Eco-imperialists impose a biomess on Africa

Instead of cutting forests and burning dung and charcoal, shouldn’t Africa have cheap electricity?

Duggan Flanakin

China, India, Vietnam and other nations are using more and more oil, natural gas and coal every year to electrify and modernize their nations, create jobs, and improve their people’s health, living standards and life spans. Why in this day and age are the World Bank and other international institutions demanding widespread use of charcoal for heating and cooking in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)? Why are African countries, the United States and human rights groups tolerating these lethal policies?

During the recent 2019 “climate week,” the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change touted increased reliance on biomass – which already comprises 60% of European “renewable” energy – as a tool in fighting climate change and stabilizing Earth’s never-stable climate.

(Europe’s “renewable” energy includes England’s Drax Power Plant, which is fueled by wood from millions of trees from thousands of acres of American and Canadian forest habitats. The trees are turned into wood pellets, which are hauled by truck to coastal ports and transported to North Yorkshire on oil-fueled cargo ships. From there the pellets are taken by train to the Drax Power Plant and burned in place of coal, to generate electricity – so that the UK can “meet its renewable fuel targets,” even though the overall process generates more carbon dioxide than coal or gas plants on a total life-cycle basis, and the trees are cut and burned much faster than new ones can grow. This is hardly sustainable.)

The Dogwood Alliance objected to the IPCC report, claiming that biomass (largely charcoal) contributes to deforestation. Dogwood’s arguments reflect the views of Norimitsu Onishi, whose 2016 New York Times article pointed out that burning charcoal not only poses human health concerns, but also constitutes a massive threat to the environment and numerous plant and animal species whose habitats are being destroyed by people using their trees to make charcoal.

The UN Environment Programme predicts that Africa’s demand for charcoal – currently 23 million tons a year – is likely to double or triple by 2050. Africa’s charcoal production doubled in the past two decades and now accounts for more than 60% of the world’s total, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Rapid urbanization increased demand for charcoal, the preferred way to cook in SSA cities.

Onishi acknowledged that charcoal is cleaner and easier to use than firewood, and cheaper and more readily available in much of Africa than gas or electricity. As a result, 80% of SSA families use charcoal as their primary energy source.

The World Health Organization reports that worldwide over 4.3 million people a year die prematurely from illnesses attributable to household air pollution resulting from burning charcoal and other solid fuels in open fires and leaky stoves. That’s more deaths than from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

The WHO also noted that the lack of access to electricity for at least 1.2 billion people around the world exposes families to very high levels of fine particulate matter and other toxic materials in smoke – and to many intestinal diseases from spoiled food and unsafe drinking water. Lack of electricity also results in other health risks, such as burns, injuries and poisonings.

The lack of plentiful, reliable, affordable electricity also restricts opportunities to read and study at night, enjoy access to computers and the internet, engage in small crafts and trades, develop larger businesses and industries, create jobs, build modern homes, hospitals, schools and infrastructure, and take other steps that greatly improve people’s living standards, health and nutrition.

Why, in heaven’s name, more than century after affordable electricity began to transform Western society, is over half of Africa still not connected to any electric grid? Can any American, European, Australian or Canadian imagine life without abundant, reliable, affordable, 24/7/365 electricity?

The World Bank points out that SSA’s household electrification rate averaged a mere 42% in 2016 – with Rwanda at 80% and Guinea-Bissau at an abysmal 30% – leaving hundreds of millions of Africans with no electricity or only very limited, totally unpredictable access to this vital energy source. says three factors hinder demand for electric power in much of Africa. First, many firms and households that are already connected to the grid in SSA face regular blackouts, due to insufficient electricity and poor grid reliability. That means continued reliance on charcoal, forcing connected households and businesses to pay for two energy sources.

Next, where electricity bills take up a large share of household income, access to electricity is very low. Countries with poor grid penetration typically use high tariffs to finance infrastructure to improve their electric grids. But high tariffs translate into high energy bills that deter consumers and make it very hard for to launch and sustain businesses that create jobs and enable people to afford electricity.

Third, the cost and complexity of the connection process further hampers electrification. Where generation capacity is insufficient, utilities may delay new connections until infrastructure investments catch up with consumer demand. The Catch-22 is that these administrative barriers, red tape and connection costs drive down demand, postponing electrification almost forever.

In most places, says Patrick Conners, The Energy Guy, wood competes dollar for dollar with natural gas but pollutes much more and requires far more work: hauling and stacking the wood, stoking and tending the fire, and cleaning out the ashes afterward. A modern furnace gives much more uniform heat without the smoke and draft issues, but even these are unavailable and unaffordable in Africa.

African electricity costs and reliability will only come with modernization and expansion of the electric grid. The late Steven Lyazi, who worked with the Congress of Racial Equality Uganda, acknowledged that the availability of solar energy is good news to millions of Africans who rely on firewood, dung and charcoal for cooking. However, he added, solar and wind are at best stopgap solutions on the way to energy security – which UN, World Bank and other policies all but ensure will never arrive.

“Many people,” said Lyazi, “don’t know that Africa has some big dreams.” Just one – the proposed 466-mile Trans East Africa electric railway – would require much more energy than wind and solar can provide. Much of Africa has great potential for nuclear energy, coal, oil and natural gas, he explained – but powerful (largely European) environmentalists (including the World Bank) have opposed funding such projects.

Lyazi, who died in a bus accident in 2017, urged Africans to use their abundant natural resources. He challenged Africans to defy European environmentalists, who have stymied fossil fuel, hydroelectric and nuclear power projects in Africa. He said Uganda and other SSA countries should build natural gas pipelines to power plants, to generate affordable electricity for millions. Today, African oilfields mostly burn and waste the gas, while exporting the oil is mostly exported, benefitting elites while leaving millions energy-deprived, impoverished and desperate.

