Law of Unintended Consequences Number Eleventy-Zillion

English: of wood chips

wood chips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By charles the moderator

We missed this story in May, but in order to replace the use of coal in the UK, power stations are being refitted to burn wood chips.  But the UK doesn’t have enough forests to supply the wood chips, (biofuel) so…

Wait for it…


Yup, power companies in the UK are planning on purchasing timber in the United States to be converted to wood chips to be shipped across the Atlantic to burn in the previously coal-fired power plants.

From the BBC

Swamp forests in the US are being felled to help keep the lights on in the UK. Is this really the best way to combat climate change?

Environmentalists are trying to block the expansion of a transatlantic trade bringing American wood to burn in European power stations.

The trade is driven by EU rules promoting renewable energy to combat climate change.

Many millions of tonnes of wood pellets will soon be shipped annually to help keep the lights on in the UK. Other EU nations may follow.

Critics say subsidising wood burning wastes money, does nothing to tackle climate change in the short term, and is wrecking some of the finest forests in the US.

The insanity of this is difficult for me to put in perspective, but it seems comparable to shining spotlights on solar collectors.

Read the full BBC story here.


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I have a log jam in my brain, I don’t know what to say this is so ridiculous.


Not news, just insane! A power station, Drax, in the UK on top of a coal field is going to be converted to burn woodchips, yes from the USA!

The UK is going to look like Haiti soon. Yea, that is progress.


It would make more sense to burn coal and offset the Co2 by planting trees. Only a moron would burn trees!


Stupid is as stupid does.

Amr marzouk

You can’t make this up.


Insanity is the name of the game when it comes to EU/UK energy policy.

Steve (Paris)

“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.”

I can hear the circus music in my head just thinking about it…

Drax currently supplies 7% of Britain’s electrical power needs. I’ve spoken with one of the train drivers who shift the fuel into Drax. He is aware of some severe problems ahead. You can’t stockpile woodchip, it spontaneously ignites. It’s power density is 8 times less than coal. More trains, less downtime, no margin for f-ups.

M Courtney

But the UK isn’t interested in Climate Chamge or Energy Supply. Over here we just want to encourage green industry. Whether it works or not is irrelevant.
The money is in the subsidy
Try this one from the Telegraph last week:

Wind farms in remote locations currently face far higher network charges than those close to big cities, to cover the extra costs of connecting them to the power grid.
But energy regulator Ofgem says they are charged too much under the current system, particularly because they only work intermittently.
It plans to cut the charges they face to reflect the fact they do not use the network when the wind isn’t blowing, in a move intended to encourage more wind farms to be built.
Can anyone beat these for stupidity?


Why not burn cars? Seems to me that was working for a while in France…


Well to me, that’s yet another massive own goal from the environmentalist ‘green’ zealots – as per fecking usual ?
Perhaps one day, some of them might even get to understand how to think a proposal through from start to finish……but I doubt it !


Suddenly I feel smart, which is not common for me.


I would say that they are as thick as two short planks of wood (English Saying) but no doubt they have been chipped too.


This is absolutely silly…
…why don’t they just burn food


Of course the bureaucrats don’t factor in the diesel used to grow, fell, manufacture the pellets and transport them. All they care about is that they are using a “renewable” resource.
Maybe someone should demand that the ships transporting them be driven by sail?


Why not burn fossilized wood pellets? They are mostly reduced to their base carbon, have six times the heating content of fresh wood pellets, and extraction of the fossilized plant matter leaves a nice big hole in the ground in which to return the residue not used for other purposes such as building materials for roads and commercial structures, additives for concrete, and fertilizer.
The economy of scale means extraction of fossil wood is much less expensive than getting the standing stuff anyway. The live standing cellulose has to be processed, kiln dried which is so dang energy intensive, transported greater distances, and then you can’t store it in great huge mountains like the fossilized material.
Humans are just so stupid sometimes.

Isn’t there a trash burner power plant that’s optimized for waste wood in the SeaTac, Washington region? I recall it coming on line in the early Ninties.

