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Lunacy Is to Think that Natural Systems Cannot Solve Humankind’s Problems

April 10, 2013
Author: Pete Stewart

A response to "Wood the fuel of the future: Environmental lunacy in Europe," which appeared in the The Economist on April 6, 2013

Is it utter lunacy – an environmental heresy of the highest order, a Prozac- and Ambien-laced, gin-and-tonic soaked, Kafka- and Poe-inspired dream state – to believe that trees or any natural system can solve humankind’s problems?  If so, humans have been comfortably numb for some time now.

Trees were the answer when cavemen needed heat, the British Navy needed to conquer the seas, humans had to record history, or needed shelter, diapers and disposable hospital gowns.

Over time, none of these uses of wood proved to be perfect, and some even became outmoded.  Caveman heat has been replaced (in the developed world) by fossil fuels that are more energy dense. The only wood you will find in the British Naval Fleet is likely the cherry wood trim in the Admiral’s quarters.  The recording of history and the transfer of knowledge on paper has been usurped by electronic media.

My point is that wood has been used for years as a “bridge” to new and better technologies, more efficient forms of heat, more durable ships and more efficient ways to transfer knowledge.

So, is it not natural (and maybe befitting) that wood is now being used to meet Europe’s carbon emission goals?

What many fail to see is that wood is largely a “bridge” fuel until more efficient and less costly forms of renewable energy avail themselves.

Yes, the carbon footprint is larger than some other renewables, but it is one-fifth to one-tenth that of fossil-based fuels.

Lunacy, I doubt.  Rather a laudable and oft repeated use of wood as an intermediate step to a greater solution.

Let the perfect not be the enemy of the good!   Being a lover of both American Blues music and wood, I will paraphrase the great Carlos Santana who once said:  all great American music has its roots in the Blues – to be a great pop musician one must “move through the blues.”

In much the same way, Europe’s renewable energy industry will have to move “through wood” to get to a greater solution.

Others can argue about the subsidies, policy and environmental frameworks, but it’s hard to deny that wood is poised to take its rightful (albeit temporary) position as the bridge solution for Europe’s renewable problem.

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