Why not also build nuclear and coal power plants and hydroelectric projects? Why not indeed? Why should Africans continue to barely survive at the hands of eco-imperialist, neo-colonialist, environmentally destructive organizations policies that ignore the most basic human rights: the rights to energy, modern health and living standards, and decent lives?

As South African nuclear engineer, energy consultant and activist Kelvin Kemm has noted, no single energy source will work for all of Africa. All have shortcomings in various regions, for a wide variety of reasons – except that small pebble bed modular nuclear reactors could probably be employed anywhere.

But Africa, and individual African countries and regions, should be the ones making those decisions – not outsiders, and not based on disinformation, pressure and bullying from those outsiders. They should not be forced to accept biomess energy imposed on them by global eco-imperialists.

Duggan Flanakin is director of policy research at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow. He has a Master’s in public policy from Regent University and has studied environmental regulation for decades.

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October 30, 2019 10:33 am

cut the trees down…then claim climate change desertification

Reply to  Latitude
October 30, 2019 12:42 pm

One only has to look at an overhead (satellite) view of the island of Hispaniola. The border between dirt poor, wood burning Haiti and the Dominican Republic is quite obviously demarcated by the deforestation of Haiti.

October 30, 2019 10:36 am

There has been nothing stopping fossil fuel firms and governments investing in coal and later gas plants in Africa over the last 50 years…

and they haven’t done it.

which suggests that they aren’t going to do it in the next 50, for the same reasons as before, plus renewables will be cheaper and a better solution.

Reply to  griff
October 30, 2019 2:34 pm

Surely you can’t be that ignorant, Griff?

How many stable governments are there in Africa?

What about property rights in Africa, is a stable concept for those with $$$ to feel comfortable about?

John Endicott
Reply to  Sunsettommy
October 31, 2019 8:51 am

Based on his posting history, I say he most certain can be, and willfully so.

Reply to  griff
October 30, 2019 4:20 pm

It’s easier than that Griff. If you believe that overpopulation is a problem and also want “sustainability”, then the more black people that have grandchildren, then the fewer resources will be available for the grandchildren of white environmentalists.

Haven’t you noticed that part of the “solution” for every ecological emergency for the last 50 years, “Global cooling, acid rain, global warming, deforestation, whatever) has always been to slow or halt the development of the non white nations? Who cares if 4.3 million die every year because of these policies? They’re not white, are they?

By constantly applying pressure to deny the development of Africa, environmentalists have killed more people than Stalin, and are heading for Mao’s record. I call it mass murder and attempted genocide.

Reply to  griff
October 30, 2019 4:27 pm

Are you really that stupid Griff?

Lets look at your business opportunity you will build very expensive installations in politically and war prone countries for a huge population who can’t afford to buy your product.

Only certain religions can work with that business model.

Reply to  griff
October 30, 2019 10:32 pm

You should try building a power plant in a country like Nigeria. I worked on one for many years. You get fiscal terms for your plant. Before you can even draft a PPA a new President takes power and rejects your current fiscal terms. So you negotiate new fiscal terms. But because the President has political enemies in the National Assembly they won’t approve the new fiscal terms. And even if they do you know the next President may revoke them. And even assuming you get that done you face selling your power to a national power company that is insolvent. So you seek a government guarantee of the PPA. But since its from a sovereign government how will it be enforced if breached even if you obtain an arbitration award. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Its not that western companies won’t build power plants in Africa- its the TIA effect. (Hint- This is Africa).

Reply to  griff
October 31, 2019 5:15 am

Unfortunately, griff is wrong. Every possible obstacle has been put between average Africans and cheap reliable dispatchable electricity. This World Bank report …
… illustrates the problem. They are obsessed with renewable energy, and give that higher priority than fixing Africa’s horrendous problems. They are far from alone in this virtue-signalling obscenity.

Reply to  griff
October 31, 2019 5:32 am

err hmm? the world bank and IMF wont LOAN for any coal plants or gas fireds matey
reckon thats a bit of a tightplace for anyone wanting to try?

Reply to  griff
October 31, 2019 5:51 am
Michael Keal
Reply to  griff
November 1, 2019 2:11 am

Griff if you want to see what CAN be done in Africa take a trip to Johannesburg and drive around a bit.

Do take care though, I hear things have changed a bit in Johannesburg since I was a young man. When telephones were a thing Johannesburg had more of them than the entire African continent put together, and that included other cities in South Africa. I know. I did the maths for a speech I was writing.

October 30, 2019 10:37 am

Racist eugenics has always part of the Left’s toolkit for humanity.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 30, 2019 4:45 pm

Sadly true, and mixed up with malthusian ideas. or “too many other people in the world” hypocrisy.

October 30, 2019 10:45 am

Because for the UN it’s all about One World Government, wealth redistribution to their standard, reducing world population, and destroying Capitalism. Africa is not on their radar because it’s not highly industrialized and has nothing to redistribute. Letting the Africans wallow in poverty keeps their population in check and reduces the chance of Capitalism taking hold. And last but not least, weak countries are easier to take over and control.

Reply to  markl
October 30, 2019 11:32 am

Spot on.

As other emerging countries have demonstrated, making a country wealthy enough to afford modern energy sources (mostly by adopting capitalism) is one of the best ways to reduce pollution, cut population growth, and thus stabilize the world’s environmental situation. The only plausible reason greens oppose this kind of change in poor countries is that they (their leaders, if not all the useful idiots who support them) are wedded to the goals quoted at They are traitors to the human race.

The end of civilization at their hands is much more of a real danger than any eco-catastrophe.

Reply to  markl
October 30, 2019 2:03 pm

Except it doesn’t keep the population in check does it? It’s western, rich societies who have low birth rates and poor African, Indian, Chinese who make lots of babies. Surely if their goal is to reduce global population then their aim should be global prosperity?

