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« Soft totalitarianism | Main | It's gas »
Friday
Nov232012

Mad, bad Bernie

There's a fascinating blog by someone called Bernie Bulkin at the DECC website. Mr Bulkin is the chairman of the Office for Renewable Energy Deployment and he's writing about burning wood for energy.

...the impression [is given] that our policy is simply to divert whole, mature trees from construction and manufacturing and turn them into energy. It isn’t. We don’t think this is sustainable, and it is not what our Bioenergy strategy suggests. The evidence gathered for that Strategy shows that the current typical practice of taking the residues from timber production deliver greater GHG benefits than leaving the forest unmanaged.

But even then the case against whole trees is not black and white. There are cases where taking whole trees can be justified; such as use of infected wood, from forestry thinning as part of standard forest management practices or when bringing neglected woodland back into management.

The problem is that sawmill residues and wood thinnings are already used - in MDF and plywood production, as horse bedding and so on. What he is saying is that the policy will involve pricing these industries out of the marketplace and throwing their employees on the dole. Meanwhile, carbon that was previously sequestered when it was used for construction applications, is diverted into the atmosphere as CO2.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, quite mad.

Bernie Bulkin's CV makes interesting reading too. This comes from is web page at Vantage Capital Partners, a company that makes 'substantial investments in energy innovation, energy efficiency', and where Mr Bulkin is an adviser:

Bernie retired from his role as Chief Scientist at BP (British Petroleum) in 2003. He spent 18 years at BP and its predecessor The Standard Oil Company, holding various positions in technology and business, including Chief Technology Officer. As BP’s Vice President for Environmental Affairs, he developed BP’s clean fuels strategy and led BP’s strategy and action plan on climate change. He helped to develop BP’s thinking about sustainability, what it means in an extractive company, and the organizational demands of sustainability in a large company. Bernie is a Professorial Fellow at Cambridge University, serves as a Commissioner for Energy and Transport at the UK Sustainable Development Commission and has been the host of the Environment on the Edge talk radio series. Bernie was recently appointed as Chair of the Office of Renewable Energy Deployment (ORED) in the United Kingdom

A fascinating dual role in my opinion.

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Reader Comments (42)

Bishop,
Spot on with this:

The problem is that sawmill residues and wood thinnings are already used - in MDF and plywood production, as horse bedding and so on. What he is saying is that the policy will involve pricing these industries out of the marketplace and throwing their employees on the dole.

Nov 23, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

A wood recycling yard in Hertfordshire has been on fire for a fortnight.

Company director Simon Lupson said: "It is very frustrating that a fire like this not only stops a good and growing business in its tracks, but restricts the amount of bio fuel available to green power stations through these winter months."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-20453394

Nov 23, 2012 at 12:00 PM | Registered CommenterDreadnought

My wife and I run a hobby farm, raising small animals for local pet shops. We go thru a Lot of that bedding. How Typical of his type, to find yet another way to raise the price of Everything.

Nov 23, 2012 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

There's a very well thought out response from Kate de Selincourt below the blog entry. Looks like someone did their homework.

Nov 23, 2012 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

unmagaed forest, neglected forest...

Nov 23, 2012 at 12:17 PM | Registered Commentershub

What is it? Every green job created destroys three in the real economy?

Nov 23, 2012 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

I was appalled, not only at the Bernie blog, but at the whole DECC site, which was just a continuous activist stream.

There ought to be more responses on these sites pointing out that the science underlying Climate Change has collapsed, and so the fundamental assumptions driving their proposals are false...

Nov 23, 2012 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

From Ash to ashes...

Nov 23, 2012 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

It's somewhat ironic that fifty years ago environmentalists were chaining themselves to trees, now they're burning them.

Nice.

Nov 23, 2012 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

@ Stuck-Record

Brilliant!!

"It's somewhat ironic that fifty years ago environmentalists were chaining themselves to trees, now they're burning them.

Nice.

