From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy
By Brian Zinchuk, contributor to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
I was out at the cabin, trying to trim the reeds and weeds along the water, when I came across a stark reminder of how good we have it because of fossil fuels.
I was using the electric whipper snipper when the reel head decided to disassemble itself. But I still had a lot of weeds that needed to be cut.
So I went into the shed and dug out the old scythe Uncle Larry, the previous owner, put in there some time in the preceding 40 years. That scythe likely dates back to the 1930s, making it somewhere around 90 years old. A blacksmith hand-made that scythe.
I took a palm sander to it and put a usable edge on it.
My late grandfather, Harry Zinchuk, showed me how to use a scythe some 30 years ago, when I was around 18. I think he used one when he was 18, around 1935, twisting right to left. My technique was awful, my tool old and probably too dull. But I was able cut down about 40 square feet of reeds in a few sweat soaked minutes.
And with each stroke, I kept wondering how entire teams of men would go into the fields, slicing down crops entirely by hand. It would take days for them to do 160 acres.
It made me think of farming today. A few years ago I was hired to video and photograph a year on the farm for Jason and Sherrill LeBlanc of Estevan. They had their then 14-year-old daughter driving a mammoth Case combine, and doing so well. I wonder how much more productive one girl driving a combine was compared to teams of men with scythes, then stookers (a person who bends over and picks up the loose wheat that had been cut down), then threshing crews.
That same farm now continuously crops over 100 quarters (16,000 acres) of land, harvesting with a crew of around 20 people. They usually accomplish all of that in just a few weeks.
My grandfather worked on those threshing crews, from sun up to sun down. Lard sandwiches were his fuel. Hay fed the horses. How much more efficient are diesel combines now?
For some real-world explanations of this, I strongly encourage reading some of the books by Vaclav Smil, the University of Manitoba distinguished professor emeritus whose prolific writings on energy are a true wake-up call. Last summer I got through How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We’re Going. Other titles of his I hope to get through are Energy and Civilization: A History, Invention and Innovation: A Brief History of Hype and Failure and Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses. The general thrust is how mankind’s mastery of energy supplies have allowed us to live the lives we currently enjoy.
Some people seem to think we can easily replace diesel with electric when it comes to farm equipment. One of those people is Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson. I was present when he was in Kipling, Saskatchewan, on June 29, to announced $50 million for a wind power project. A local reporter asked him about electric tractors.
Focusing on cost of operations for farmers with regards to the Clean Fuel Regulations, the reporter noted, “That’s going to make life harder for them because, you know, the bottom line is there is no such thing in Saskatchewan right now as an [electric] tractor. You know, it’s just not feasible. And so, as they’re making this transition, what sort of investment is the federal government prepared to get to that?”
Wilkinson replied, “I think the first thing that you said about it’s just not feasible, people would have said exactly the same thing about an electric vehicle 10 years ago, and they would have said the same thing about an electric pickup truck. And now those are available to buy them. There are companies that are working on large scale equipment, including equipment for farming, that will be electric on a go-forward basis. So those kinds of solutions are actually driven by regulations like this. But what I would say is, and I do say, that this will create jobs and economic opportunity, including in the agricultural sector, because you use canola, and soy, and often agricultural residuals to make the products that are going to be driven by this whole thing. So, there are benefits associated with it.”
Electric tractors, eh? Just how large batteries will they require? Will they be the size of an air seeder tank, and pulled behind like a coal tender from locomotives of old? Do you need two, with someone towing one out to the field after charging, to allow continual operations?
Because that’s what farmers do these days. Jason’s seeding crew has their turnarounds to fuel, service, and refill the seeder with seed and fertilizer down to 18 minutes. They run shifts around the clock, many miles from home. And they have two mammoth Case 620 Quadtrac tractors doing so, plus an older tractor pulling a land roller, as well as two sprayers. Where and when are they supposed to charge up? How long will that take their equipment out of operation?
Are they just supposed to find the nearest power pole and hook up some big booster cables?
Farming requires enormous amounts of energy – a lot more than a lard sandwich or EV charger. And diesel is the answer, and will be for a long time to come. Sorry, Mr. Minister. Electric tractors won’t be cutting it anytime soon.
EU Farmers Rise Against the Climate Cult
From the Brownstone Institute
The EU Commission is playing a dangerous game. On the one hand, they are attempting to placate farmers by making expedient short-term concessions to them. On the other hand, they are holding fast to their commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 90% by 2040
Many major arteries connecting Europe have been obstructed or brought to a standstill in recent days by a wave of protests by farmers against what they claim are overly burdensome environmental targets and unsustainable levels of bureaucracy associated with EU and national farming regulations.
The warning shots of this showdown between policymakers and farmers had already been fired on 1st October 2019, when more than 2,000 Dutch tractors caused traffic mayhem in the Netherlands in response to an announcement that livestock farms would have to be bought out and shut down to reduce nitrogen emissions. Early last year, Polish farmers blocked the border with the Ukraine demanding the re-imposition of tariffs on Ukrainian grain.