Al Miller
Reply to  Michael
October 30, 2019 2:58 pm

Bang on with the prosperity comment. It is imminently clear that wealth causes reduction in population growth- not theoretical, but real observable results.
Wealth is a result of the abundant and affordable resources we have now -not the tomfoolery of the greens. I’m often dumbfounded how stupid the statements of the true believers are and how so many can be led down the garden path of this economic suicide. The alternative would be what?? To perhaps use the time and energies of mankind to improve life for the many who are not yet wealthy and healthy due to cheap, abundant fuel sources.

Reply to  Michael
October 30, 2019 4:23 pm

A lack of electricity means a lack of advanced medical facilities. Let disease and starvation do the job.

Reply to  Michael
October 30, 2019 5:03 pm

You need to update your numbers.
Here are numbers for India and China, both have been declining and will continue to do so:

Reply to  Michael
October 31, 2019 5:19 am

All but two of the 30 or so countries with birth rates of 5+ children per woman are in Africa. [Sorry, can’t find the link quickly].

John Endicott
Reply to  Mike Jonas
October 31, 2019 9:55 am

This the link?

Niger tops the list 7.153 children per woman

though the above linked list only shows 11 countries with 5+ children per woman:

1 Niger 7.153
2 Somalia 6.123
3 Mali 5.922
4 Chad 5.797
5 Angola 5.589
6 Burundi 5.577
7 Uganda 5.456
8 Nigeria 5.417
9 Gambia 5.318
10 Burkina Faso 5.231
11 Mozambique 5.143

Reply to  markl
October 31, 2019 5:37 am

but UK russia china and eu ALL have huge swathes of land theyve claimed/bought and grow crops to be sent back home using local minimal labour and effectively blosking best lands and access to rivers in many spots

and then some govvy thief sold their fishing rights to china offshore and so the locals cant fish and starve

stopping that crap woul help africans a fair bit.

side issue
see they can show the bombing of whats his face in syria
but arent showing the americans soldiers protecting trucks shipping SYRIAN OIL to usa???
hmm didnt think Assad had agred to what appears to be outright THEFT??

October 30, 2019 11:01 am

Keep the trees in North America and pay ship and train transit costs for Africans to settle near Drax instead.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
October 30, 2019 12:37 pm

Already happening, but without keeping the trees in America.

Where are those tree huggers when you really need them? Probably flying business class on the Planet Saving conference circuit. Maybe the XR mob can be persuaded to glue themselves to trees.

Reply to  climanrecon
October 31, 2019 6:48 am

The tree huggers were organized into the narrowly focused climate change scare agenda of CO2 with the effect of drastic reduction in concerns for the rain forests, pollution, urban blight, clean water shortages, and UHI effects. The world is worse off as a result.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
October 30, 2019 2:33 pm

Something always bothered me when I heard about the Drax power plant, but I couldn’t figure out just what it was. Then today it hit me. I thought that James Bond had destroyed the Drax empire back in 1979, but obviously that was just misdirection on Hugo Drax’s part. We had better keep an eye out for a rouge space station containing dozens of poison glass spheres orbiting the earth, though it may have a cloaking device and be hard to detect.

John Endicott
Reply to  RicDre
October 31, 2019 8:24 am

And, of course, we no longer have the space shuttle – so getting the Marines up to Drax’s space station for a laser battle will be a little more difficult. I doubt Elon’s spaceship is up to the task.

Reply to  RicDre
November 3, 2019 10:26 am

Wouldn’t that rouge space station be easy to spot? I’d be more worried about a mascara space station . . . it would disappear in the night sky.

October 30, 2019 11:04 am

“Why are African countries, the United States and human rights groups tolerating these lethal policies?”

Because of scientific ignorance and the false believe that the IPCC’s self serving consensus supporting horribly corrupted science that predicts a fake catastrophe is legitimate. The fact that the political left chose the illegitimate side of the science combined with a lackey MSM who blindly supports their ideology, makes the scientific truth nearly impossible to rise into the public consciousness.

Climate science will not be corrected until the IPCC and UNFCCC are disbanded. As entrenched bureaucracies, they will not go away easily, although the revelation of their embarrassingly broken scientific justification driven by a conflict of interest will be impossible for them to dispute once the details of their collective malfeasance are made known.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
October 30, 2019 1:34 pm

The not blindly following anything.

When major Climate pronouncements come out ALL OF THE MSM NETWORKS USE THE SAME STORY and usually even using the EXACT SAME WORDS and catch phrases. The liars running the propaganda campaigns know it’s propaganda…they are being told what to say and what words to use.

Reply to  DocSiders
October 30, 2019 2:46 pm

DocSiders: Exactly, you hit the nail on the head. There’s nothing stupid about the MSM. They are doing what they have been bought to do….. spread propaganda.

James Snook
October 30, 2019 11:12 am

The pellets are shipped to Liverpool. From there the pellets are taken by DIESEL trains to the Drax Power Plant and burned in place of coal. That’s right across the country and there are two or more trains a day!


Reply to  James Snook
October 30, 2019 11:22 am

Just to add some backstory here, some U.S. states are giving tax subsidies to the pellet producers to clear cut and ship out the wood for the jobs and income locally and sometimes with political connections in ownership, lobbying, and legislation. That also means subsidies on both ends of the market distortion.

John Endicott
Reply to  James Snook
October 30, 2019 11:31 am

wouldn’t it be cheaper and environmentally more friendly to just use the fuel that would have been used for cutting, trucking, shipping and trains to create and transport those pellets to power the Drax power plant?

Reply to  John Endicott
October 30, 2019 1:39 pm

Probably not because then they’d have to pay a carbon tax (or whatever it’s called) on the emitted CO2. They don’t have to pay when burning wood pellets.