Nov 23, 2012 at 12:46 PM | Stuck-Record"

...................

Absolutely priceless!!

Nov 23, 2012 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

@ Dodgy Geezer

There ought to be more responses on these sites pointing out that the science underlying Climate Change has collapsed, and so the fundamental assumptions driving their proposals are false.

Given that the CC in DECC stands for "Climate Change", and that the department largely exists to show that King Canute got it wrong, I don't see that making the slightest bit of difference. The state wants the tax that funds the (out-of-control) spending that buys the votes that keep it in power.

There is a quote of disputed origin that runs along the following lines:

A democracy can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largesse out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits, with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship

When the history of this century comes to be written, I think it will be found that in the UK, we have in fact already passed that point, probably in around 2001 or 2002. We are now in effect in the dictatorship phase, because across a whole raft of issues - grammar schools, immigration, law and order, capital punishment, EU membership, ecofascism - the electorate thinks one thing and the political class another.

The latter has therefore implemented an updated form of dictatorship in which, no matter who you vote for, nothing that matters changes. At best, one party may make certain things worse at a different rate to the others.

Even in electoral defeat, the losing party's troughers continue to prosper individually by drawing salaries and expenses from the state-funded quangocracy that the incoming party never dismantles.

I really don't know what the solution is except to sell up and live on a boat somewhere warm.

Nov 23, 2012 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Wonder what the CO2 output is from all those trucks/railways/ships etc used to transport all that wood ?

Nov 23, 2012 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

I despair when I read of large scale wood powered electricity power stations being built, (or coal stations being converted to burn wood). Wood is a great fuel for domestic stoves (I go through about 6-10 tonnes of hardwood logs a year to keep the house warm), but to feed the new wood powered stations planned in Scotland and England demand will by far outstrip supply, and they will have to import thousands of trees from Canada and Scandinavia. I am surprised that the numpties in DECC are not aware of this - even Scottish Renewables and FoE have highlighted the folly of generation from wood, even for a relatively small scale 20MW plant:

However, there are serious doubts as to whether enough indiginous wood is available to feed the plant, and environmental groups such as FOE Scotland are questioning the wisdom of large-scale biomass electricity generation with their 'Back Away from Big Biomass' campaign... Source: http://www.scotsrenewables.com/biomassinfo.html

The report linked at the foot of the ScotsRenewables page suggests 600MW of wood generation plants are planned in Scotland alone. http://www.greenerleith.org/storage/BIOMASS%20RELEASE.pdf I wouldn't be surprised if the cost of the marine diesel used to ship wood to the UK will be more than the value of the wood itself?

Nov 23, 2012 at 1:22 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Stuck-Record : 'It's somewhat ironic that fifty years ago environmentalists were chaining themselves to trees, now they're burning them.'

What - Caroline Lucas d'Arc, next in line?

Nov 23, 2012 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

Here's a key quote from the ConFor / Clegg report:

The report’s foreword says: “If new large users of British grown wood and other wood fibre enter the marketplace, supported by subsidy, then it can only be at the expense of existing users, impacting negatively and disproportionately on sustainability, employment, carbon sequestration, and mitigation of climate change." Total wood production in the UK is expected to peak at about 20 million tonnes around 2019, the report concludes, with demand from existing markets at a similar level. Large-scale biomass plants currently proposed in the UK would need at least 27 million tonnes of additional wood every year (Note 3).

Source: http://www.greenerleith.org/storage/BIOMASS%20RELEASE.pdf

It is worth looking at the notes also to get a sense of the scale of the madness.

Nov 23, 2012 at 1:33 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Lapogus,

It's a box ticking exercise. Whether it actually reduces CO2 emissions isn't their department. Their job is to make sure the boxes are ticked and the quotas met, that's what they are paid for.

Tractor production figures in the USSR come to mind.

Nov 23, 2012 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Would that be the same Mr Bulkin who is a director of Ludgate Investments that have 7.9% of their £44m of investments in a company called Ignis Biomass that sources timber for renewable energy generation?

