen, mid June is peak time. We have quite a lot of grass over here. You can get anti-hystamine or steroid nasal sprays over-the-counter which are quite effective.

      • Thx, Agree that the antihistamines are effective, but I have a bad reaction to them. It’s a toss up as to whether the cure or the disease is worse for me

  9. Norwegian wood!

    It grows faster thanks to CO2.

  10. From a forestry (expert) neighbour: the majority of wood chip is softwood, for which there is a good supply, although some timber mills are already expressing serious concerns regarding supply, however the grant arrangements favour hardwood replanting. So slow growing hardwoods are replacing fast growing softwood, so in time we will run low/out. we will then, either need to strip bare the U.S., If there is any left after Drax has been operating for a while, or look to Russia. What could possibly go wrong.

    The trade in logs is easing off, as the price of gas has fallen & the price of timber risen sharply.

    There are protests taking place at biomass plants already, complaining about the emissions, environmentalists are so fickle.

    • In many places, the people who harvest trees do also plant trees. In nature, old forests must burn from time to time and then regrow. We prevent these natural fires until we create disaster conditions. Trees should be harvested and replanted, that is how nature works. Some trees live longer but all trees die, sooner or later.
      Is it a good idea to use trees for fuel, likely not.

      • PCT

        Fire is not a major part of the UK woodland environment. We lose more trees to disease or storms than to wildfires. May have something to do with having a climate of 11 months drizzle and 1 month cold and dry most years ;-)

        More seriously, I think TonyB and Jonathan Abbott have nailed the main issues – in the main, domestic wood burning is not about an intentional replacement of electric or gas-fired central heating, but as a fashion in middle class households. Open wood fires or wood burning stoves are a great centrepiece of a living room, and wood is perceived to be a cheap fuel (we have a stock of logs from the removal of two mature trees from my in-laws garden). Green ideology has little to do with it.

      • Both of my inside fireplaces are gas, I do have a firepit in the backyard, but at least for now I’m feeding it with the dead ash trees from emerald ash borers, I still have 6 or 8 dead trees standing, figure they can stand until I burn up the ash I already have cut down.

  11. J.C. if your passing through Herefordshire, call in.

  12. There’s two different issues incorrectly implied in this story relative to net effect in trends; the release of more CO2 through ongoing deforestation. Based on recent history the facts suggest it’s better described as a case of two steps forward, one step back:

    In England there’s been a net increase of forests:
    In May 2011 the provisional results of analysis of high-tech aerial photography, satellite imagery and other sources were published today as part of the National Forest Inventory. They showed that there were 2,982,000 hectares of woodland across England, Scotland and Wales, representing 13 per cent of Britain’s land area – a massive increase on the 5% tree cover we had when the Commission was formed some 90 years ealier.

    Obviously any wood burning will create CO2, but net overall there’s massive reforestation taking place globally, leading to ever more CO2 sequestration.

    A recent JC link:

    • The trees are growing better while using less Water because of increased CO2

    • Reforestation is an interesting aspect.

      At the same time, much of Britain’s wood use is not of British wood, but of American wood pellets shipped there:

      Probably economic incentive for American exporters, though it would make sense for UK and others to use and develop fuels closer to home.

      Natural gas probably wins out soon, provided fracking isn’t banned.

      From an environmental perspective, wood burning is bad.
      In the US, most people burn fires recreationally but they are highly polluting.

    • It’s a good point. People have been trained to think the world is being stripped of trees like they’ve been trained to believe in melting poles and a dying Barrier Reef. So nobody checks.

      The reality where I live is that it is no longer viable to keep land clear of regrowth. It’s hard without a very strong economic imperative, even with all our modern equipment. Sid Kidman, a genius of foresight, never saw the development of feedlots and the brilliant Daniel Ludwig couldn’t know that people would need less and less newsprint. Things never peak, or hardly ever. The world just changes – and deciding how it will change is a worse bet than a three-legged horse in a Melbourne Cup.

      I keep hearing my descendants giggling at the very word ‘futurology’. Hombre, that’s an embarrassing word.

    • The eastern U.S.also has many more trees than 100 years ago. Suburbs have more trees than farms. Can we get credits for that?

  13. I live around classic timbers, with good burning species including the much sought after bloodwood. Fireplaces make sense around here, but the world needs plenty of good cheap fossil fuel for its heating and cooling needs. Urban people need grids. The grid does not need or want my forest. It has the good Permian black lying all around it.

    Making one energy source a villain means more demand is placed on other sources. Ban coal and you use more gas/oil (while pretending to use whirly and solar power) so there is less for gas/oil-specific purposes. People I know with all-solar houses use a lot more diesel, gas and wood than I use. Lots more! Guess what happens where firewood is banned. Some people shiver but most fall back on fossil fuel power, right?

    People talk green but crave the other. To understand real humans and their wants, observe what people do immediately AFTER Earth Hour. Nehru said it cost India a fortune to keep Gandhi in poverty. Likewise it takes a mighty fossil fuel power system to keep delivering those anti-fossil fuel ‘messages’. I’m sure Times Square on New Years Eve is just ablaze with green ‘messaging’.

    Surely conservation means you are thrifty with everything and fetishistic about nothing. Whoever came up with a way to make coal and petroleum burn better was a conservationist. Whoever thought niche technologies should be mainstreamed because they were ‘green’ was not a conservationist. And so on.

    I’d like a perfectly insulated mudbrick house with all sorts of solar contraptions. But I’d be aware that the money and means were mostly the result of heavy industry and transport based on coal, oil and gas.

    Make a better wind turbine and you’ll be a conservationist. Put that better wind turbine into a role which it can’t adequately fulfil and you’ve wasted money and the fossil fuels needed to mine, manufacture, transport, install and supplement that better wind turbine.