John Endicott
Reply to  icisil
October 31, 2019 4:54 am

There shouldn’t be any such things as a carbon tax. Other than filling government coffers, there’s no need for one as it doesn’t accomplish the “goal” it claims to be fighting for (IE reducing CO2 emissions) as can be seen by the burning wood pellet nonsense.

Reply to  James Snook
October 30, 2019 12:48 pm

Absolute madness! They should be burning the pellets in a steam powered locomotive engine for transportation!

Ahhh…but its GREEN carbon dioxide.

(is sarc tag needed?)

John McClure
Reply to  James Snook
October 30, 2019 12:49 pm

Agree with you!

The article fails to point out current production of charcoal from invasive weeds and reeds (biomass) in Africa.

The Drax power plant should buy African charcoal and locate plants near charcoal production.

October 30, 2019 11:12 am

The UN Church of Globalism wants to impose its will everywhere, using myth and superstition as needed.

October 30, 2019 11:19 am

Y’know, a town with money is like a mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it!

John Endicott
October 30, 2019 11:28 am

Can any American, European, Australian or Canadian imagine life without abundant, reliable, affordable, 24/7/365 electricity?

well, Americans (and their illegal alien neighbors) living in parts of California no longer have to image it, they’re starting to live it.

Reply to  John Endicott
October 30, 2019 12:37 pm

My thought exactly

and California’s little “experiment” is not going too well, is it?

Reply to  GeologyJim
October 30, 2019 4:28 pm

Hey to the left back to nature believers it’s working great.

Reply to  John Endicott
November 1, 2019 8:11 am

Electricity so ubiquitous, so simply there, like air or gravity. California’s statewide Medieval Festival remind people just how dependent they are on a ready supply of something taken for granted. Wonder if it “woke” anybody to the idea of their quite literal “power” privilege?

October 30, 2019 11:31 am

While I agree the Drax power plant situation is silly, I’m curious if you have support for this statement:

“…the trees are cut and burned much faster than new ones can grow. This is hardly sustainable.”

While I don’t claim to know the exact supply chain of the Drax pellets, forest practices in most parts of Canada and the USA are indeed sustainable, many forests certified by third parties as such (FSC, SFI, etc.). Many provinces in Canada are harvesting below long-term sustained yield levels. The harvest rate on public land in Ontario for example is less than half of the allowable supply several years running:

John Endicott
Reply to  MJB
October 30, 2019 12:33 pm

The trees being clear cut in the US for Drax come from the Southeast on private land.

While it doesn’t directly answer all of your questions, here’s a report on the issue

…the forests providing most of the wood pellets being burned in Europe lack meaningful protections from any local, state or federal agencies. In the U.S., state governments and federal agencies largely view trees as crops.

Currently there’s 27 Mills Across the Southeast that Produce Wood Pellets for Europe with plans to nearly double that number (an additional 25). It doesn’t paint a very nice picture for the long-term health of the forests

Reply to  John Endicott
October 30, 2019 1:29 pm

Forests on private land..are crops

..and are replanted as soon as they are harvested…their long term health is excellent

John Endicott
Reply to  Latitude
October 31, 2019 5:11 am

Had you read the report, you’d know your statement is far from the reality.

Reply to  John Endicott
October 30, 2019 1:31 pm

I have yet to see examples of people clear cutting land with lumber-quality timber just for pellets. What’s probably happening is lumber trees are removed, and then the leftovers are turned into pellets. Or pulp farms are harvested for chips instead of pulp. IMO that’s an excellent way to manage forest land.

Reply to  icisil
October 30, 2019 2:57 pm

Yes, it is exceedingly sad to see the misinformation here about ‘clearcutting’ a 25 year old Georgia Pine forest that was deliberately planted for pulp and paper or wood pellets. Leave the USA lumberman alone…if the market has a better return for pellets than toilet paper, then let it be. Just because Drax is a horrible example of inefficient use of pellets, shouldn’t demonize a whole industry that is supported by free enterprise on private land.

Anyway, the bulk of wood fiber comes from wood waste from sawmill operations. Co-firing some coal plants with 10%-20% pellets like Japan and Korea are keeping those coal plants open until the end of their useful life. If jurisdictions like Oz who have drunk the koolaid with the CO2 debacle had used 15% pellets, those plants would still be open. And any CO2 from wood is neutral as far as that stupid argument goes too. The next crop of trees is just going to soak that up again. The wood pellet industry is a good use of resources, most of which are wood waste that used to be burnt up in massive bee hive burners.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 30, 2019 3:50 pm

Earthling2: But this avoids the real issue, that burning wood for electricity generation rather than coal or gas is far less efficient and produces far more CO2. How crazy is this? With this twisted logic, the world is better off the less efficient it is. Stop the world, I want to get off!

Reply to  Earthling2
October 30, 2019 10:41 pm

Wood pellets (hardwood) have about the same BTU value as Lignite coal, like Germany is burning. So not too bad efficiency wise. After grinding it into a powder like the coal and mixed and blended when it is co-fired at a 10%-20% pellet to coal ratio, it burns very clean and brings the relative emission on par with an older Nat Gas plant. (So it is claimed at 20% pellets) If that makes everybody happy with keeping existing coal plants open til the end of their useful life, then why not? If the alternative is blowing up a perfectly good coal plant like they did in Oz, then that is a lot better than trying to replace that same capacity with wind and solar. At least a coal/pellet plant is spinning reserve electricity and not asynchronous junk electricity. Plus the CO2 from burning wood is neutral as far as the carbon cycle goes. It isn’t a ‘fossil’ fuel. That would be like claiming our expelled breath, which contains 40,000 ppmv, is adding to the CO2 in the atmosphere. That isn’t true either, since the ‘carbon burger’ I just ate yesterday has contributed to making that CO2 and it too came out of the same thin air.

