Cellufuel wants access to Nova Scotia’s “Inactive Forests”

Cellufuel, the Nova Scotia business heavily backed by government funding that wants to produce synthetic fuels from forestry sources in Nova Scotia, has had to “shutter its plant and layoff staff” according to a news report by Devin Stevins in allnovascotia.com (July 27, 2017). (In 2013 Cellufuel forecast that it would be bringing in $200 million in annual revenue within 5-6 years.)

The news report cites CEO Chris Hooper as saying that the firm ”is planning to use the next several months to upgrade and retool systems with the goal of developing a plant capable of producing biofuel for 20 years straight”.

In the meantime, Hooper and allies (InnovaCorp, FPInnovations, Emera, BioApplied & the backing of NSDNR) continue to apply pressure to open up the faucet on the “fiber basket”. Hooper (cited in allnovascotia.com July 27, 2017; italics are mine):

There’s more wood in the province than ever before, but there is a strong lobby from the left of the spectrum pushing for some of the most prohibitive restrictions in the country…there’s large sections of the forest that are completely inactive…there’s no problem with fibre supply in Nova Scotia, it’s more commercial and/or public policy that’s restricting its flow to the market.

Leaving aside the political slur and dubious claims that NS has some of the most prohibitive restrictions in the country and that there is more wood than ever before, I have to wonder if most Nova Scotians would view the same large sections of the forest Mr. Hooper is referring to as “completely inactive”.

Some suggestions:

The day after I started to draft this post, I attended Andrew Kekacs’ defence of his thesis GIFTS TO A FUTURE WORLD: CONVERSATIONS WITH WOODLAND OWNERS IN NOVA SCOTIA. (I hope this significant contribution to our understanding of the thinking of woodlot owners in Nova Scotia will be available soon.)

Young Barred Owl in proposed Shingle Lake Nature Reserve, July 29, 2017. Clearcuts are scheduled nearby.

During the discussions that followed Mr Kekacs’ presentation, a question arose about the definition of forest management and whether doing nothing with a woodlot could be considered a type of forest management, referencing all of the good things that go on naturally. There was no clear answer but there was some agreement that if “doing nothing” is a conscious decision, it could indeed be considered ‘management’.

One of Mr. Kekacs conclusions had been that many woodlot owners do just that: Nothing, on purpose!

I hope that the promised, but yet to be hatched, Independent Review of Forestry in Nova Scotia will take a similar view and not that of Mr. Hooper!

Some Links

On the value of Inactive Forests
The Nova Scotia GPI Forest Accounts Volume 1: Indicators of Ecological, Economic & Social Values of Forests in Nova Scotia. GPI Atlantic. Now 16 years old, this key study could still be used to put some $ values on “inactive forests”.

The GDP only counts the value of natural resources when they are harvested and sold, so it portrays natural resource depletion as growth and a sign of progress and wellbeing. The more trees that are cut down and the more quickly they are cut, the faster the economy will grow, and the “better off” we are assumed to be, when economic growth measures are used to measure wellbeing.

“This is simply bad accounting,” said Ronald Colman, Director of GPI Atlantic. “It is like a factory owner selling off his machinery and counting the income as profit.”

“This kind of accounting explains why the fishing industry appeared to be booming, with record catches, right up to the eve of the Atlantic groundfish collapse,” Colman said.

By contrast, the GPI counts the value of standing forests as well as felled timber. It treats natural resources as capital assets, subject to depletion if not harvested sustainably. In calculating the value of forests, the GPI considers not only their ability to provide timber for human consumption, but also their ability to protect against soil erosion, to store carbon and forestall climate change, to protect watersheds and wildlife habitat, and to provide recreation.

View also:
The Nova Scotia GPI Forest Accounts Volume 2: A Way Forward: Case Studies in Sustainable Forestry (2001)
The GPI Forest Headline Indicators for Nova Scotia (2008)

On Biofuels for Nova Scotia
Life after pulp: energy miracles, jobs, and other Nova Scotia government delusions
Linda Pannozzo in the Halifax Examiner, May 5, 2017. “Despite the fact that the company [Celluful] has benefited directly from at least $4.5 million in federal and provincial taxpayer dollars — in addition to a $1.7 million part-publicly funded viability study — CelluFuel doesn’t appear to feel the need to be publicly accountable.”

Former Bowater mill to get new life
CH Dec 12, 2012. The NDP launches Biofuels in NS

Biofuel project set to fire up in February after provincial loan
CH August 30, 2013. “Cellufuel Inc. is receiving a $1.5-million loan to help build its demonstration project in Brooklyn, near Liverpool. The province, which announced the funding Friday, also gave the project $500,000 in December for startup costs…The project was slated to be operational this summer but planning and construction will take a few months longer than expected, Hooper said. Cellufuel’s goal is to commercialize its licensed technology by launching 10 plants in the next five or six years….They are eyeing Meteghan, Digby County, as a possible site for Cellufuel’s commercial operation. There’s a very good wood basket there and some very good opportunity from a site-availability perspective…The Brooklyn plant will become a research and development facility once commercial operations begin,”

Transformation of the Nova Scotia Forest Sector
NS Department of Natural Resources Page 1 Background Paper to Public Accounts, May 14th, 2014. “One of the keys to getting this transition underway in Nova Scotia is to shift our forest economy from a very tight focus on commodity based products, to one which also incorporates value-based production…DNR needs to be appropriately equipped with resources and a dedicated structure to proactively address challenges during the transition period toward a transformed forest sector.”

OPINION: Nova Scotia well positioned to harness bio-economy potential
May 2, 2017 in LocalXpress

Nova Scotia’s Biorefinery Plan cites full-tree harvesting, other requirements to make it competitive
Post on this website, February 22, 2017

Are biofuels from Nova Scotia forests good for the environment? Show us the science!
Post on this website May 4, 2017

Nova Scotia’s Biofuel Bonanza
Post on this website, Jan 27, 2017

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