    I’m burning eucalyptus this evening in a closed heater. But if I was living in Sydney I’d be turning a knob to stay warm with gas or coal power. And I’m glad that people elsewhere are using nukes or hydro to keep warm. That’s conservation. However, putting nukes in the wrong place is not conservation and demolishing forests to feed the grid is not conservation. Allowing coal power stations to fall into decrepitude when you know you will still be needing them is not conservation.

    Conservation has to be thrifty before it gets all green and fancy.

  14. Reblogged this on and commented:
    A number of the emissions estimates for “green” energy seem to be a case of cherry picked assumptions and ignoring inconvenient data. Another coals to Newcastle?

  15. There is of course the associated rise in lorries on our roads in distributing the wood chip products, e.g.

  16. Personally I think it mad to chop down a 100 year old oak and burn it in the guise of being green on the basis that the co2 it has captured can be recaptured by planting a replacement. Surely that isn’t correct?

    I don’t know if anyone has any figures as to when a tree such as an oak starts to capture co2 at its maximum and at what stage in its life it starts to decline?

    Presumably it will be something like a bell curve as per the sample here

    That is to say that a mature tree will be absorbing far more co2 than the young one that will eventually replace it, so consequently it will take many decades before the tree that has been cut down and burnt is replaced by a tree mature enough to be an equally good sink.


    • My family inadvertently entered the carbon capture business about 35 years ago when my son’s pre-school class gave out redwood tree seedlings for Arbor day. My wife planted his in our front yard, and now we have a huge redwood tree. I’ve estimated its size, and calculated that in about 5 more years it will have consumed ALL the carbon dioxide above my 6700 square foot house lot. Since winds have imported replacement CO2 in the air above my lot, this tree can continue as a carbon sink for about 200 years. I’ve seen a similar size house lot in my city (near Redwood City, California) with over 20 redwood trees; that house is in its own mini-forest.

    • TonyB, look up managed woodlot productivity. Forestry figured out how to max productivity (which is the same as maximum CO2 sequestration) decades ago. Depends on species mix a bit, but the general rule is always similar unless it is a managed plantation ( some softwood species like SYP). The answer lies in way a forest woodlot works, not the way an individual tree works. Maximum sustained production in a mixed hardwood forest comes from selective logging of the biggest most mature trees every 20-30 years. We have three woodlots on the farm, about 60, 40, and 30 acres. One gets selectively logged every ten years. White, red, and black oak, hard maple, hickory, black cherry. Sold mostly for furniture and flooring, with junkier boles sold to a nearby (40 miles away) consumer tissue pulp mill. Doesn’t preturb the wildlife much at all (deer, turkey, grouse, squirrel, rabbit, coyote, occaisonal rambling black bear). Opens up the canopy, all the remaining trees get a growth spurt, and the openings grow browse, berries, grasses until the canopy closes again.
      The left behind crowns are sufficient to heat three farmsteads (mine and two neighbors who don’t have easily workable woodlots) through Wisconsin winters. And we always have wood left over. Works in a very rural area like mine. Probably not so well in more densely populated UK.

    • tonyb — What you are alluding to is a Sigmoid Curve:

      For Energy Crop Plantations of fast growing trees (e.g., eucalyptus grandis, amps, cams), we want to maximize our economics per acre over time to harvest when the curve flattens out (and re-plant or let the cut trees coppice). For eucs, this is about 4 years.

  17. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun – Noel Coward

  18. We heat with wood at the farm. Mostly deadfall or crowns from selective logging. Fine particulate is not a problem waynout in the boonies. But where it might be (ski resorts, for example) the simple solution is a catylicic converter, which works well to reduce ‘smoke’ to invisible exhaust once heated up. Requires a firebox or stove for draft control, not an open hearth.
    As for sequestration the answer is middle aged trees do the most, as this relates to net wood volume produced per year. Young trees grow up and out (bole diameter) but aren’t big enoughmto produce much volume. Old trees grow only out, and typically more slowly (can be seen in increasing tree ring density. Managed woodlots that are not clearcut will harvest yhe largest oldest trees every 20 years or so, opening the forest canopy and giving the saplings and large immature trees a nice growth spurt.

  19. if you want sustainable biomass to burn, I would suggest bamboo. There’s no native European species, but it happily grows in the UK and it grows so fast that on a good day you can actually hear it growing. Less of a growth rate, more of a speed….

    If you’re that was inclined, you could also pyrolyse it, to turn it into carbon that you could both bury to sequester and improve soil quality/productivity…

    Almost a win/win kind of situation. It’s not even fussy about the soil that you plant it in.. So it would grow on rough/poor quality ground….

    It is a little invasive, so a little care would need to be taken, but other than that I think it fits the bill. Must be better than shipping pellets of wood around the world.

    • The Ag Scientists (like at UF) are doing a lot of work in the lab to develop “sterile clones” for potentially invasive energy crops.

      • I hope users won’t forget how a massive clone population can breed destructive diseases. Hopefully, the Ag Scientists keep that in mind as well.

  20. So, thanks to EU mandates, trees in the SE U.S. are cut using fossil fuel, transported to the mill using fossil fuel, pelletized using fossil fuel, shipped 3800 miles using fossil fuel, and burned (by some accounts creating more asthma-inducing particulates than coal) to produce absurdly-expensive electricity.

    A similar environmental absurdity is occurring in Indonesia and Malaysia in part to satisfy EU mandates for biodiesel via increased exports of palm oil. The burning of forest and peat bogs to expand palm oil plantations is making Indonesia one of the world’s top CO2 emitters.

