There are biomass power plants being built all over the world because the UN IPCC has promised that if you cut down a tree and burn it in a biomass power plant the CO2 doesn’t really count because someday a tree will be replanted and it will absorb CO2 for 50-100 years. A new report warns that cutting and burning trees to make electricity may not be that good for the environment after all.
I’ve delved into some of the claims myself and discovered multiple reports that show wood pellets can produce more CO2 than coal because of all the CO2 generated by the drying of the wood into pellets and then the transportation of the pellets.
The biomass industry relies on people confusing the terms green and renewable. Green (in my opinion) means low or zero CO2. Renewable means we won’t run out.
I argue that trees are really neither. Trees are not low CO2 unless you con people. And cutting down trees could be renewable. But isn’t necessarily so.
But the other big con the biomass industry (designed to counter the renewable argument) is that they are only to use dead trees or waste wood. Here is an example of a BC biomass plant:
Another major benefit of having the power plant up and running in Fort St. James is that it will create a home for much of the dead pine that is still sitting in local forests due to the mountain pine beetle epidemic that ravaged many of the forests in northern B.C.
“We’ve had increased harvesting of the forests but we’re going to see that drop off real soon,” says Emily Colombo, economic development officer for the Fort St. James District. “Because the dead wood standing in the forest loses merchantability year after year, it’s only good for harvesting and processing for a number of years. Even though there’s lots of dead wood in the forests, it’s no longer going to be desirable by the sawmill companies. So it’s great to have the Fort St. James green energy project starting up because it gives us a purpose for our waste wood. Until now it’s been burned in the bush… it’s just releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
Guess what. They eventually run out of waste wood. And then they start cutting down healthy trees like this biomass plant in Nova Scotia.
About 2,790 hectares. That’s a rough estimate of how much woodland will need to be cut annually to feed Nova Scotia Power’s biomass boiler at Point Tupper.
“It seems that more of the fears are coming true than the benefits we had envisioned from that facility,” said Kari Easthouse, manager of the Cape Breton Private Land Partnership.
Foresters in northern Nova Scotia are warning that the wood being burned at Nova Scotia Power’s new biomass boiler may be green, but the electricity coming out of it isn’t.
The boiler, started by now-defunct NewPage Port Hawkesbury Corp. and sold to Nova Scotia Power, opened during the summer of 2013. Running at peak capacity, which it is a bit shy of now, it burns 670,000 green tonnes of wood fibre annually to produce 60 megawatts of electricity.
“They’re going after anything they can get their hands on to feed that thing,” Phil Clark, an Antigonish County sawmill operator, said Thursday.
“They’re laying places to waste to feed it.”
Nova Scotia Power has an obligation to its ratepayers to get wood fibre as cheaply as possible. The cheapest way is to clear land, not selectively harvest to improve the lot for the future.
Clear cutting forests … to burn for power and and produce lots of CO2.