But it was not until early this year that an EU-wide protest was ignited. German and French protests and tractor blockades made international news, and the blockades were soon replicated in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Greece, Netherlands, and Ireland. Major highways and ports were blocked and manure was poured over government buildings, as farmers across Europe expressed their frustration at rising farming costs, falling prices for their produce, and crippling environmental regulations that made their products uncompetitive in the global market.
It seems the farmers have European elites rattled, which is hardly surprising, given that EU elections are just around the corner. While the European Commission announced Tuesday it was still committed to achieving a 90% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 2040, it conspicuously omitted any mention of how the farming sector would contribute to that ambitious target. Even more tellingly, the Commission has backed down or fudged on key climate commitments, at least temporarily.
According to politico, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Tuesday that “she was withdrawing an EU effort to rein in pesticide use.” The climbdown on this and other Commission proposals relating to farming was rather embarrassing for the Commission but politically inevitable, given that the protests were spreading rapidly and farmers were showing no signs of going home until their demands were met. As reported by politico,
A note on the possibility of agriculture cutting down on methane and nitrous oxides by 30 percent, which was in earlier drafts of the Commission’s 2040 proposal, was gone by the time it came out on Tuesday. Similarly excised were missives on behavioral change — possibly including eating less meat or dairy — and cutting subsidies for fossil fuels, many of which go to farmers to assist with their diesel costs. Inserted was softer language about the necessity of farming to Europe’s food security and the positive contributions it can make.
The EU Commission is playing a dangerous game. On the one hand, they are attempting to placate farmers by making expedient short-term concessions to them. On the other hand, they are holding fast to their commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 90% by 2040, while fudging on the fact that a 90% emission cut in 16 years would have drastic implications for farming.
It is clearly politically expedient, especially in an election year, to put out this fire of farming discontent as soon as possible, and buy some peace ahead of June’s European elections. But there is no avoiding the fact that the Commission’s long-term environmental goals, as currently conceived, almost certainly require sacrifices that farmers are simply not willing to accept.
Independently from the merits of EU climate policy, two things are clear: first, EU leaders and environmental activists appear to have vastly underestimated the backlash their policies would spark in the farming community; and second, the apparent success of this dramatic EU-wide protest sets a spectacular precedent that will not go unnoticed among farmers and transport companies, whose operating costs are heavily impacted by environmental regulations like carbon taxes.
The Commission’s embarrassing concessions are proof that high-visibility, disruptive tactics can be effective. As such, we can expect more of this after June’s EU elections if the Commission doubles down again on its climate policy goals.
Republished from the author’s Substack
EU backtracks on key green agenda measures following widespread farmers’ protests
Ursula von der Leyen
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU will remove the provision to reduce emissions by 90% by 2040, as well as its plan to cut pesticide use by 50% by 2030 from its ‘Net Zero’ plan, among other concessions.
The European Union (EU) has backtracked on some of its green agenda measures in response to the large-scale farmers’ protests.
On Tuesday, February 6, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU will remove the provision to reduce emissions by 90% by 2040, as well as its plan to cut pesticide use by 50% by 2030 from its “Net Zero” plan. To quell the rage of farmers, the EU also agreed to water down its plans for so-called animal welfare and the restrictions on land use for agricultural purposes.
“Our farmers deserve to be listened to,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament on Tuesday, the Telegraph reports.
“I know that they are worried about the future of agriculture and their future as farmers.”
“But they also know that agriculture needs to move to a more sustainable model of production so that their farms remain profitable in the years to come,” the Commission President added.
She admitted the plan to cut pesticide use had become a “symbol of polarization.”
Last week, the continent-wide protests reached the heart of Europe as farmers arrived with their tractors in front of the European Parliament in Brussels.
The protest in Brussels happened in the context of a continent-wide uprising, including in France, where 10,000 farmers erected more than 100 blockades on important roads across the country. Farmer protests also took place in various other countries, including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Germany, Scotland and Ireland.
It remains unknown if and for how long the EU will uphold the concessions made to the farmers. The rollback of the green agenda measures might be an attempt to prevent a disaster at the ballot box, as the elections of the European Parliament in June 2024 are fast approaching, and right-wing populist parties have been gaining significantly in the polls.
German MEP and president of the neo-conservative European People’s Party (EPP) Manfred Weber expressed his concern that farmers might vote for right-wing, anti-globalist parties in the upcoming election.
“We always realized that farmers are citizens and don’t want Left-wing ideologies that dictate everything to them,” Weber said in the European Parliament on February 6.
Dutch political commentator Eva Vlaadingerbroek wrote on X, formerly Twitter to say:
This is good news because it shows that protesting WORKS and putting pressure on our overlords WORKS. However, just dropping the requirements for 2040 is not enough. The entire agenda has to go. The Green Deal and the NetZero scam has to go. We’ve won a battle, not the war.
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