Nov 23, 2012 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

When did 'cutting down perfectly good trees and burning them, producing tonnes of CO2' morph into 'biomass'..?

Nov 23, 2012 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Same Bulkin who became a director of Pursuit Dynamics in June 2011, share price 350p, revolutionary technology in biofuels among other things, but biofuels was the great hope.

Share price today 3p.

Nov 23, 2012 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

"at BP and its predecessor The Standard Oil Company"

Er, Standard Oil was Esso, BP's great competitor! More DECC precision...

Nov 23, 2012 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

"carbon that was previously sequestered when it was used for construction applications, is diverted into the atmosphere as CO2"

That's the line to pursue, IMO. They're so wedded to the 'evil CO2' line that any accusation that they are contributing to its increase (and away from EU targets) should strike home.

Nov 23, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

I remember Bulkin's bul**** when he was a SCD commissioner. Working under the Chairmanship of FoE Porritt says all you need to know about him and his fellow commissioners.

Nov 23, 2012 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I really don't know what the solution is except to sell up and live on a boat somewhere warm.

Nov 23, 2012 at 1:18 PM | Justice4Rinka

Would that be a wooden boat?

Nov 23, 2012 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

The following is worth a read:-

Roger Dewhurst at WUWT
November 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Climate shroundwavers and sceptics alike, are engaged in a totally futile argument over questionable data, questionable models and questionable interpretation all revolving around ‘data’ collected over a mere 1/ 10^8 of the history of this planet, and influenced by short term political perspective.

For god’s sake consider how this planet formed 4,500 million years ago, how the crust and mantle differentiated from the metallic core, how primitive forms of life permitted the formation of an atmosphere containing oxygen, how volcanoes in the process of a differentiating crust fed the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, how after plants populated this planet the carbon in carbon dioxide was deposited in vast deposits of coal, limestone, chalk, oil and gas.

From the beginning volcanic activity has contributed carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a gradually decreasing rate. The rate has changed at times because volcanic activity has waxed and waned. The vast forests of carboniferous times soaked up the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and plants have continued to remove it from the atmosphere since then.

The carbon from the atmosphere has been converted, by plants, to peat and coal on land and to limestone, chalk, oil and gas in the oceans and oceanic sediments. That process continues today. The tenor of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has, irregularly, declined to the point where it is now sub-optimal for the growth of most plants.

This has happened because, on average, the rate of deposition of carbon in soils and marine sediments has overtaken the rate of emission of carbon dioxide from volcanic sources both on land and in the oceans.

Many things have influenced climate throughout the history of this planet, among them are the output of the sun, the orbit of this planet around the sun, the positions of the land masses on the surface of the planet which determine the location and strength of the oceanic currents which transfer heat from equatorial to polar regions, and changes and reversals of the earth’s magnetic field.

Of all these matters we have much less than total understanding and over none of them do we have any control whatsoever. Nevertheless we are beset with idiots knowing next to nothing, obsessed with the number of angels able to dance on the head of a pin and insisting that we, puny creatures that we are, are about to destroy the planet by burning a trivial proportion of the coal, oil and gas reserves stored in the earth’s crust, thus returning to the atmosphere that which came from it.

Nov 23, 2012 at 3:27 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Roddy, Bernie Bulkin bought 1,500 shares in Pursuit dynamics @ 219.65p on 2 Sep 2011 while he was a director of the company. As you say the shares are now worth 3p. So his investment of £3294 is now worth about £45, minus dealing costs.
Clearly this is the sort of expert chap we need advising the government.

I have posted on the DECC blog, in moderation,
"Is this the same Bernie Bulkin who has directorships and shareholdings in biofuels companies such as Pursuit Dynamics?"

Nov 23, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Re: Paul

I have posted a similar comment about Ludgate Investments and it is still in moderation although a comment posted 30 minutes after mine has been accepted.