    Oddly, articles expressing outrage at decimation of Indonesia-Malaysia forest and resident fauna rarely mention EU mandates for biodiesel. Scientific American advocates a UN program that has “developed nations” pay corrupt governments to prevent forest destruction (article here). But EU use of palm oil for biofuels production grew 365% from 2006-2012. How will that growth be sustained?

    And if Indonesian politicians and EU bureaucrats are subject to corruption, would a UN bureaucracy be immune?

    Climate change hysteria appears to be one of the most corrupting influences ever.

    • verdeviewer commented on
      in response to curryja:
      by Judith Curry More wood being burnt from British woods than since industrial revolution. – David Rose
      So, thanks to EU mandates, trees in the SE U.S. are cut using fossil fuel, transported to the mill using fossil fuel, pelletized using fossil fuel, shipped 3800 miles using fossil fuel, and burned (by some accounts creating more asthma-inducing particulates than coal) to produce absurdly-expensive electricity.

      I can’t help but think my(our) parents were as aghast at the changes in their world, but it seems to me most of the world has gone crazy.
      This is but one example, Germany building coal power plants because they shutdown their nuclear power stations and replaced them with wind and solar, and found out that was killing their manufacturing base with high priced energy.
      The US has build wind farms that chop endangered bald eagles to death, solar boilers that torches birds that fly through reflected sunlight, with nary a peep from the EPA. While at the same time the EPA wants a say in the puddle of standing water in your backyard.
      And then we have a young blond haired white woman, Rachel Dolezal who have been self identifying herself as a black. And she had gotten away with it for many years, it was only after someone interviewed her parents that this sorry affair became news. Now there’s rumors she’s shopping for a gig on TV.

      If it wasn’t for the trillions that this whole CAGW cost,a bunch of scientists milking NSF wouldn’t even make the blogoshere.

  21. Dr Curry

    I am in moderation. I know, I know my post is toooooo long, but, it is what it is.

  22. Pingback: Deforestation in the UK | I World New

  23. Turbulent Eddie wrote on June 18, 2015 at 11:19 am

    “Reforestation is an interesting aspect.

    At the same time, much of Britain’s wood use is not of British wood, but of American wood pellets shipped there”

    I have a hobby which occasionally sends me to the “big orange” stores looking for softwood lumber. The price increases over the past few years has been staggering. I would guess that owners can harvest trees for pellets before they grow large enough for 10″ dimensional boards. Yet it is true that the southeastern US is more heavily forested today than it was 100 years ago.

  24. Here where I live in Taupo, New Zealand, we have a large wood pelletising plant. It has a mountain of woodchips outside supplied by the local sawmills. The plant is up for sale as they have no significant market, especially since the subsidies in Europe were reduced.
    The wood comes from pines that grow very fast here – about 30 years to reach 60m high. However, there is low prices for the wood or pulp and paper so the land is being converted into dairy farms.
    There is a wood burning boiler at the pulp and paper mill up the road. They use it to dispose of all the wood waste they can’t use in the plant. It produces 40MW and the factory steam. They need supplementary gas firing to keep it running. The looked at harvesting wood waste left in the forest from the logging operations. It wasn’t economic for them, even with the forest next door to the mill, so I doubt whether it is worthwhile for anyone else.

  25. See also Ethanol mandate in the USA. Government is incompetent and corrupt — always. Because power corrupts. And as govt takes control of more and more of our lives, it becomes even less capable at handling the simple basics that it really ought to try to handle.

    So these type of environmental mandates by govt are a real lose, lose, lose proposition. They end up making the environment worse, the economy weaker, and they distract the govt such that basic govt administration is even worse.

    • Stanton Brown: I disagree with your post. What your common argument always fails to address is: What do we replace ethanol with for minimum octane requirements in our cars?

      Lead? MTBE? Benzine? What?

      Are things like birth defects, children’s mental development, cancer threats associated with ethanol alternatives no long important?

      • Stephen Segrest,

        Diluting gasoline with ethanol is not the smartest thing to do. Its calorific value is lower, it is hygroscopic, can be deleterious to some components in the fuel path, and so on.

        Using more expensive to refine components in the gasoline mixture avoids the use of “additives”. 95 RON gasoline costs more than 91 RON gasoline because it has a different blend of alkenes, alkanes, and cycloalkanes, and other compounds.

        Adding compounds like tetraethyl lead is just a money saving device, with some side benefits. It also allowed engine manufacturing cost savings relating to valve seats and engine blocks.

        Gasoline is pretty toxic stuff. It’s also useful in internal combustion engines. I use PULP 95 RON rather than RON 91 with added ethanol increasing the RON to 95. It is more cost effective for me, as the increased calorific content of the PULP exceeds the cost saving of the ethanol blend. Similarly with normal ULP 91 RON, even though my vehicle’s computerised engine management system automatically adjusts for the different octane rating.

        There are other benefits from using the higher priced fuels, relating to their formulation on the basis that they may be expected to perform in efficient engines with high specific power outputs.

        So, use ethanol blended gasoline if you wish. Avoid older cars designed to run using leaded gasoline. It may not be cheap to repair damage caused to the engine if valve seats fail due to changed thermal transfer coefficients, resulting in valve seat recession.

        I hope I have helped.

      • Yes. Completely agree. And folks forget that the net consumption is roughly 42%maize -27% distillers grain used to feed dairy and beef.

        But speaking as a benefiting farm owner, there is no excuse for a blendwall above 10% ethanol oxygenate, or for E85, or the Flexfuel CAFE standard avoidance thus enabled. Another example of CAGW BS.

      • Mike Flynn — I’m probably one of few people in the ethanol biz that thinks the Obama Administration is correct in not breaking through the 10% blend wall. IMO, the future growth of ethanol should primarily be on a lower “adjusted price” (e.g., the BTU difference you correctly, of course cited).

