Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bonfire of the Subsidies: Europe Returns to Early Stone Age Fuel as Putin Mocks

From the Economist April 6th:

Europe’s wood subsidies show the folly of focusing green policy on “renewables”
TO GO by the Domesday Book, the record of taxable lands produced for William the Conqueror in 1086, the manor of Drax, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, was not much of a place: six villagers, a priest and a value to its lord of a single pound. But it did have five leagues of woodland.

Today Drax is home to one of the most impressive pieces of engineering in Britain, a power station with a value to its owners of £2.5 billion. But it does not have much woodland. And, given the way Europe’s renewable-energy subsidies work, the appetites of that facility, and others around Europe, may mean that wood is in short supply in many places before long.

 In 2009 the European Union set itself the target of getting 20% of its energy from renewable sources. For all the fields and roofs covered with solar panels and the once-empty uplands enlivened by wind turbines, by far the biggest power source in the plans is biomass: wood, crop residues and other burnable recently living stuff. The EU’s planners want to get 1,210 terawatt hours of energy from biomass in 2020, compared with 494TWh from wind. About 80% of that biomass energy would be used to heat things—wood-burning stoves and boilers are widely used in many European countries. But the 20% used to generate electricity would still equal all the energy expected from solar panels and offshore wind. With wind power not growing at the rate that planners want, biomass may be called on to do even more....MORE

They want to return to the U.S. ca. 1800:

The story is also at the Wall Street Journal May 27:
Europe's Green-Fuel Search Turns to America's Forests
WINDSOR, N.C.—Loggers here are clear-cutting a wetland forest with decades-old trees.
Behind the move: an environmental push.
The push isn't in North Carolina but in Europe, where governments are trying to reduce fossil-fuel use and carbon-dioxide emissions. Under pressure, some of the Continent's coal-burning power plants are switching to wood.
But Europe doesn't have enough forests to chop for fuel, and in those it does have, many restrictions apply. So Europe's power plants are devouring wood from the U.S., where forests are bigger and restrictions fewer.
This dynamic is bringing jobs to some American communities hard hit by mill closures. It is also upsetting conservationists, who say cutting forests for power is hardly an environmental plus....
....Drax has long burned coal in a plant rising from pastoral Yorkshire fields. This has become an increasingly unattractive practice, for a variety of reasons that include a carbon tax floor the U.K. made effective this year. Drax has set out to convert half its coal units to wood.

The plant has converted one of its six units so far, and last year it sold about $90 million of renewable-energy credits to other companies, a spokeswoman said. After it fully converts two more units, Drax expects to burn about seven million tons of wood annually and collect about $600 million a year from renewable-energy credits.....
Not everyone is turning to wood. Because of the decision to shut down their nukes Germany is burning braunkohle to keep the lights on
Germany's clean energy drive fails to curb dirty brown coal
Germany's green energy drive is proving surprisingly good for dirty brown coal as utilities squeezed by rival renewables and low wholesale gas prices use more of it.

East Germany was a huge user of brown coal, or lignite, and Germany remains the world's biggest producer, but its use poses a problem for Berlin's environmental plans.

Limiting brown coal use is politically difficult, however, with 20,000 mining and utilities jobs involved and any move that could raise already high energy bills for consumers a risky gambit ahead of federal elections in September.

Coal also remains important to profits at utilities such as RWE and the German arm of Sweden's Vattenfall....MORE
Finally, from Nov. 2012:

Mocking Europe's Energy Policy: "Putin invites Europeans to Siberia for firewood"
From RT:
European countries should pursue a balanced energy policy, otherwise they will have to buy the firewood in Siberia, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has joked.

Putin made it clear again that Europe and Russia are dependent on each other. He was speaking with German businessmen in Berlin on Friday. They gathered at a business conference organized by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

“The German public does not like the nuclear power industry for some reason,” Putin said, adding that he would not comment on it. “But I cannot understand what fuel you will take for heating,” he said anyway.

“You do not want gas, you do not develop the nuclear power industry, so you will heat with firewood?” Putin asked, as reported by Itar-Tass. “Then you will have to go to Siberia to buy the firewood there,” he said, adding that Europeans “do not even have firewood.”
Good yuks from the old propagandists  at the former Russia Today.