Nov 23, 2012 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

I assume that high-heidyins and minions in DECC also failed to read matt Ridley's recent op-ed in the Times:

Britain's mad biomass dash - Matt Ridley, The Times, Nov 17 2012.

Nov 23, 2012 at 3:52 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

If he is talking about reforesting Britain and then using a portion of the new forests as fuel, fine. Have all stone fences "improved" on both sides with trees-for-fuel. If he is saying let us construct for the long, long term with stone and ceramics (clay, cement) and divert some of the wood used for short-term housing (only 50 years or so), then, fine. But if he is saying let us allow construction material to compete with fuel costs, then something is going up when it comes to not freezing in winter.

Wood is a low energy density property. If it were so wonderful, Wales wouldn't have had a history of coal mines.

Nov 23, 2012 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Proctor

There was an 'eco-house' on Grand Designs recently that used 'eco-concrete' for the foundations. This I must see, I thought, as cement is difficult thing to substitute for, but of course, it was the aggregate that had been replaced (by waste products). And they ended up putting tons of aggregate on the roof anyway!

Nov 23, 2012 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

J4R: "I really don't know what the solution is except to sell up and live on a boat somewhere warm."

I can highly recommend it - 8 years of bliss. I did however employ solar panels and wind energy to keep the lights on:-)

Nov 23, 2012 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwwA8p4XWXk

This guy has got his own theme music

( Anybody used to listen to Danny Baker before he got sacked again from BBC Radio London will appreciate this )

Nov 23, 2012 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

23 Nov: ThisIsMoneyUK: Tamara Cohen/Matt Chorley: Top Tory who earns thousands from green energy firms says it is 'reasonable' for bills to rise by £2-a-week to pay for wind farms
Battle of wills between George Osborne and Ed Davey sees cap on carbon emissions dropped
Green energy strategy will treble costs from £2.35billion to £7.6billion
By 2030, average fuel bill will rise from £1,249 to £1.427 a year
Energy Secretary says bills would rise even more without green power
But Mr Yeo insisted it was not a problem. 'I personally think that a couple of pounds a week - maybe rising to almost £3 a week - is a reasonable price for Britain to achieve a degree of energy security to reduce its total dependence on fossil fuels and to honour its commitments to cut green house gases,' he told BBC Radio 4.
However Mr Yeo, who earns almost £140,000 from green energy companies, faced criticism from Conservative colleagues.
Douglas Carswell, Tory MP for Clacton, said: ‘The average constituent in Clacton is already paying between £10 and £20 extra for their electricity as a direct consequence of these hidden green surcharges...
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: 'By failing to agree to any carbon target for the power sector until after the next election, David Cameron has allowed a militant tendency within his own ranks to derail the Energy Bill.'
Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins added: 'The coalition has caved in to Osborne's reckless dash for gas and banged the final nail in the coffin of Cameron's pledge to lead the greenest Government ever.'...
A generation of nuclear plants will be built and Mr Davey’s department is committed to thousands more wind turbines, despite opposition from local communities and more than 100 Conservative MPs
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article-2237135/Top-Tory-Tim-Yeo-earns-thousands-green-energy-firms-says-reasonable-bills-rise-2-week-pay-wind-farms.html

Nov 23, 2012 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Why is it only the greens who get interviewed about whatever mad scheme the government is doing? Don't bother with a reply, I think I know the answer.

Nov 23, 2012 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Just gotta love Yeo's comment - 'I personally think that a couple of pounds a week - maybe rising to almost £3 a week - is a reasonable price for Britain to achieve a degree of energy security to reduce its total dependence on fossil fuels and to honour its commitments to cut green house gases,' he told BBC Radio 4.
Let's compare his pontification with what Dickens had his invention, Mr Wilkins Micawber, say -
'Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.'
Yeo, I will never say that you're a greedy, selfish and uncaring bastard - 'cos that may be construed as slander.
But, because thought-crimes are not-yet on the UK statute books, I think that you are are a greedy, selfish and uncaring bastard.
Furthermore, I dumbly think that for every pound that the poor of this country put into your back pocket with the whole-hearted support of the 'ruling-classes; a 'crime-against-humanity' has taken place!
Sir, you are (I think) one hellofamuvverfcuk!

