So reads a line in EDITORIAL: Senseless biomassacre (Chronicle Herald Fri July 5, 2019). Some extracts:
A groundbreaking scientific study released earlier this week showed the unparalleled power of the world’s trees to quickly and cheaply limit climate change.
The new report from scientists at ETH-Zurich university in Switzerland looked at where, and how many, more trees could be grown worldwide. Crucially, the study also highlighted how much of an unexpectedly large effect those trees could have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
…Which brings us to Nova Scotia’s current wrongheaded policy of allowing a growing amount of biomass — meaning the trees in our forests — to be cut down and burned, or exported to be burned, for energy.
In light of the climate change crisis, and now what’s even more definitively known about the vital importance of preserving forest cover, how does it make sense for the province to be allowing, in fact encouraging, biomass energy?
Back in 2010 — long before this week’s research came out — consultant David Wheeler told the then NDP government that Nova Scotia’s forests could handle supplying 70 megawatts of biomass power.
But with biomass plants now in Port Hawkesbury, Brooklyn and in use by Northern Pulp, as well as smaller units elsewhere, it appears we’ve far exceeded Wheeler’s recommended cap.
And that doesn’t take into account that Nova Scotia forest biomass is also exported to Europe to burn for energy. Or that this government is now pushing to convert large rural buildings, such as hospitals and schools, to burn wood for heat.
…It’s time for Nova Scotia political leaders to do just that — lead — and stop what seems to be a runaway, and rationally incoherent, biomass energy policy.
Climate change and biodiversity loss is threatening all of us. What Nova Scotia does matters.
Thank you Chronicle Herald for your words, also for making this item freely available.
There are a few areas where the Lahey Report was deficient or disappointing, the treatment of the Forest Biomass issue being one of them. In spite of forest biomass being high amongst the concerns of participants, Prof. Lahey’s comments on the issue were pretty well restricted to this summary of concerns:
Some say that harvesting trees for energy production, sometimes called biomass harvesting particularly when done for production of electricity, is a mistake that should be stopped because of the forestry practices it is associated with, and because it is a low‐value use of trees (exacerbated by the chipping of high‐value trees for biomass), and because burning trees is an inefficient source of energy for electricity that does not qualify as “green.”
and this recommendation:
DNR and other relevant agencies of the provincial government, along with municipal governments and regional development agencies, should work together with project developers to support and enable small‐scale wood‐energy projects that will allow low‐ quality wood to be used in heating hospitals, schools, government office buildings, correctional facilities, and other public buildings.
There was no wider documentation of issues surrounding forest biomass in general and in NS in particular, no recognition that the Port Hawkesbury electricity generation from biomass is very inefficient and should not qualify as renewable energy and, shockingly to me, no recommendation that any development of Forest Biomass should be subject to a rigorous LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) accounting for GHG emissions.
L&F did not waste any time in pursuing the regional wood energy projects, as revealed on June 25, and there is no mention of Life Cycle Assessments of GHG emissions. At the same time, when NSDNR was split up, with the mining component going to the new Dept of Mines and Energy, they also quietly (surreptitiously?) moved the Biorefinery interests that had resided in DNR to Mines and Energy. Premier McNeil clearly sees biomass as a key component of Plan B if/when NP/The Mill goes under.
The Healthy Forest Coalition today released a summary of their impressions (via Paul Pross) from the recent L&F meeting in Truro on June 25th. On the the biomass issue, Paul remarks:
This department [Lands and Forestry] could do as much or more than the rest of the Government of Nova Scotia put together to mitigate global warming if it adopted just two policies: (1) recognized that the maintenance of intact forests is one of the most effective ways to mitigate climate change, and (2) recognized that harvesting and burning biomass to generate electricity absolutely does not create ‘green energy’.
Re: The Biorefinery etc:
Finland’s forestry myth undermines its radical climate ambition
By Kaisa Raitio in www.climatechangenews.com July 7, 2019. “The next EU presidency wants to drive the climate agenda, but its forestry industry is bad for carbon emissions, biodiversity and its indigenous Sámi people…Evidence shows that discourse on the bioeconomy has been used to legitimise re-industrialisation of forest policies in a similar fashion in other countries, although expanding the forest industry and mitigating climate change are, in their present form, deeply incompatible.”