Of course there is CO2 involved with cutting, processing, shipping it etc, but so what…most everything has some ‘carbon’ footprint associated with it as well. This is the madness of even thinking like this. If a jurisdiction is facing losing their coal production because of this insanity with carbon and CO2, and someone wants to co-fire it with 15% pellets, and that keeps the coal mining going and the power plant from destruction then that is a good thing. I think that is a fair trade off, if we are just comparing the politics of some people and places demonizing coal. Plus it creates a brand new industry utilizing mostly scrap wood waste that would have been burnt just 25 years ago in giant beehive burners like we did for a hundred years before. And so what if I grow a commercial crop of hybrid trees very quickly on my own private land for toilet paper or pellets… it is nobody’s business but mine and the buyer.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 31, 2019 12:20 am

Earthling2, that’s the best argument for wood pellets that I’ve ever heard.

They’re mostly softwood, though. Here in NC, they’re mostly Southern Yellow Pine.

John Endicott
Reply to  Earthling2
October 31, 2019 5:10 am

Yes, it is exceedingly sad to see the misinformation here about ‘clearcutting’ a 25 year old Georgia Pine forest that was deliberately planted for pulp and paper or wood pellets

Speaking of misinformation, your above quoted sentence qualifies. Had you read the report previously linked you’d know they’re cutting down hardwoods, not just pine planted for purpose. It’s hardwoods that are making up the bulk of many of the wood pellet shipments that are being shipped overseas to burn for electricity…The pellets from Enviva’s mill are roughly 90 percent hardwood

Anyway, the bulk of wood fiber comes from wood waste from sawmill operations

Again, more disinformation from you. A lot of the wood pellets being shipped are from mills built specifically to make pellets out of tress, not from sawmill waste operations. Drax sources mostly whole trees in the U.S. wood pellets (73% whole trees vs 23% waste wood).

Look, I’m not opposed to the lumber industry when it’s being used for useful purposes (making wood, paper, and other useful tree based products) and in an environmentally sound way. Cutting down tress for the purpose of making wood pellets to burn so people half a world away can virtue signal isn’t a useful purpose and it’s not being done in an environmentally sound way.

John Endicott
Reply to  Earthling2
October 31, 2019 5:19 am

If a jurisdiction is facing losing their coal production because of this insanity with carbon and CO2

insanity = madness. That’s the real issue here. They shouldn’t face losing their coal production because of this madness and choosing to waste useful hardwood on the alter of that madness is *NOT* a good thing no matter how much you try to make excuses for it.

John Endicott
Reply to  Earthling2
October 31, 2019 5:21 am

They’re mostly softwood, though. Here in NC, they’re mostly Southern Yellow Pine.

No, they’re not, not according to the previously linked report. The pellets from Enviva’s mill are roughly 90 percent hardwood, despite the town of Franklin being surrounded by pine plantations.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 31, 2019 6:16 am

In most cases, the only hardwoods they’re using for pellets aren’t good for anything else. Are you aware that much of the crappy wood left over after logging in some areas is hardwoods? Bent, twisted, damaged, diseased, poor species, leggy, too small, etc. can’t be used for lumber. The best thing to do after logging is to go in and remove all of that stuff and start over. It’s an excellent use of a normally wasted resource to turn it into pellets.

John Endicott
Reply to  Earthling2
October 31, 2019 6:38 am

And any CO2 from wood is neutral as far as that stupid argument goes too. The next crop of trees is just going to soak that up again

and speaking of stupid arguments, that is a big one. It takes minutes to burn a tree, it takes decades to centuries (depending on tree type) to grow one. That’s not neutral, that’s adding CO2 (not that adding CO2 to the atmosphere is a bad thing, but claiming it’s neutral is scientifically ignorant) that won’t be “taken away” as fast as it’s released (assuming you plant new trees to replace the ones you destroy on the alter of virtue signaling at a 1:1 rate – you’d actually have to plant thousands of trees for each one you cut down in order to come close to neutrally capturing the CO2 as you release it during your virtue signaling).

John Endicott
Reply to  icisil
October 31, 2019 5:00 am

Wood pellets (hardwood) have about the same BTU value as Lignite coal, like Germany is burning. So not too bad efficiency wise.

Until you consider the (fossil fuel) energy expended in making the pellets and shipping them around the world to places that have plentiful, cheap, useful coal available much closer.

John Endicott
Reply to  icisil
October 31, 2019 5:14 am

I have yet to see examples of people clear cutting land with lumber-quality timber just for pellets

which show you didn’t read the linked report. Drax sources 73% whole trees for pellets, only 27% is from “leftovers”, and those whole trees are mostly hardwoods, not the pines that are harvested from pulp farms.

IMO that’s an excellent way to manage forest land.

Which only shows that your opinion isn’t based on any facts.

Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 6:33 am

John, what I do have experience with, that you sound like you probably don’t, is cutting thousands of trees to improve my own forests (by myself) and watching logging going on all around me in many different parts of the southeastern US. I know personally what happens when land is clearcut for lumber. Depending on where you are, most of the leftovers after logging can be hardwoods, and virtually all of it is crappy (that’s why they left it) or damaged from logging. You can’t drop a big tree in a deciduous forest without causing collateral damage to understory trees. That’s why it’s best to go in afterwards and remove everything, which in many cases are hardwoods.

John Endicott
Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 7:04 am

Despite your purported expertise, you are showing you are ignorant of what is going on in getting wood pellets to Drax. At 90% hardwood (read the report), there’s no way you can honestly claim it’s all or even mostly leftovers. They are *specifically* cutting down hardwoods to make wood pellets out of.

Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 8:09 am

So what if they are? It’s not lumber quality timber. No one in their right mind would turn lumber-quality hardwoods into pellets … except for all of the limbs that are left over after a large tree is sectioned into logs. btw, do you realize how much of a large tree cut for lumber is waste? Probably about 40-50% of the tree’s wood is branches that are either going to rot, be burned off, be cut up for firewood or be turned into pellets. Take your pick.

John Endicott
Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 8:32 am

icisil, 90% is hardwood. That’s not all waste (don’t forget there are other wood users vying for the “waste” materials as well) they are SPECIFICALLY cutting down hardwoods to make pellets (read the previous linked report) despite what you might think about what “no one in the right mind” would or would not do. Look, I’m no tree hugging hippie. I have nothing against the logging industry in particular (indeed, I think California would benefit immensely from allowing more logging to help manage their forests). It’s WASTING perfectly good resources that I don’t care for. and turning perfectly good trees into pellets and shipping them all around the world to burn on a virtue signaling alter is the very definition of wasting perfectly good resources.

John Endicott
Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 8:49 am

And BTW, the choices are not “lumber, pellets, firewood, rot or burn” There are more uses for trees and tree parts than lumber, firewood, and pellets. chipboard, particalbaord, paper, toilet tissue, wood chip, pulp, etc. all are vying for tree materials. According to the report, which you obviously never read, government support for these pellet mills makes it harder for other members of the American Forest & Paper Association to compete for those materials, pushing up prices.

Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 9:01 am

I think you are picking cherries here John. Your linked ‘report’ is, a leftist environmental activist group, which should say it all. This below from

“Notes: Climate Central surveys and conducts scientific research on climate change and informs the public of key findings. Climate Central is a qualified 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. While this source is evidence based, they do have a leftward political bias through criticism of Republican policy.”

You should read their report on ‘surging seas’ where accelerating sea levels are 3 times worse than expected. Even your linked article from Climate Central admits that the ‘whole’ hardwood trees are the stems that have no higher and better use to make anything other than some type of pulp or chipped log. And they also admit these are all tree farms (in the US south east) that are on private lands that engage in growing wood fibre for the forest industry. Not chipping virgin hardwood forests as they allude to elsewhere in the article, since there isn’t much virgin forest left in that neck of the woods. Do you really think they are going to let any log that could make more valuable lumber just get chipped for pulp or pellets? Your linked article also says that most of these hardwoods are the thinning phase of a woodlot management program to remove the smaller trees so the remaining trees grow faster without competition. Just because Drax doesn’t want to burn coal in one of their turbine units which has been converted to run on 100% pellets shouldn’t invalidate the USA forest industry, because that is exactly what you are doing in attacking the USA forest industry who only provides the raw materials the UK wants.

Anyway, my argument is a political one, and that is co-firing existing coal plants with up to 15%-20% pellet dust to keep them from shuttering existing coal plants. Japan and Korea are doing so from the west coast pellet industry that is predominately soft wood wood waste. This is a major renewable resource in the USA/Canada and I think many people find offensive the attack against this honest hard working industry.

Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 9:02 am

The 90% hardwood is from one mill – the Eniva mill in Franklin, VA near the Great Dismal Swamp. They’re probably using cypress. I don’t know anything about that hardwood.

John Endicott
Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 9:57 am

One mill surrounded by pine tree plantations. yet they’re sourcing 90% hardwood.

John Endicott
Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 10:03 am

Your linked ‘report’ is, a leftist environmental activist group, which should say it all.

It’s at least more that you’ve provided. If you have contrary evidence (not just your word, or what you want to believe but actually links) by all means supply them for discussion.

Anyway, my argument is a political one

And it’s the wrong political argument to be having. Rather than supporting the waste of perfectly good resources on the alter of “carbon” virtue signaling, you should be opposing the political nonsense that leads to the situation where anyone would consider such waste is a good thing politically or otherwise.

John Endicott
Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 10:07 am

Just because Drax doesn’t want to burn coal in one of their turbine units which has been converted to run on 100% pellets shouldn’t invalidate the USA forest industry, because that is exactly what you are doing in attacking the USA forest industry who only provides the raw materials the UK wants.

And, no I’m not attacking the USA forest industry, I’m attacking the waste of perfectly good trees on a useless, wasteful virtue signaling enterprise that does the opposite of what it claims to be for (IE it generates far more CO2 emissions in the name of reducing CO2 emissions than had they stuck with the perfectly good coal that they could easily source locally were it not for the stupidity of their political class)

Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 11:14 am

“One mill surrounded by pine tree plantations. yet they’re sourcing 90% hardwood.”

Apparently, that’s what’s on the land of landowners who want to make some money on their investment. Are you aware that in the south (maybe elsewhere, too) country folk invest in land as a sort-of pension? At the right time they sell off the timber and then either sell the land or hold on to it for the next iteration for their heirs.

Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 11:19 am

“That’s not all waste (don’t forget there are other wood users vying for the “waste” materials as well)”

No there isn’t, to my knowledge. Most hardwoods don’t work for pulpwood applications. You need softwoods like pine and poplar, even though the latter is considered a hardwood, but it’s really not used for anything other than pulpwood.

Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 11:22 am

“According to the report, which you obviously never read”

I’ve read all 3 sections. It is an excellent report; but the guy who wrote it is a journalist with limited real-world experience.

Reply to  MJB
October 30, 2019 1:32 pm

I was about to write the same thing, MJB, but you beat me to it. Although I agree with nearly all of the article, this is not accurate:  “…the trees are cut and burned much faster than new ones can grow.”

It is ironic that the very thing which they’re foolishly trying to combat, CO2, is a actually great help to that industry. Higher CO2 levels make the trees grow faster, increasing the amount of wood per acre per year that can be harvested. Since these trees are all C3 plants, CO2 >400 ppmv probably increases productivity by at least 20% compared to pre-industrial levels (≈280 ppmv), and that percentage will rise as CO2 levels rise, as Sherwood Idso shows us in these photos:
comment image


John Endicott
Reply to  Dave Burton
October 31, 2019 6:53 am

Although I agree with nearly all of the article, this is not accurate: “…the trees are cut and burned much faster than new ones can grow.”