        When people (especially in Congress) call for the total elimination of the Renewable Fuel Standard, what fully vetted studies/reports do they cite of what to replace ethanol with to achieve ~84 to ~87 minimum octane requirements for the entire inventory of U.S. gasoline?

        There is none, that I know of.

        Fully vetted should be a complete health assessment on cancer concerns (like that has been done on benzine, which the EPA limits to a blending level of 0.62%). On other aromatics, the EPA simply has not conducted a full scale assessment (i.e., cancer) on these alternatives.

        Fully vetted should also be cost at the pump — and probably more important, the gasoline industry’s willingness to retro-fit their facilities by spending billions of dollars to compete against ethanol.

        Would like to see these studies say, by the Congressional Budget Office.

      • Mike and Stephen

        Thanks a lot guys. :p I used to think I knew a thing or two about this subject, being a cornfeed Indiana farm boy and all.

        Like taking out a canoe only to find everyone else on jetski’s. >¿<

      • Stephen Segrest,

        I am not sure what you are after.

        Crude oil tends to consist of long chain alkanes, amongst other things. Refineries “crack” some of these into short chain compounds, and also reform some compounds, and produce isomers which provide anti knock properties.

        All these things come at a cost. There is no need for any “additives” from outside the crude refining process. Shorter chain alkanes increase octane rating, but are (obviously) more volatile. Generally, more refining means a higher cost.

        The configuration of US refineries and foreign refineries is quite different, but I don’t know why US refineries can’t produce high octane fuel without additives distinct from products derived from the crude refining process.

        It seems a bit odd.

        Maybe you are worried about the carcinogenic properties of the components of high octane gasoline. Everything is dangerous, if misused. Most modern vehicles have a sealed system, so unless you inhale the vapours or absorb it through your skin, your risk should be minimal. Ethanol itself is both toxic and carcinogenic, but it is unlikely you would drink enough gasoline to experience the toxic effects of the ethanol.

        I’m happy enough to pay a little bit more for 100% gasoline, 95 octane.

    • Mike Flynn — I’m not a Chemical Engineer (not smart enough) and I don’t understand what you are driving at.

      In the formulation of gasoline for our cars, the process has always come up short in octane requirements. At first they added lead, but every World Health Organization found that this did bad things (which even the Romans knew 2,000 years ago) like birth defects and children’s brain development. Only two countries still blend lead in their gasoline — N. Korea and Afghanistan.

      So here in the U.S., the gasoline industry moved to MTBE. But, this was found to have cancer concerns.

      Ethanol has none of health concerns of Lead and MTBE to achieve minimum octane requirements of 87 for our national supply of gasoline.

      Benzine (an aromatic) in limited use due to health concerns (blending of 0.62% or 1% in the UK) was deemed OK by the EPA. This and other aromatics (toluene and xylene) is what you use for higher octane levels (premium octane fuels are a relatively small mix of the overall U.S. fuel inventory).

      The EPA (to my knowledge) has not conducted full scale health impact studies on things like toluene and xylene at national blending levels of ~10% with gasoline to achieve minimum 87 octane.

      If it’s relatively easy, why didn’t the gasoline industry just change their chemical process after (1) lead was banned; or (2) after MTBE was banned?

      • If it’s relatively easy, why didn’t the gasoline industry just change their chemical process after (1) lead was banned; or (2) after MTBE was banned?

        There are a number of web pages out there describing oil refining, gas formulations, and octane rating.
        But basically 100 octane is exactly that, 100% 8 carbon atom octane hydrocarbon chains. But, you can get 100 “octane” knock rating a lot of different ways that can be cheaper. Basically they have a knock test engine, and compare different formulations against pure octane, this is the motor knock rating (or M) and there’s a research method (R), the gas pump rating is the average of the two (at least on the pumps in the US) . Plus lead wasn’t just for octane, it was a coolant for valve seats, and guides. And then there’s cleaning agents to reduce carbon deposits.
        Also then there’s more advanced chemistry where instead of a chain of carbon atoms, they make rings, which have a higher knock rating. So like many things, business make a adequate product as cheaply as possible, until we figure out there’s a better way, or they need more cleaning agents, or lead is bad, and so on.
        Sort of like synthetic oils, some are/were made from oil base stocks, as more advanced chemistry process became cheaper, some syn oils are made entirely from short chain hydrocarbons (Nat gas I think?).

      • Lead also affects cognition and brain development. Over half of the decrease in violent crime which originally attributed to legalized abortion has now been attributed to eliminating lead from gasoline based on timing of the implementation of regulations in various countries.

      • America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead

        New research finds Pb is the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic. And fixing the problem is a lot cheaper than doing nothing.

        An interesting read. I was especially struck by the careful way correlations were gathered and examined by US state, city (vs. rural), and nations. Even by neighborhood. Somehow, the difference between this attribution of mental problems to lead and the supposed “attribution” of climate problems to CO2 stands out to me.

        Location, Location, Location

        In New Orleans, lead levels can vary dramatically from one neighborhood to the next—and the poorest neighborhoods tend to be the worst hit.

        Put all this together and you have an astonishing body of evidence. We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.

      • Stephen Segrest,

        “EPA’s certification fuel is indolene, a standardized test gasoline free of additives. One source cites an indolene MON of 87 and RON of 96.5, thus yielding a pump octane of 91.5; another, a pump octane of 92.9.”

        You will notice that this is a gasoline free of additives. No xylene, no toluene, no benzene.

        However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is far more expensive than the gasoline I buy. It also is free of various additives such as surfactants (detergents) which increase engine efficiency.

        To partially answer your last question about the gasoline industry, this quote from the Royal Society of Chemistry may help –

        “Today the UK’s fuels boast among the highest detergent levels in the world, causing correspondingly low levels of deposit buildup. This contrasts with the US, where minimum additive levels are set by legal mandate and commercial fuel producers raced each other to reach that minimum, again to reduce their costs.”

