American Elephants

Renewable Energy, Everything Old is New Again. by The Elephant's Child
July 8, 2009, 1:34 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Energy, Humor

The administration is enthusiastic about renewable energy in the guise of wind and solar.  But one of the fastest growing sources is — the wood pellet.

European utilities are snapping up the small combustible pellets to burn alongside coal in existing power plants.  As a global marketplace emerges to feed their growing appetite for pellets, the Southeastern U.S. is becoming a major exporter, with pellet factories sprouting in Florida, Alabama and Arkansas.

Wood pellets — cylinders of dried shredded wood that resemble large vitamins — are the least expensive way to meet European renewable-energy mandates, utility executives and industry consultants say.

Made from fast-growing trees or sawdust, pellets are a pricier fuel than coal, but burning them is a less-expensive way to generate electricity than using windmills or solar panels.  Burning pellets releases the carbon that the trees would emit anyway when they die and decompose, so the process is widely regarded as largely carbon neutral.

I’m sorry, but you have to go through amazing intellectual gyrations to arrive at this careful statement.  But there is something funny about attempts to be really, really modern by making electricity with windmills, warming water with the sun, and heating with wood fires.   But of course, they are “turbines” not mills, and it’s not the sun, but a “solar array”, and they’re not burning wood, but “pellets.” So that’s the way we advance beyond the Industrial Revolution.  Snort.

Well bureaucrats make rules, and entrepreneurs find ways to get around them or ways to profit from them.  It’s the American way.

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