Pete W.

As the old saying goes: ‘Follow the money!’


Charcoal to Newcastle.

chris y

tallbloke says:
August 6, 2013 at 6:33 am
“You can’t stockpile woodchip, it spontaneously ignites.”
No problem. The wood chips can be kiln-dried and pelletized in the US at coal fired processing plants. The dried chips are then transported in vacuum-tight cargo containers by diesel-powered ships. Diesel-powered trains carry the containers to the power station. The empty cargo containers are then shipped back to the US for refilling.
The costs are not an issue, as the entire enterprise is subsidized.
Problem solved!!!!


Why does the Green energy agenda always entail taking something useful like wood or food and wasting energy to grow/transport it just to burn it to make some energy? The whole freaking universe runs on nuclear chemistry. Why do we think ultimately that we aren’t going to have to do the same?


Everybody knows that emissions in another country don’t count anyway. Those become their problem, and the rule of the day is NIMBY.
The irony of trying to reduce CO2 emissions by generating more CO2 emissions, AND getting rid of things that remove CO2, is nothing short of delicious. I love watching stupid people do stupid things, but from a distance… some of their antics can put out an eye if you get too close!


Not only that, but diesel generators are being installed all over the country to top up power that windmills are not producing. The National Grid site shows current demand at 36.88 GW of which .25GW is being produced by windmills.
The insanity of UK government climate policy is beyond description or understanding. All their data comes from the Met Office or the IPCC and there is not the slightest attempt to obtain independent non idealogical data.
In fact they are proposing a reduction of Co2 by 80% which should effectively shut down British Industry.
While most of the world is beginning to realise that CAGW is nonsense the British soldiers on with eyes shut and ears closed. Its quite unbelievable.

Pamela Gray

All the veggies here think we shouldn’t eat meat. Okay. Burn meat for heat instead. I can just see it now. Bessie, the 4H cow, gets sold to the UK to help keep the children warm there. Somebody make a poster. I’m sure the kids will go for it.

@Pamela Gray – just think of the “pollution” from that! You would have Burger King subsidizing it, and everyone’s mouth watering and trying to get DOWN wind of the power plants! 😉

Disko Troop

The stupid…..It burns!

John W. Garrett

The “Bishop Hill” (Andrew W. Montford) blog covered this insanity very nicely over the past year beginning with:

Eric H.

This is a great idea! Perhaps it will catch on and the US timber industry will add jobs and tax revenue at the expense of our competitors industry and tax base. As the saying goes; “a fool and his money soon part”.

General P. Malaise

can you just see the conference /meeting where they, with straight faces discuss how they will do this to save the world.
that is a special kind of delusion which an eternity in hell wont be enough to satisfy the stupid that they are.


Bring on more of the Environmental Industrial Complex!

Mike Bromley the Canucklehead

Madness. And they sit around at their cocktail parties smugly asserting the creativity of their problem-solving and how sustainable it all is.


Yes its a crazy situation in the UK. North Northamptonshire is being overun by wind farms, not because there is a lot of wind there, but because the connection charges are low, being in the centre of the grid.

Old Misery

In the UK there are three basic rules for Government and the Civil Service:
1. never employ anyone who has the slightest knowledge or experience of the job to be done
2. always ignore and reject any form of proven technology or working practice
3. maximise wastage (of time, money and resources) by attempting to develop the most stupid, ludicrous and illogical methodology possible.


So the logic is that wood chips from the US are a RENEWABLE source of energy, and thus complies with “green” sources of energy. However, burned wood chip give off CO2 as well, right? Reduced forests in the US cause reduced CO2 sinks, right? The wood has to be transported to Europe using energy that more than likely increases CO2 levels, right? Now I finally realize that not only do increased levels of atmospheric CO2 make climate scientists stupid, but they also make everyone stupid. If ignorance is bliss, what is stupidity?


