Europe’s energy hypocrisy is attracting increasing notice | Popgen Tech
Germany recently made world news when its government approved the demolition of a wind farm and a small town to facilitate the expansion of a strip mining operation for highly polluting lignite. The lignite will be used to power formerly mothballed coal-fired power plants that are being reactivated to heat homes and keep lights on as winter sets in across continental Europe.
Noting this action, along with calls at the recently concluded COP 27 conference by European delegates for Uganda to delay the development of an oil pipeline his country is building with Tanzania, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni wrote “When decisions like these taken, and without an ounce of self-awareness or honor, it is no surprise that some of my peers are asking for compensation or handouts. But that is the last thing Africans need or want most. To see the shameless double standards lowering is what we desire, together with the lifting of the moratorium on fossil fuel investments for Africa itself so that we can meet the needs of our own people.”
I have previously written about the shifts in developing countries caused by Europe’s efforts to hoard global supplies of liquefied natural gas for domestic consumption, causing international prices to rise to unprecedented levels unaffordable for some nations, such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to carry. The result has been deprivation of basic human needs and continuous power outages that last half of each day and more in that and other countries.
Now, media attention is increasingly focused on the decision by the EU to classify the burning of wood as “green” for the purposes of its climate regulatory framework. This classification and corresponding government subsidies have led to a revival of this 18th-century technology, despite the fact that burning wood accounts for more than 50% of Europe’s particulate emissions.
The governments of Europe have apparently forgotten that the 18th century deforestation of its continent and other parts of the world was one of the key drivers behind the transition to burning coal for heating, cooking and transport purposes during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. . Today, in their zeal to meet their somewhat arbitrary “net-zero by 2050” climate goals, European leaders are turning back to this medieval energy technology to polish their ESG scores.
In a September story titled “Europe sacrifices its ancient forests for energy,” the New York Times points out, “Throughout Central Europe, companies are cutting down forests and grinding up centuries-old trees in the name of renewable energy. Pellets are shipped across Western Europe, helping countries meet their renewable energy commitments.” And cutting down forests to produce wood pellets for fuel is not limited to the old-growth forests of Europe: It is also happening in the United States, which is considered one of the biggest exporters of wood pellets to fill European demand.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), in August this year the US exported almost 664 thousand tons of biomass, most of it in the form of wood pellets going to Europe. The cutting of forests in the USA for this purpose is most strongly concentrated in the Southeastern region of the country.
In a report in July, Wired wrote “Almost 60 percent of all the EU’s renewable energy comes from bioenergy – a catch-all term that includes any energy that comes from something that has recently lived. This includes agricultural waste, crops grown for biofuels, and – most importantly – wood from forestry industries…Almost all of Sweden’s urban heating is generated by district heating systems, which mostly burn wood produced by the country’s large and influential forestry industries.”
As Europe’s mostly self-inflicted energy crisis spreads its additional impacts around the world, the apparent hypocrisy present in these and other policy actions is becoming more than some developing country leaders are willing to bear quietly. President Musevini points to another example of these conflicting priorities in his message to COP 27: “Now with Europe reinvesting in its own fossil fuel power industry to bring mothballed power plants back online, in a truly perverse twist we are told new Western investment in Africa fossil fuels are possible—but only for oil and gas resources that will be shipped through pipelines and to Europe. This is the purest hypocrisy.”
This is a compelling point that is becoming increasingly difficult to argue against. As Europe continues to export its energy crisis to other nations that lack the financial resources to compete, fewer will be willing to try.