It maybe hyperbole or it may not. Couldn’t find any hard numbers one way or the other. However, there’s a finite (though large) number of trees at any point in time, and each tree has a growing time measured in decades to centuries – logically if you keep increasing the number of trees you burn on the alter of virtue signaling (They’re planning on nearly doubling number the mills that are turning whole trees, not waste materials, into pellets in the South East US ) there is a point where you’ll be destroying trees faster then their replacements can be grown. how close we are to that point (and whether or not we’ve reached and/or passed it) can be debated, the fact that such a point exists can not.

October 30, 2019 11:31 am

You’d think that Americans and Canadians would have something to say about the destruction of their forests. Maybe they will when things get bad enough – ie when the UK has converted all power stations to run on wood, increasing the destruction of the forests 10 fold. Then, maybe they will protest and stop it. And the Uk will be left dangling with no wood for its power.

Reply to  Vincent
October 30, 2019 12:51 pm

The can burn the politician’s wooden heads.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
October 30, 2019 2:43 pm

“The can burn the politician’s wooden heads.”

Most of them would be too Green and wouldn’t burn properly.

Reply to  Vincent
October 30, 2019 1:20 pm

Most rural Americans don’t care. Most of the wood comes from private property, and it’s no one’s business what private landowners do with their resources. Trees grow back so no big deal. But if the US did run out there’s all of Siberia.

Reply to  Vincent
October 30, 2019 1:38 pm

Where are all the Tree Huggers chained to the trees to stymie clear cutting.

Reply to  DocSiders
October 30, 2019 3:05 pm

Why don’t we protest the clear cutting of Pumpkins 🎃. It is about the same argument. How do these skeptics who think making a brand new industry out of waste wood and/or purpose grown silviculture tree 🌲 crops is wrong? Why does WUWT promote this misinformation? It burns me up…no pun intended.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 30, 2019 5:33 pm

Just look at it as an opportunity to educate. Some people act like they think trees are gone forever once they’re cut down. They have no idea what weeds they can be. And FWIW, I have read that new growth forest absorbs more CO2 than old growth forest does.

Reply to  icisil
October 30, 2019 6:49 pm

Yes, new growth is far more additive to absorbing CO2 than old growth. It just takes about 20 years to get that tree from seed/sapling to a juvenile tree when it can really take off and grow and then there is no comparison between the two over the next 50-100 years. A lot of old growth forests that are live is actually contributing to the CO2 release to atmosphere since it it is barely growing, if it all, and a lot of it is falling down and rotting out to the ground and atmosphere. This myth about old growth absorbing more CO2 than a young vigorous new forest is part of that Greenpeace lie about leaving old growth forests alone and uncut. The argument is that in much of the third world, the old growth is just burnt off for Palm plantations. And that is wrong…and then that is true if they just waste the old forest/jungle and burn it which does release all the CO2 at once. But it is all going to wind up in smoke sooner or later so is a moot point…just like breathing out CO2.

Of course there are a lot of values other than just wood fibre, such as watershed management, wildlife management or preserving it for a park where it will burn some day. Which it is guaranteed to do, if it doesn’t rot first when it blows down. Yes, there is a need for more information regarding forests, but then I am biased having planted and harvested millions of trees in my lifetime. Forests are truly the most honest renewable resource we have.

John Endicott
Reply to  Earthling2
October 31, 2019 5:31 am

Except, Earthling2, as the previously linked report indicates, it’s mainly *NOT* waste wood (73% is whole trees) and its *not* purpose grown silviculture tree 🌲 (roughly 90% of the trees Enviva is turning into pellets are hardwoods not the purpose grown softwood pines). Why do *you* promote misinformation? It doesn’t “burn me up”, just makes me roll my eyes.

Reply to  John Endicott
October 31, 2019 11:30 am

When they say “waste wood” they are referring to sawmill waste. They’re not referring to the waste remnants of logging (i.e., branches, knotty wood, etc.), that if not used for pellets would be burned off as waste or firewood.

October 30, 2019 11:39 am

If you lived in California this week you might be forgiven for thinking
that instead of lifting Africa up to the West’s standards, it would better serve to lower the West to theirs.

October 30, 2019 11:59 am

Do something useful for nature and glue yourselves to Drax. We’ll throw imported sawdust on you to make it a stronger bond.

October 30, 2019 12:09 pm

I rather think that African UN delegates and the bureaucrasies at home focus on the ‘aid gravy train’ and are part of the problem. They see immediate profit for them and their friends. In other words. African dictators and other governments alike do not support change for the poor. They also perceive that supporting the Green Agenda is a good way to get aid funds. Thus, the problem of development in Africa is a vicious circle that I cannot see any easy way out of.

Thomas Homer
October 30, 2019 12:29 pm

California can diminish fire dangers by processing their forests into wood pellets and exporting them to Africa.

John Endicott
Reply to  Thomas Homer
October 31, 2019 7:16 am

California environmental laws and policies actively prevent that from happening. logging is pretty much verboten (or at least extremely restricted) in California on public lands (which is most of the forests in question).

Coeur de Lion
October 30, 2019 12:52 pm

Actually poverty tends to increase populations. The lack of electricity in subsaharan Africa is a shameful disgrace increasing lung disease deaths and destroying the environment. In my discussion with the Synod of the Church of England about their ludicrous virtue signalling fossil fuel disinvestment policy, I suggested that they should do the Christian thing and promote coal fired power stations in that region – a sort of Crusade if you like. Needless to say these proud prelates took no notice – Bishop of Salisbury who leads is a believer in the IPCC’s SR1.5 study which has been shown to be fiction and not suitable for policy making. He’s convinced we’re entering a no-carbon future. He clearly is ignorant of the science. No wonder the Church is losing influence. And I have a first class honours degree on St Paul and the Gospels.

