American Elephants


Wooden High-Rise Buildings to Fight Climate Change? by The Elephant's Child

Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack announced a new partnership at the White House Rural Council last week, to train architects, engineers and builders about the benefits of advanced wood building materials, and plans for a forthcoming prize competition to design and build high-rise wood demonstration projects.

In support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan
goal of preserving the role of forests
in mitigating climate change.

Secretary Vilsack is a former governor of the State of Iowa, which means he must know about farming and corn and trees, right? Actually, he doesn’t seem to have ever done anything but Democratic politics, but that makes him a good candidate for Secretary of Agriculture.

Wood may be one of the world’s oldest building materials, but it is now also one of the most advanced, said Vilsack. Building stronger markets for innovative new wood products supports sustainable forestry, helps buffer reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and puts rural America at the forefront of an emerging industry. Presently, the market for wood and other related forest products supports more than one million direct jobs, many in rural America. As these markets expand, so will the economic opportunities.

The Secretary also announced plans to launch a new prize competition, expected to begin later this year, for developers, institutions, organizations and design teams competing to demonstrate the architectural and commercial viability of using sustainable wood products in high-rise construction.

The lumber mills that provided employment for most of the small towns where I grew up are long gone. The log trains as well. Seldom see a logging truck. Back in the Clinton administration, one of his bright ideas was to ban roads in the woods. Of course that meant the hotshot crews had a harder time getting to the fires. Greens have had a hard time understanding that trees are a renewable resource. The time frame is just longer. Oddly enough, plentiful carbon dioxide  in the atmosphere, a natural fertilizer, helps them to grow.

Perhaps you remember this 2008 video of a bunch of Earth First loonies in a stand of saplings wailing over one that has been cut down. I feel confident that they are all city apartment people whose connections with the out-of-doors are a little tenuous at best.

They usually don’t know much about the environment itself, only their emotional response to nature.  We shut down the forests to save the spotted owl, who nests only in old growth, except that turned out to be false. And their declining numbers were due to their barred owl cousins, not evil loggers.

We must refuse to build the Keystone XL pipeline because a pipeline might someday spring a leak, but this pushes the transportation of oil onto trucks and trains which is much more dangerous. The newest protest is against the  Cove Point facility in Maryland that is due to be the first to export liquified natural gas, which Europe needs badly for fuel to counter the risk of Putin’s blackmail with Russian natural gas. In the meantime, we are exporting wood pellets to England to fire the furnaces to keep the Brits warm. Go figure.

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan will do nothing to change the climate, but if Democrats keep talking as if it will, they will get $100 million from Tom Steyer who is a billionaire hedge fund climate activist. The promise of more subsidies for solar and wind will reward Obama’s supporters and accomplish nothing for our energy mix. Secretary Vilsack is a big ethanol supporter, which is probably what got him the appointment. If I have given the impression that nobody knows what they are doing, that’s what I had in mind. Actions have consequences. If you think things through, the consequences don’t have to be unfortunate unintended ones.

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