        Manufacturers generally maximise profit, and why not?

        For example, the EPA tried to ban asbestos in automotive brakes, but manufacturers were not happy, and fought back in court –

        “. . . the court rejected the EPA’s efforts to ban existing uses of asbestos including: asbestos-cement, corrugated and flat sheet, asbestos clothing, pipeline wrap, roofing felt, vinyl-asbestos floor tile, asbestos-cement shingle, millboard, asbestos-cement pipe, automatic transmission components, clutch facings, friction materials, disc brake pads, drum brake linings, brake blocks, gaskets, valve and pump packings, non-roofing coatings, and roof coatings. On-going uses of asbestos pose a serious danger to human health.”

        So the use of octane boosting additives in gasoline used in a sealed system might be the least of your worries!

      • Mike Flynn — Thanks!. I’ll do some reading on indolene.

        To understand your position — The U.S. EPA uses an incorrect regulatory model/paradigm. You believe a correct Regulatory approach would be that used in the UK — where biofuel octane blending does not occur in practice? Also, the UK never used MTBE?

        I always want to try and learn something but I scratch my head over the fact that one of the largest customers of U.S. produced ethanol is Saudi Arabia (of all places).

      • Stephen Segrest,

        You wrote –

        “To understand your position — The U.S. EPA uses an incorrect regulatory model/paradigm. You believe a correct Regulatory approach would be that used in the UK — where biofuel octane blending does not occur in practice? Also, the UK never used MTBE?”

        We have a misunderstanding here. I don’t believe I have expressed any opinion as to the relative merits of regulatory regimes.

        In the UK, biofuel blending does occur, although consumers are not necessarily aware of this. Some suppliers do not add ethanol.

        If consumers become aware of the hidden addition of ethanol to petrol (gasoline), often they are prepared to pay more for ethanol-free petrol.

        Some flavour of consumer thought can be gained from the following from a respected tuning and race development company –

        “You can’t sugar coat this: it’s a nightmare. I work on 30-35 GSX-R1000 engines every year, but the ones that come from the USA, where their fuel is really nasty, have valves caked in crap when I take them out. At the moment, the 5% Ethanol content over here is bearable, but only if you take precautions.”

        BP has just abandoned its investment in the UK’s largest bio ethanol plant, and another large bio ethanol plant has shut down. The UK has used MTBE, but apparently at less concentrations than most of Europe, where MTBE usage in increasing, for obvious reasons.

        It’s all a wee bit complicated, and I don’t think there are any easy answers. Manufacturers and consumers go in the direction of cost effectiveness, but governments sometimes head in the opposite direction. That’s how it seems to me anyway.

        I’m not looking for any arguments. I’m just giving my opinion, hopefully backed by facts to support it, in case others may find it helpful, or useful.

  26. Speaking of bad policy, here’s US presidential candidate Martin O’Malley promising executive order to make all new federal buildings to be “net zero” emissions and federal vehicles “low or zero” emissions.
    I didn’t know Tesla made tanks and post office jeeps. And I guess we can only build federal buildings next to nuclear power plants. The rest of the promises are even goofier.
    A perfect example of politicians being misled by the warm.

  27. richardswarthout

    Pope Francis Encyclical is About More Than Climate Change

    ‘Nevertheless, Francis is clear that “the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.” Everyone concerned with the values Francis highlights will need to investigate the relevant empirical facts and consider, in light of them, which policies will best promote those values.

    Francis seeks “to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.” Just so.

    Now is the time to renew an honest and open debate about which policies will best serve to protect and promote a healthy ecology in all of its dimensions.’


    • “,,,open and honest debate….”

      The MSM is not reporting that is his message. They are pulling the quotes out like this: “The chemist-turned-pope takes as fact that the world is getting warmer and that human activity is mostly to blame.
      ‘The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.’ “

  28. Dr Curry, I haven’t done a strict analysis, but here goes a rough opinion: if every tree they burn is eventually replaced by a tree with identical carbon content the net result is negative, simply because it takes energy to cut the tree, slice it, and transport it to the end user. This approach may make some sense if it involves burning grass clippings, whereby the human labor is provided by a teenager pushing a mechanical lawnmower.

  29. Judith,

    It’s good that you highlight the deforestation problem in the UK as people adapt to increasing costs of energy. However, the bad news is, as you pointed out, more pollutants in the atmosphere.

    This has been an ongoing problem in the Uk for at least two to three years, according to the UK press. The real question? – what happen when the wood runs out? Peat?

    George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA

    • George Klein,

      Let them burn dung!

      We need the peat for the Islay single malts! Far too precious to waste on keeping the unwashed masses warm.

      Good God, man, what were you thinking?

  30. Another progressive example of “missing the forest for the trees.”

  31. Judith Curry,

    It seems that I am in moderation and I can’t get out. Help!

    • Who will rescue RiHoO8?

      • Beththeserf

        It seems that St Judith of Orleans (or nearby) has released my toooo long post up thread. Now I need help in writing a long post without landing in the most vigilant moderation dumpster. The alternative of course is to be less verbose. A failing I fear. I am so in love with my own words.

        BTW I like your poetry. Thanks

  32. Dr. Curry — I don’t know diddley of what’s going on in the UK.

    But here in the U.S. — No, Commercial scale Farmers and Bio-energy Engineers are not clear cutting pristine native forests for fuel.

    (1) Our feedstocks are coming either through (A) forestry management clearings of cull trees; (B) dedicated energy crop plantations (usually on marginal lands for long-term restoration efforts).

