Leave the trees alone

Here’s an idea. Let’s cut down then burn trees to produce electricity. After all, there are millions of trees and they’re renewable, right? Besides, the carbon released in combustion will be replaced with new trees. Simple.

If you’re a bit skeptical that this is a winning proposition, then you have no place in the U.S. Senate. In the coming weeks, the body is poised to give bipartisan support for declaring trees a renewable energy source and should therefore be counted under the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

As it happens, and the cynics in each of us could hardly be surprised, this whole notion is loony and completely refuted by facts. And, as we’ve learned, facts just don’t matter anymore. Here’s Eduardo Porter, writing for the New York Times:

There are a few problems with this thinking. Wood is not very efficient. In fact, burning trees to generate electricity generates more carbon per unit of power than using coal. Power companies would produce fewer emissions if they burned coal and left the forest alone to keep sucking carbon out of the air.

And there is the problem of timing. Sure forests regrow. But it takes many decades for seedlings to grow into trees and recapture all the carbon emitted.

“It’s a double whammy, because you remove an active sink that was sucking carbon out of the air,” said Mary S. Booth, director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, which opposes the assumption that biomass is carbon neutral. “Under the most conservative assumptions you are worse off for 40 to 50 years.”

The world simply does not have that kind of time.

Meh. Ignore the headlines, deny the science, and just sit back and enjoy our warming future. Our grandchildren will surely thank us.