Nov 24, 2012 at 12:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Bernie Bulkin,
You have gained the distinction of commencing a discussion that omits an entire large industry.
Forestry, at least on Australia, and in many other countries, is primarily for the production of saw logs that are typically used for timber framed homes and other buildings. The most usual use of the residue is chipping, then off to the paper making mill.
In some countries, plantations are established to constrain erosion and for similar indirect reasons, but the bulk of the commercial effort is for construction timbers then paper.
Do you have a personal vendetta against paper because it can tell people bad news in print?

Nov 24, 2012 at 5:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

If this Bernie has any heat transfer knowledge of any kind, he should know that at equal temperatures, the thermal IR from the atmosphere will annihilate IR emission in the same wavelengths from the Earth's surface. No IR emission, no IR warming...........the rest is future history.......

Nov 24, 2012 at 7:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

SLIGHTLY OFF TOPIC BUT........
The Guardian are inviting readers to vote on whether they want the country to be covered in wind farms.
Voting is open for one day.
Only slightly more than half now say 'yes'.
You too can vote !

Nov 24, 2012 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered Commentertoad

James P: Standard Oil was originally founded in Ohio in 1870 - before it was split up. Standard Oil Ohio, based in Cleveland, was taken over by BP, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Oil_of_Ohio

Nov 24, 2012 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterRod

I've just replied to Bernie's blog:

This article is not just short on facts and figures, it's totally devoid of them. The author appears to have a "rose-tinted spectacle" view of provision of UK power from wood biomass. An environmentalist.com article says "In Britain, the next three years will see wood-fuelled power station capacity increase sevenfold, requiring, according to the campaign group Biofuelwatch, so much timber that it would need an area 12 times the size of Liechtenstein to grow it.".

Some kind of "environmental madness" seems to have infected many who want to see "low-carbon" power production. To achieve this, they champion the use of slow-growing wood which on its own could never provide sufficient fuel even if mature trees were used, and then react to criticisms of felling mature forests by claiming that the much lower volumes of forest thinnings and wood waste from wood products could be used instead. Don't the proponents of wood biomass own a pocket calculator? That's all that's needed to show that wood biomass can never be "sustainable", nor provide enough fuel even in the longer term.

In addition to all this, wood is a "low-density" fuel, and the only way it's "low carbon" is that it contains a much smaller proportion of it than do coal and natural gas, and therefore a very much smaller potential heat content. Low density implies higher transport costs because of the higher volumes needed; these costs can be reduced by reducing the water-content - an energy intensive process in itself. Even if wood is totally dry, wood cellulose contains the equivalent of 5 molecules of water for every 6 atoms of carbon. If there really is a need (many doubt it) to reduce CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere, the simple medium-to-long-term solution would be to plant more trees, not to cut down existing trees and burn them, thus releasing their sequestered CO2 back into the atmosphere. Wood biomass is an excellent example of cutting off the branch you're sitting on.

BTW the Guardian blog poll is showing "yes": 42% and "no":58% (including my vote)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/poll/2012/nov/23/would-you-be-perpared-to-pay-more-for-green-energy

Nov 24, 2012 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterMostlyHarmless

I wrote a comment on Bernie's blog explaining the physics which shows there can be no GHG-AGW: it has been taken off.

We have another pseudo-scientist!

Nov 25, 2012 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Wood burning produces dioxins. It is typical of green ignorami that they prefer to pollute the atmosphere with dioxins rather than rely on coal powered generation stations which clean up their effluent and do not emit dioxins.

http://lists.essential.org/1996/dioxin-l/msg00352.html

Dec 1, 2012 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

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