Saturday, December 25, 2021

End ‘scandal’ of burning wood for energy, British MPs demand

More than 50 Members of Parliament call for meeting with Energy Minister over payments of green subsidies to biomass power plants

The “scandal” of burning wood for energy must end, MPs have warned the Energy Minister in the wake of a Telegraph investigation.

More than 50 MPs from across the political divide are writing to Kwasi Kwarteng on Thursday to demand a meeting over the payments of green subsidies to biomass power plants.

The letter, organised by Sir Peter Bottomley, the Father of the House of Commons, comes in the wake of an investigation by this newspaper which found that Drax, the UK’s biggest biomass plant, is burning the equivalent of 25 million trees a year to supply electricity.

The letter warns that the move to burning wood for energy has been a “grave error of judgment”.

Burning trees ‘makes global warming worse in short term’
“Two years ago Parliament declared a climate emergency. The sacrifices constituents are being asked to make to reach net zero are huge,” they write.

“Neither they nor we can understand why it was decided to give Drax £4 billion of subsidies from electricity bills to create even more carbon dioxide. This scandal demands an immediate response.”

The 52 MPs, including Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party, and SNP leader in Westminster Ian Blackford, point out that the scientific community has warned that burning wood for energy will make global warming worse in the short term.

Warnings about Drax’s green credentials have come from “top think tanks” of Chatham House, EASAC and Ember as well as the WWF, RSPB and Greenpeace, the MPs note.

“It is obvious that chopping down trees in the USA, transporting them across the Atlantic and then burning them is going to increase carbon dioxide levels,” the letter states.

The MPs warn that alongside increased emissions from shipping, felling trees and replacing them with saplings has been estimated by academics to have a “carbon payback” time of 190 years.

Finally, they point out that the burning of wood produces 18 per cent more carbon dioxide than coal, according to the IPCC.

“Together these factors mean that the switch to burning wood has led to huge extra emissions - equivalent to three million more Ford Fiestas on our roads,” the letter says.
International climate accounting rules mean that the biomass is carbon neutral in the UK and helps toward net zero goals.

But the MPs are demanding to meet with Mr Kwarteng claiming that the reality of the environmental impact has been hidden behind “jargon”.

Drax’s biomass ‘heavily regulated’

They state the day that the “last tree will be burnt in our power stations... cannot be soon enough”.

A Drax spokesman said that they play a “critical role generating 12 percent of the UK’s renewable electricity” to keep the lights on and work toward net zero.

“Claims to the contrary deliberately misrepresent the facts and science, as set out by world-leading climate scientists at the UN’s IPCC,” they added.

They insist that their biomass is “heavily regulated” and comes from the waste products from “sustainable forests” which “would otherwise be burned or left to rot”.


Amazing: Boris Johnson plans to end private ownership of cars to meet his Net Zero target. Communism?

He must not want to win elections

Government transport ministers have backed calls to end private ownership of vehicles in major overhaul.

Instead, they have asked for “greater flexibility” over vehicle use with experts believing “shared transport” is the way forward. Transport minister, Trudy Harrison, said any new proposals would be “fit for the future” of road travel. It could spark the beginning of the end of petrol and diesel car ownership as the pressure rises to meet pollution targets.

She said the country needed to move away from its “20th-century thinking centred around private vehicle ownership”.

She added it was “staggering” almost two-thirds of trips were conducted by lone drivers.

Ms Harrison also added the UK was now at a “tipping point” where shared transport would soon be a “realistic option” for many.

She made the comments to delegates at the Collaborative Mobility UK transport conference.

She said: “[It will soon be a] realistic option for many of us to get around.

“Where mobility hubs become a familiar part of our street architecture, and where all these options will be available to book and pay for at the touch of a smartphone.

“The challenge is to move further and faster to make shared mobility less of a novelty and increasing the norm to make it as easy, as convenient and as accessible as possible.”

She added: “I think the benefits are really significant."

The Government has repeatedly stressed the need to switch from a reliance on cars to other forms of transport.


Public officials have told climate envoy John Kerry to stop trying to raise energy costs for U.S. consumers

‘The reality is the Biden administration is not standing in the way of increasing domestic oil production to meet today’s energy needs,” Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk asserted at the World Petroleum Congress in Houston last week. Really? He might want to check with John Kerry.

The president’s climate envoy has been pressuring banks and financial institutions to reduce their commitments to U.S. oil and gas companies and join the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, which would hobble the ability of oil and gas companies to increase production. Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase signed on to the alliance this year.

Mr. Kerry’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. In April, members of the Senate Banking Committee sent him a letter expressing concern that he had “been pressuring banks to make extralegal commitments regarding energy-related lending and investment activities” that would result in “higher energy costs for American consumers.”

In May, 15 state treasurers sent a letter to Mr. Kerry observing that he and other members of the Biden administration are “privately pressuring U.S. banks and financial institutions to refuse to lend to or invest in coal, oil, and natural gas companies, as part of a misguided strategy to eliminate the fossil fuel industry in our country.” They urged banks and financial institutions “not to give in to pressure from the Biden Administration.”

