A documentary from 2015 “Burned“ (free of charge 30 min online versionhere) goes very well with the often mentioned documentary “Planet Of The Humans“.
Is wood the USA’s new coal?
You can almost get that impression after watching the two films. The United States has decided to consider wood burning as green energy. You simply assume that trees have converted CO2 into biomass during their growth, so it is a zero-sum game when you burn them later.
This is a very interesting consideration because it ignores the slow growth of the trees. A tree that is burned in a short period of time can only be replaced by a new tree in a much longer period of time. So the calculation is unfortunately very much misleading, and not to mention other positive aspects of trees and forests, which also disappear with deforestation.
Burning wood is pretty much the dirtiest way to generate heat energy. The table below shows the difference compared to other fossil fuels.
Table above shows that wood as a fuel produces far great amounts of pollution.
And it doesn’t matter how big the efforts are to minimize the pollutants when burning wood, even the best values are far away from gas or even oil.
Burnedshows in a frightening way how more and more wood chip factories have have set up in the USA. They are all located near coasts, mainly in the east of the country and therefore near ports. These ports are important because there are massive exports to Europe, among others.
After all, the EU has also decided to give the energy blessing to wood-burning. As a result, the forests in the eastern part of the United States have also been massively destroyed since 2000.
At the same time, highly subsidized wood-fired power plants are being built in the USA, where they are operated under the label of “biomass”.
Even former coal-fired power plants can be heated with wood without any problems. Burned shows examples from the UK, where it is done in exactly the same way.
Biomass and car tires
The film also reveals quite different, unpleasant truths. For example, the operators are allowed to burn old car tires or poison-soaked disused railway ties as well. Poisons that have been banned in the USA for some time.
Looking at houses, cars and plants near such power plants, which are covered with a sticky layer of soot every day, one wonders not only what the environmental standards are like in the USA but also how brazen the investors of such plants are. After all, massive environmental destruction and pollution is being carried out under the label of climate protection.
Takes decades to regenerate a forest
Forests are excellent carbon sinks, but they are much more. In old, mainly natural forests there is a wide diversity of plants and animals. In newly planted plantations, as compensation for the deforested old forests, this diversity is not present. It takes a long time for such systems to form and function. All these thoughts do not seem to be taken into consideration in the USA.
The idea of burning wood instead of coal was also supported for a long time by the US counterpart to Fridays For Future (FFF): 350.org. Its founder and activist Bill McKibben also has his say in the film.
“It seems to me like climate change is a kind of final exam for our species. We’ll find out if the big brain was in fact a good idea or not. Maybe if it’s connected to a big enough heart to make a difference. We’ve been given ample warning by the world’s scientists. Now the question is whether we’ll heed it or not.”
Evolution has given man a large brain for thinking. Using it can never hurt, because then even an activist like McKibben would have to realize what a bad idea the US interpretation of “biomass” is.
Meanwhile, McKibben seems to have come to the realization that it’s not so good to follow the former philosophy “From brown to green” – after being confronted with a first version of “Planet Of The Humans”. But of course, the hundreds of wood power plants built at his behest are still running.
What role does Europe play?
The EU has given the green light to burning wood. It gets even better. Organizations like the German Environmental Aid (DUH) promote pellet stoves as clean heat The table above shows just how clean it really is. Yet, one can also get completely different view if one looks at the development of pollutants in times of corona and strongly decreased traffic.
Does the DUH create its own basis here to get communities in behind it because the values do not decrease even with strongly reduced traffic.
In any case, there seem to be very big differences between environmental activists in the US and those inEurope. While here in Germany, every tree in the Hambach Forestgets defended tooth and nailso that it does not have to give way to coal mining, environmentalists in the USA celebrate the destruction of the environment while the USA gives millions in subsidies for its success.
We’d like to see more of these films so that all facets of the energy revolution are really shown.