    (2) Engineering applications are combined heat & power (with high efficiency) and biomass gasification for steam and power (an IGCC).

    (3) Through something called co-firing, we are applying gasification technology and also direct injection of solid biomass in a boiler (reburn zone) as a low cost strategy to reduce SO2 and NOx emissions at older coal units (keeping them in air reg compliance rather than just retiring the units). I believe I read somewhere that Drax was doing this in the UK to save jobs.

    (4) We spend a lot of time trying to understand and develop integration between farming and energy production (gasification) to produce biochar for its return to soils for sequestration and soil buiding (stable component of C).

    (5) We believe that all Catholic Farmers doing this type of stuff should receive a special payment from the Federal Government per year of $1.472 Million because we are wonderful people.

  33. Before and After Pictures:

    (1) One of our Sites before tree crop development (marginal land):

    (2) What about 125,000 tree seedlings look like at Nursery:

    (3) What same Site looked like after about 3 years:

    • Stephen, Australia? There is no way forests grow that fast in Wisconsin. And, unless a pine plantation (we have some NWP, no SYP), it is much less expensive to let Mother Nature do the forest’s own reseeding, as the woodlots produce a ‘mast’ crop every year, which my wildlife rely upon when not eating our alfalpha, oats, maize, and soybeans. Not to mention the vegetables in the garden!

      • Central Florida, Panhandle Florida/Mobile, South Georgia/JAX area. Work has been with Univ. of Florida, Univ. of Georgia, Auburn, DOE and its Labs (NREL, ORNL), EPRI.

        UF also has some new hybrid pine that are incredible.

        Univ. Wisconsin-Madison is one of my favorite places. Ag Scientists there are just as strange as me (I feel at home). Their Greenhouse Complex is incredible.

      • As I wrote above, there’s non solar energy being used to cut and deliver the wood to the end user, and to plant and grow the tree. I haven’t seen a balance, and I wonder if somebody has done it for a tree plantation in Florida?

    • When ENSO, PDO, IOD and the rest of the acronyms are favourable, one of these sweaty beauties can go from the ground to a hundred feet in seven weeks.

      Permanent La Nina would suit me fine…but we have to think of California’s lawns, I suppose.

      • mosomoso — Your euc would give us problems. Traditional forestry harvesting involves skidders, fellerbuncher, on-site chippers. We row design and plant our energy crop plantations (up to incredibly 4,000 trees per acre) to be harvested by a one step (pass) forage harvester (e.g., Claas of Germany).

        Of course, well, the Germans are just smarter than the rest of us. So, maybe they could design a real bad boy for your euc (maybe making it solar powered to boot!). If so, it would be fun to operate especially after a couple of cans of Red Bull Energy Drink.

      • Incredible! I would not have believed it had I not seen it. I’m just guessing but a 3 year old white pine here in Michigan couldn’t be knee high yet.

      • Nobody believes till they see. The last days of growth are the fastest, with all the sap peaking and the old poles half-killing themselves to heave up the new generation. Of course, the culm has to harden up in ground for five years to be good timber. But it truthfully does all its growing in just seven weeks around here when we get the right conditions.

        One advantage I’ve noticed with moso is it doesn’t tend to ferment when mulched and piled, unlike those American wood pellets, which are flooded with nitrogen for transportation – yet another sundry to add to the bill.

        But moso is not for burning in power stations. We have the luscious black coal of the Sydney-Gunnedah Basin for that. Centuries of the gorgeous stuff!

      • mosomoso Us Farmers are forced to be pretty humble folks, often saying “Go Figure” when things happen that we don’t fully understand (at least not yet).

        We’ve noticed the same thing with eucs that you referred to. In farming we are interested in creating good soil organic carbon (matter) levels. This involves a C stable fraction (like biochar) and a C active fraction (like green chop) — for especially sustainability, you need both.

        We’ve noticed that the euc’s root system (unlike other tree species like cottonwood, willows, pines) acts like (mimics) a stable fraction. Go figure.

      • Stephen, I fear that biochar is more for sustaining the seminar industry than anything else. It’s worth remembering that Christian Turney has been a prominent biochar salesman. We’d all like some terra preta from an ancient disused pottery, we’d all like to use genuine waste intelligently. I exploit then eliminate the cursed lantana by using it as ideal cover and companion for moso. But the lantana is already there. I don’t call in the big machines to create an environment for moso. And there is no way I would consent to stripping riverine areas out west of willow to make and transport biochar to be buried here on the coast.

        Big Green has lately taken to creating waste at great cost to fit some theory of ‘sustainablility’. We see it in so many areas, Woodchips-to-Drax being perhaps the most scandalous example. My main objection to wind power in situ is not the bird-chopping but the clearing of ridges and slopes which, world-wide, need to be reforested.

        I’m not saying there is no use for biochar or soil enrichment or for the kind of work you are doing. I’m saying that Big Green is a hungry beast which doesn’t seem to care how many Peters are robbed to pay a couple of Pauls. Its motto might as well be: You can’t incinerate an omelette without breaking all the eggs.

      • mosomoso — When I post (where usually 99% of folks jump on my case), I’m trying to give a glimpse of stuff that current state-of-art engineers and farmers are doing (that a lot of people at CE are probably not aware of).

        Biochar is a good example — In conjunction with commercial scale biomass gasification (not Mom & Pop backyard stuff), we are trying to understand the waste product better (as a value added product).

        While I don’t blog much, I did talk about this at a post at:

  34. …….(forests)…. are being butchered in the service of an ideology.

    Many things are, apart from forests.