It will take more than letters to halt the Biden administration’s war on fossil fuels. Responding to the Dallas Fed Energy Survey for the third quarter, one oil-and-gas producer identified “expanding credit” as a major headwind because “the money center banks continue to seek to reduce their commitments to oil and gas borrowers.”

On Nov. 22, another group of 16 state financial officers signed an open letter to the U.S. banking industry with some teeth. The letter states that the signers will take “concrete steps” to “select financial institutions that support a free market and are not engaged in harmful fossil fuel industry boycotts for our states’ financial services contracts.” If these officials follow through, noncompliant banks would lose lucrative state contracts.

According to the letter, these officials are responsible for a combined total of more than $600 billion in assets.

Texas went a step further in June, enacting a law banning state investments in businesses that boycott oil and gas companies and another law that blocks state investments in companies that restrict business with the firearms industry. Since the laws took effect, two of Wall Street’s biggest municipal-bond underwriters—Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase—haven’t managed a single municipal-bond sale in Texas, the second-largest issuer of state and local government debt with some $58 billion sold last year.

The antiboycott approach is a good start, but it fails to address a significant threat. Under the Texas law, state agencies can still do business with financial firms such as BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street that advocate transforming our economy to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 because they own—rather than boycott—oil-company stocks.

That is a problem. Exxon Mobil is the largest energy company in Texas. Climate activist hedge fund Engine No. 1 recently waged a proxy war to put insurgent directors on Exxon’s board. Reuters described it as “the first major shareholder contest to make climate change the leading issue for choosing directors.” Engine No. 1 gained the support of BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street Global Advisors, which voted their combined 21% of Exxon’s shares in favor of two insurgent directors who won election to Exxon’s board. BlackRock supported a third insurgent who was also elected.

The Employees Retirement System of Texas and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas also voted in favor of the three successful insurgent director nominees and a shareholder proposal requiring a report on corporate climate lobbying aligned with the Paris agreement, which passed.

Engine No. 1’s proxy fight was about altering Exxon’s business model away from oil and gas production. By October Exxon’s board was debating whether to continue some major projects despite the world’s oil shortage and rising prices.

A more comprehensive state legislative solution might have produced a different result. The Texas law could have included a provision placing the voting rights for shares purchased by Texas entities, or the financial advisers those entities employ, under a committee that includes individuals answerable to Texas voters, rather than climate-change activists.

The Biden administration will pursue its nonstop war against America’s oil and gas producers for at least the next three years. Unless it meets resistance, prices will increase and the U.S. energy industry will continue to shrink. While state legislatures can’t stop Mr. Biden from pursuing his agenda, they can discourage the financial sector and institutional investors from supporting it.


GE’s Gas-Fired Plants Could Enable More Wind and Solar Power

The variability of solar power and wind power can play havoc with the grid.

In a political era where California and other states are mandating 20 percent or 33 percent or even 40 percent Renewable Portfolio Standards, the current system is not designed to deal with that level of variability, according to Jim Detmers, former COO of the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO). "The system is not designed to accept that proportion of renewables."

Increasing penetration of renewables like wind and solar actually require an increase in the amount of natural gas-fired backup. And natural gas plants are at their least efficient when they are are ramped up and down. Natural gas, despite its recent good press for being cleaner than coal and of domestic origin, is still a fossil fuel that pollutes the air when combusted and the water when extracted via fracking. Estimates from the Energy Information Administration suggest that shale gas could make up 45 percent of all natural gas production in the U.S. by 2035 -- up from the current 14 percent.

Any improvement in the efficiency of natural gas-fired plants is going to help the transition to a more renewable-fueled future -- and reduce the amount of natural gas we might use.

General Electric just introduced their new 510-megawatt combined-cycle power plant that offers fuel efficiency greater than 61 percent -- the result of an investment of more than $500 million in R&D by GE.

GE drew from the company’s jet engine expertise to engineer a plant that will ramp up at a rate of more than 50 megawatts per minute.

Detmers' figures differ from that claim. "We can currently ramp generators at 63 megawatts per minute," but "early studies show that we need over 400 megawatts per minute to cope with a 33 percent RPS," according to Detmers. "We need new technology," he concludes.

The GE plant is engineered for flexible operation by integrating a next-generation 9FB Gas Turbine that operates at 50 Hz, a power frequency that is most used in countries around the world; a 109D-14 Steam Turbine, which runs on the waste heat produced by the gas turbine; GE’s W28 Generator; an integrated control system that links all of the technologies; and a heat recovery steam generator.

The International Energy Agency concluded in a report issued yesterday that large shares of variable renewable energy are feasible as long as power systems and markets are properly configured so they can get the best use of their flexible resources. More efficient and flexible natural gas plants are one of the requirements to get more renewables on the grid.

Detmers said that "Germany has some very serious conditions" with its 15,000 megawatts of wind and 17,000 megawatts of distributed solar. "We have a lot to understand about when we transform to a varying supply."




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