Europe has long prided itself on being greener and more environmentally conscious than the rest of the developed world, with its commitment to a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions 20 by 2020 being the clearest indication of this consciousness. There’s just one problem with this conceit: Green policies may actually be increasing CO2 emissions in Europe in the medium term.The Guardian reports that the EU’s new biomass emissions policy has a gaping hole in it. Currently, European countries are encouraged (often via subsidies) to produce 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources. Chief among these “renewables” is biomass (generally trees), which is graded as “carbon neutral.”Unfortunately, the accounting logic used to arrive at this assessment of carbon neutrality is a bit fuzzy. It doesn’t account for the temporary carbon increases incurred by cutting down trees, which are important carbon sinks:
[B]ecause there is a time lag between the carbon debt that is created when a tree is cut down, transported and combusted – and the carbon credit that occurs when a new tree has grown to absorb as much carbon as the old one – biomass will increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the interim.
Critics are now beginning to cry foul:
“We’re paying people to cut their forests down in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and yet we are actually increasing them. No-one is apparently bothering to do any analysis about this,” one Brussels insider told EurActiv.
Greens want to say their opponents are anti-science; more often than not, they’re just anti-dumb policy. Subsidizing people to use an inefficient energy source that adds CO2 is not particularly clever or scientific — but this is the kind of thing greens like to use state power to achieve.Greens like to think of themselves as wise and courageous fighters out to save the planet; in real life as often as not they end up being outsmarted by clever interest groups who find ways of wrapping tax breaks, subsidies and other special treatment in a green box. Dumb policy is the Achilles heel of the green movement and, sadly, there are few signs of a change.