  35. “…burning wood for heat is one of the biggest sources of fine particulate emissions, contributing about the same amount of these tiny bits of pollution to the air as vehicles on a busy street.”
    Wood burning, and in particular wood burning stoves such as the Franklin stove (Ben Franklin invention/improvement) improved the efficiency of using wood as a hearing source vs fireplaces (a fireplace is about 5% heat efficient). New England, and then the Midwest were cleared of their forests as the wood served as building material, the cleared land for agriculture and the wood was burned to heat homes. By the middle of the 19th Century coal was mined in abundance not only to fuel the furnaces of the Industrial Revolution, but coal made its way into the urban homes as coal is more energy dense, doesn’t cost as much to transport and does not take a year to “season” as wood does.
    By the beginning of the 20th Century coal was blackening not only the urban sky, but blackening the urban dweller’s lungs. The coal dust inhaled by breathing, overwhelmed the respiratory defense system contributing to a plague of “consumption”; i.e. tuberculosis. The 1920 Swine Flu epidemic loss of life more likely than not was exacerbate by the compromised respiratory health from coal dust inhalation.
    And then, almost a miracle, natural gas was found in abundance and instead just fueling the quaint gas street lights, in the 1920’s, replaced home burning of coal with natural gas. Within a decade, the skies cleared, the respiratory burden was substantially reduced and, importantly, the incidence of tuberculosis plummeted 25 years before the first effective anti-tuberculosis medications.
    While the Midwest began using lots of natural gas in urban centers where the gas mains could be laid economically, oil, heat oil was refined and used for more remote locations for heating until the first OPEC oil Embargo of 1973 closely followed by the second oil energy crisis of 1979.
    Reawakened by the oil crisis there was a rush to a Voltairean utopia as well as the idyllic and economical appeal of using wood burning stoves as a major source of heating homes. Vermont stoves and then many many other steel and stone and clay and cast iron wood burning stoves populated living rooms and dens.
    The modern wood burning stove is a delayed combustor with two chambers; a lower chamber for pyrolysis in a starved oxygen environment creating gases which then pass to the upper chamber and an oxygen rich environment where the gases are burned. The efficiency of the modern wood burning stove with this design went from 30+ heat efficiency to @ 65% efficiency.
    Using a wood burning stove seems all is well and good and natural until, you have to tend the fire in the bottom chamber. In the 30 or so seconds it takes to stoke the embers and add another log or two into the lower chamber, the gases and particulates, all 7000+ of them concentrated in the lower chamber diffuse to the room which serves as a large reservoir or sink. Particulate concentrations can go from 6000 counts per second to 600,000 counts per second in the 30 seconds the chamber door is open. The second problem is creosote formed from pyrolysis and forms a combustable tar on the inside of exhaust pipes during the initial cooling process as the incompletely burned materials exits the upper chamber portion of the stove.
    Addressing the second problem of creosote accumulation first, one can mitigated creosote accumulation to some degree by vigilance to keeping the stove always hot, venting frequently, and cleaning the chimney pipe often. For people who are not inclined to spend their lives keeping the wood burning stove in optimal condition, one gets chimney fires, burning down houses, and killing the occupants with carbon monoxide.
    Addressing the indoor pollution, what happens to all those gases and particulates that have just flooded your living space? The oils and tars make a fine film on all the walls, furniture, clothing and windows (see the oil slick of rainbow colors as one looks through the window) and, into one’s lungs. 7000 + particulates and chemicals are breathed in, of which some 70+ are carcinogenic. The most vulnerable to the effects of all these inhaled chemicals are the one’s who breath the most, or really, breath the most rapidly; i.e., infants and children. So, who would you imagine would be the first and most effected by the indoor pollution of wood burning stoves? your kid of course. Kids are the canary in your living room’s coal mine. Cough, wheeze, pneumonia, apnea, sudden infant death syndrome, and on and on. Doctors visit, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, drugs for this cough, that pneumonia, inhalers, nebulizers, days off of work to take care of a sick kid, and on and on.
    Now I know that I will get much flack from the wood burning stove industry and the back to nature crunch granola crowd as the modern wood burning stove has made leaps in improvements since those early oil crisis days. However, the major driver for mitigation of these respiratory health effects has been the humongous work involved in the care and feeding of a wood burning stove, wood burning to heat your house is labor intensive; i.e., acquiring the wood, cutting and stacking and seasoning the wood, maintaining the fire, and cleaning out the ashes and the chimney. To heat with wood, one needs a ready access to a lot of wood: 25 to 35 cords of wood a season (cord 8X4X4 stack). Which means of course, you need your own wood lot. After people have cut down the trees in the parks and cemeteries and denuded nearby forests, wood for heating is very expensive. The economics of wood heat favors most other home heating fuels by a large margin.
    The fad of making fossil fuel more expensive and trying to substitute a “natural” and “green” energy, particularly wood fuel energy, is well… fuelish. Economics are important in the global calculus for energy for heating one’s home. Particularly, when the public utility shuts off your gas for lack of payment? you and yours freeze or, you go to live with relatives; go to your consumer friendly homeless shelter; go to your accommodating legislator to have the utility company provide gas to your house for free and have other paying customers pay your bills. Making natural gas expensive or unavailable because of its carbon footprint believing biofuels are carbon neutral means…more people suffering.
    By not using a wood burning stove to heat your home you save money on energy, you save CO2 guzzling trees, you eliminate a controllable source of indoor and outdoor air pollution, and you save the costs of health care you and society no longer spend for your sick child. Win win win win

  36. One of the major concerns is that the regrowth of trees is not guaranteed and it takes time. Based on the latest scientific studies from around the country, the period of time for recapturing carbon can be 35 to more than 100 years.

    In other words, probably longer then we’ll continue to burn fossil fuels for anyways.

  37. I always found it odd that in some places, you can be fined for burning 1g of tobacco, yet someone else can burn 10kg of wood and not be fined.
    Odd, because I was under the impression the damage from smoke was in the particulates and other combustion by-products. But even if it’s not, it’s still 10,000 times as much smoke!