I’m sure we can find some old growth forest here in Oz to sell to the Poms.
Why not burn Flour though, it has similar calorific value to Coal, and with the right flour air mix burns really well, what’s that – People will starve – never stopped them before.
I make my point yet again, the next best fuel after coal is Flour, not Nuclear.


Will they also sip glacier water bottled in Iceland and shipped over?


I have known about this being in the works for quite a while. This is what happens when government imposses a tax to make a product unusable. The power plant doesn’t want to switch from coal to wood, but they cannot operate at a big loss caused by the carbon tax. They will be getting a subsidy for being renewable. Of course shutting down is not an option since wind is such a large part of the UK’s power grid now. This is all being forced on the UK by the EU, who signed the Kyoto agreement.


I also forgot to mention, while piling on, it is the LAW of unintended consequences, not the suggestion, or the possibility, or the probability…. IT’S THE LAW… and around here we obey the law, mister. No no, not law in the legal sense, LAW in the Science sense, like Newton’s three famous ones.
In my experience (not opinion, experience) it’s always those with the best intentions that are bitten by this particular Law, because they are blinded to the possibility of a “downside” due to the nobleness of their plan.
Like our friend in the other thread who thinks forced sterilization is a good thing, and yet he would be completely blindsided by the unintended consequences (rioting in the streets, wars, panicked residents fleeing the country, etc.) Of course, others see these consequences coming from a Gazillion miles away, but hey… we’re sorta experiencing the same Law in effect in Alberta, in the “unintended” flooding from building neighborhoods on the beautiful green riparian floodplains.


It does the worst thing possible for the climate. You cut down the trees, you cut down the low-level clouds. Well documented. In Africa they have learned this lesson and started to plant trees in order to make the temperature more even. The “green” people deserve a colour change to brown.

Don’t ask how many million acres of forest will be required to fuel just the Drax power station.
I need to buy some shares in logging truck manufacturers.


Why not bury the woodchips in the US and dig up the coal in the UK?
I know, it is as stupid as the original plan, but it will be cheaper.

Atlas Shrugged becomes more and more prescient every day.

Dr. Bob

On the bright side, lots of jobs are being created in rural places where unemployment was 40% as lumber mills shut down. The company I used to work for had an allotment of several million acres of timber in Ontario that they wanted to use to make alternative fuel. But the economics for building a plant to convert solid feed into liquid hydrocarbon fuel was not economical. So, they never built that plant. It would have created a good number of jobs felling trees and making fuel, but even government subsidies (RIN’s) couldn’t make the number work.
But making wood pellets is far cheaper. Solid feed is going to solid product, a much easier conversion process. Only problem is, the trees would be cut in Canada and the US, and for the Canadian situation, Panamax freighters would be loaded with pellets in Vancouver and go through the Panama Canal to get to England. Cost is something like $200/ton for 7500 Btu/lb fuel to replace maybe $30-40/tone coal that has 11,000 Btu/lb. Numbers will vary for coal depending on source and mining costs, but the wood pellet energy content and delivered prices are pretty good.
The forests do need to be harvested to manage them properly, but this is not the best idea for use of the harvested timber. Maybe houses for homeless (Habitat for Humanity) would have a better use for the wood.

Frans Franken

This is no longer a plan. It has been going on for a couple of years in the Netherlands already:
Subsidised at an estimated 5,000 Euro per hour.

Gordon Ford

We have a gazillion acres of bug killed line here in BC. Need to expand the current pellet plant capacity to supply the European demand. Any investors?


Shortly before the use of coal became common in the 19th century, Europe was almost entirely de-forested due the excessive use of wood for cooking/heating, as well as for construction work.
Some areas like the Luneburger Heide in Germany are still treeless.
Gas, coal and oil are the most environmentally friendly fuels availlable today.

Reblogged this on Public Secrets and commented:
Wait. Was there no one in Britain who stopped and said, “This is bloody stupid?”


I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK, I sleep all night and I work all day. I chop down trees, and chip them up, and ship them to the UK. We need to reduce our emissions, so we burn trees instead of coal. I’m a lumberjack…