William Astley
Reply to  Coeur de Lion
October 30, 2019 1:15 pm

I total agree. Industrialization requires reliable electricity.

The Left wing is clueless about everything. They are followers not thinkers.

Send them to live a year in a slum in Lagos (population 21 million, Canada for example has a population of 36 million.)

The realities of life in Nigerian cities are hard. In Lagos, about two of every three people live in a slum. Less than 10 percent of residents have access to piped water (for those that do, it is often riddled with sediment and unsafe to drink), forcing urban households to purchase water from vendors at up to three times the normal price charged by Lagos state. Only six percent of urban households have a flushing toilet that is connected to a sewage system.
Access to electricity is growing rapidly around the world—except in Africa
India, Bangladesh and Indonesia have all been success stories achieving electrification rates higher than 80% despite their vast populations.

Need reliable cheap electricity?


Electricity coverage 99.7% (9 January 2019)[1][2]
Installed capacity 362.12 GW[3]
Share of fossil energy 79.8%


Fossil Fuel Energy Consumption (% of total) 73.77 (2014)


Fossil Fuel Energy Consumption (% of total) 66.09 (2014)

More than half of the world’s population growth will be in Africa by 2050

October 30, 2019 1:13 pm

I wonder what blackmail the developed world can use on Africa. It seems to me that ‘aid’ and the world bank are malign influences that Africa would be better off without.

In spite of Africa’s many problems, the continent seems to be developing and creating an expanding middle class.

October 30, 2019 1:13 pm

Coal for the Drax power station used to come from Selby, less than 8 miles away. All Britain’s deep coal mines have been closed as being “uneconomic” although the country still has substantial reserves of coal. I wonder if any detailed comparisons have been made of the environmental costs of obtaining wood pellets from American and Canadian forests for burning in Drax compared with coal from local mines?

Reply to  Roy
October 30, 2019 2:56 pm

You’d have to add in the cost of carbon taxes to burning coal. It’s probably cheaper to burn wood pellets because they don’t have to pay for those CO2 emissions.

John Endicott
Reply to  icisil
October 31, 2019 7:01 am

If they taxed all the fossil fueled CO2 emissions involved in the production and transport of the wood pellets, it wouldn’t be. But since those emission happen outside their jurisdiction, they “don’t count” (just like the emissions from burning the wood pellets “don’t count” due to the erroneous idea that they’re “neutral”) resulting in a system that produces much more CO2 emissions in the misguided name of reducing CO2 emissions

October 30, 2019 1:18 pm

Climate change is the new racism

October 30, 2019 1:38 pm

Correction: The “small pebble bed modular nuclear reactors” link should be:

October 30, 2019 1:52 pm

Mods – Bad Link – pebble bed modular nuclear reactors

Should be

Jane Michaels
October 30, 2019 2:53 pm

This ignores the single largest impediment to developing cheap power: crippling corruption within Africa itself.

The worst example I can think of was an attempt by private US engineering and equity concerns to build a power plant in Nigeria, with 50% FIVE ZERO percent of profit going to government just for the privilege of paying for, having the expertise to, and physically building by foreign companies.

But the Nigerian corruptocracy refused, saying 50% was not enough “it should be 80% at least”. For doing. Nothing.

Meanwhile, billions upon billions end up in back pockets in the name of Power Plant projects stretching back to the early -seventies- producing absolutely nothing.

Notice they still vomit out the usual Global Changit Clime crap we get from our Betters in the West. They’re the of the same cloth, they are just worse at it.

Eugene Lynx
Reply to  Jane Michaels
October 30, 2019 4:28 pm

Well said and much needed. Just cut off the “Aid”, 90% of which just feeds the kleptocracy, all the way down to the village chief.
When I travel to Cambodia I am sickened by the number of UN and NGO vehicles in sight and the total lack of progress on any of the problems. Granted, a lot of those big fancy sport utility vehicles are part of the ECCC (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) , another fine example of internationalism at work, but not related to poverty and electricity.

October 31, 2019 2:35 am

There are many reasons why Africa remains a “dark continent,” but the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about is intelligence. There is a reason why humanity’s greatest thinkers originated in places like Greece, Italy, France, and England and not the region of SSA. The mere idea of “democracy” requires a certain minimum of intellect; its initial formulation much more so. Everything is relative, and intelligence is no exception. There are statistical norms among all populations, including humans. Intelligence is one such norm. Simply put, it takes a lot of intelligent people to build and maintain a stable, functioning democracy based on free markets and the rule of law. The region of SSA is woefully deficient in this regard and may never be. In leftist parlance, they were “born that way” generation after generation and have been remarkably resistant to change. DNA is destiny.

October 31, 2019 7:04 am

There is a wood burning power plant in Ramsgate in Kent that opened recently and from within forestry circles I have heard that it is struggling to get enough fuel. It requires one truck every hour to keep it going. There is not sufficient supply within the South-East so trucks are bringing fuel from as far as Wales. This is often wet wood so a lot of the weight is just taking water from Wales to Kent. The bio fuel market has opened up opportunities for forestry estates with a way of earning money from the brash or from thinning and clearance, as well as for diseased trees such as those with ‘Ips’. In my circle there is little desire to see mature trees just go for firewood but a coppice rotation can provide some additional income. Some estates use the biomass themselves for heating.

October 31, 2019 7:10 am

Don’t worry about India: the present Modi government can manage these eco-egos. Western funded NGOs were trying to block nuclear power, high ways, basic industry etc. but the BJP doesn’t fall for this theater. Example:

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