  38. Picture of biomass co-firing at a coal pulverized coal plant to reduce SO2 and NOx emissions (which I understood they were doing at Drax — but again, I don’t know Diddley of what’s going on in the UK).

    The UK story (if I remember & understood correctly, which I’m not real confident about) was about saving jobs at Drax and near-by coal mines.

    • SO2 reduction in biomass co-firing with coal is pretty straight-forward — biomass has less sulfur content than coal. NOx is more difficult to explain (Fuel NOx, Thermal NOx) — and would bore people here at CE.

      But the point is that a bunch of us are trying to solve engineering environmental compliance issues in a least cost way — and not a bunch of Greenie Ideologues running around.

  39. It is true that biomass when not done properly just leads to depletion making it just as bad as fossil fuels with the same double whammy of being net a carbon source while also depleting a resource. The skeptics have come to this realization of their preferences in a round about way, but we can agree on this part.

  40. Steinar Midtskogen

    Across the North Sea, over here in Norway, the amount of woodland has roughly doubled over the past 100 years, mainly due to less land used for pasture. But even that also causes concerns for the biodiversity, since many species depend on such pasture. It’s the change that causes concern.

    Efficient burners reduces the pollution and in Oslo where wintertime inversion not infrequently trap air pollution, modern burners have been subsidised in order to reduce the problem.

    In the UK one argument for burning wood could be that if it’s limited to only the coldest days of the year, it could offload the load on the power grid on such days. But it would probably help more if building regulations in the UK are changed. UK homes are not well built for winter conditions.

    • I agree with this comment. More efficient farming reduces need for pasture, with less grazing animals such as beef cattle that yields low protein compared with fish farming, allows regrowth of forests with better CO2 sinking rates, and more efficient combustion of wood and coal from the improved burners means less particulates in the air and less CO2 production. All of these factors help reduce human footprint but it remains unclear as to what impact climate change is having but it seems fairly small.

    • Steinar

      Building regulations in the UK are now much more stringent than they used to be. However that leaves tens of millions of UK homes with inadequate insulation. It is the low hanging fruit that needs to be addressed before onerous taxes are levied to penalise the building regulation failures of previous governments.

      Wood burning stoves are a diversion and are no substitute for building additional grown up power stations rather than expensive and intermittent renewables. Solar in particular is not practical at our latitude.

      There is lots of scope for deriving energy from the seas surrounding us but that technology is still at a very early stage


  41. Worth repeating, “Oh alas! Oh biomass, oh Drax!” Bravo the poet!

    What madness to justify the destruction of what you are established by trust to preserve!

    What madness to burn wood for heat, not the most toxic fuel but nearly so. Clearly more toxic than second-hand tobacco smoke.

    How much ecology, biochemistry and engineering science is needed to realize that burning wood at Drax is worse for the environment than burning coal?

    (I consider the clear-felling of woodlands in the southeast of the US as damaging the environment.)

    Didn’t these people ever go to school? And if they did, have they forgotten everything? Or maybe they just crammed for exams?

  42. Maybe trick Word P by serializing, Parts 1 and 2 ?
    It’s only a dumb machine after all. Question is,
    RoH, who is ter be master?

  43. Carbon neutral.

    Cutting trees, chipping them, transporting them, burning them, then planting trees to replace the burnt ones seems laborious.

    Why do we not simply burn more conveniently transported gas, coal or oil, and then plant the ‘equivalent amount’ of trees?

    We could even go wild and plant extra trees, and not bother with the ‘equivalence calculations’.

    • Mark Eastaugh,

      Seems precisely correct to me. Nature cunningly provided the UK with quite a lot of concentrated hydrocarbons, created through the miracle of CO2, H2O, and photosynthesis, using sunlight. These are known as coal, oil, and natural gas.

      Burning them restores the carbon dioxide and water to the atmosphere, restoring the dropping levels.

      Now you can plant more trees, crops and grass, with an excellent chance that it will all grow furiously, like it used to.

      What a good idea!

  44. From the article:

    ” When trees die, they release carbon into the atmosphere. ”

    Where’s the data to support that claim? Cellulose is one of most difficult organic substances to digest in the biosphere. Only termites and their bacterial/protist symbionts can digest the cellulose in dead trees. I suspect most of the carbon in wood is extracted by fungi which, in turn, sequester the carbon in the soil. Some of those fungi are among the largest and longest living organisms on the earth. I would like to see some research and data in that area. I have seen oaks and other hardwoods on my land take decades to decay, and even then you can see remnants of the tree trunk embedded in the soil entangled in fungi. Most fungi are endemic and, once again, the fungi are closely associated with the tree species. The trees need the fungi and the fungi need the trees. The “carbon from dead trees is released into the atmosphere” meme is a convenient rationalization and it’s also bulldung. Maybe they can burn that in a clay oven on the floor of their sustainable hovel.

    I guess you take one part renewable religion, add one part politics, stir in some geen cronyism, and let the MSM heat the mixture and tell the public it’s greenie beer and they will drink it. Such a nice buzz!

    Sure, burning the forests is good enviro-policy.

    What next?

  45. Try the Forest of Dean (42 sq miles). Wales is relatively nearby (across the Wye river at Ross-On_Wye).

    • JustinWonder (See above): Don’t burn THAT forest!!!!!

      • Maybe I diluted my own message. Burning forests is bad policy. I suspect, but would like to see data, that much carbon is sequestered in the forest/soil complex. Burning the trees releases the carbon, and other pollutants, immediately and does much damage to the forest ecosystem and all the ecosystem services the forest provides.

      • Just joshing 8-)

  46. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #184 | Watts Up With That?