Burning Wood For Freedom…

Does the name Eric Heymann sound familiar? This newsletter covered a 2020 paper he wrote, asserting that the European transition policy to a “zero carbon” economy would not be possible without “some sort of eco-dictatorship” (cf. SAS 3/21).

The Deutsche Bank (DB) senior economist has now launched another provocation, discussing scenarios for dealing with the possibility that Nord Stream 1 may not come back online, following its scheduled maintenance period. Heymann writes: “We developed three scenarios on how Russian gas supplies to Germany via Nord Stream 1 as well as the transition point Waidhaus [the Transgas pipeline from Russia through Ukraine] might evolve over the next few months.”

The first two scenarios deal with either a return to the status quo ante, or another ratchet down in delivery. The third scenario describes the worst case: a winter of gas rationing. In this case, DB assumes that Russia completely stops gas supplies to Germany after the maintenance period, including from the Transgas pipeline. Although Germany will count on increased supplies from the Netherlands and Norway, these won’t be enough to compensate the loss.

The report goes on to highlight DB’s forecast that the coming “deep recession” will dampen gas demand in manufacturing. In contemplating possible “substitution for gas,” by other energy sources, Heymann lists hard coal and lignite and, for private households, ‘wood will be used for heating purposes where possible.”

Indeed, more and more people are now buying a stove or fireplace, because they fear rising gas prices, as well as a complete stop to Russian gas deliveries. Wood sellers report they are being swamped by calls from customers who fear they won’t be able to heat their homes next winter. But burning wood is not only grotesque, there are clear limits to growth in that market segment, as wood needs years to grow, and forest managers can only cut down limited amounts per year. In addition, the war in Ukraine has interrupted important supply chains, making wood supplies particularly scarce. All together, this leads to long waiting times and skyrocketing firewood prices, which have more than doubled within a few months.

It is likely that Greta Thunberg will not be pleased with those carbon emissions, but her patron, Prince Charles, should be delighted, given that population levels will plunge to correspond to the induced downshift of energy flux density. Just one example illustrates the problem: , to produce 1 TWh of electricity, a coal power plant needs nearly 400.000 tons of coal as fuel, but a biomass power plant needs about 2.5 million tons of biomass to produce the same amount, according to figures published in the Quadrennial Technology Review 2015, Department of Energy (USA).

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