Electricity from Forest Biomass: An Industry gone Amok.

— John Sollows

On the night of November 14, TREPA screened the movie “Burned,” about the fallacies behind the American forest biomass-fuelled electricity industry. The screening was accompanied by a shorter movie on Nova Scotia’s situation, and commentary by Raymond Plourde of the Ecology Action Centre.
Nova Scotia forestry policy needs to prioritize sustainability more. We understand the need to inflict minimal socioeconomic pain, but decision-makers need to balance this against the price that future generations will pay for overenthusiastic harvesting.
The use of forest biomass for large-scale electricity has become part of the problem. Use of mill-generated “waste” wood to heat mill facilities makes sense. Cutting forests to provide electricity across the province is a different story.
Biomass-fuelled electricity is considered “renewable” by many, because after a tree is cut down, another tree normally grows in its place. So the greenhouse gases that get released by the burning of a tree are expected to get absorbed by other trees growing in place of the burned one.
There’s one problem: All those trees get turned into greenhouse gases a lot faster than the replacement trees can absorb the gases. Put it this way: How long does it take to cut down and process an acre of trees? Now, how long does it take for that acre to grow trees back to the size that was harvested?
We are burning trees faster than they can be replaced. Calling this energy “renewable” is an enormous stretch of the imagination. Calling it sustainable is false.
I now understand the claims that biomass-generated electricity generates more greenhouse gases than coal. Electricity is a form of energy, and the amount of energy produced depends on the amount of heat produced by the fuel. Quite a few of us still can affirm that a ton of coal produces a lot more heat than a ton of wood, even hardwood. So a unit of electricity needs a greater weight of wood to be burned, than of coal. Add to that that the wood burned is often wet and that a lot of electric energy gets lost travelling long distances over power lines. It ends up being a pretty inefficient system
Waste wood produced on a mill site is a legitimate fuel. “Waste wood” sitting in a forest is not; neither is it “waste.” Trees that aren’t fit for the mills still absorb greenhouse gases, prevent erosion and runoff, provide habitat and food for many other forms of life, and on death, become soil, which again holds a lot of nutrients, carbon and water for a very long time. They are not wasted, either before or after death. The problem is that the economic value of the services they provide us are not conveniently measurable. They still matter, big-time, and we ignore them at our peril.
For instance, where does your water come from? There’s a good chance you can thank a forest for its dependability, its quantity and its purity, because forests are among our most important and efficient stabilizers and purifiers of water. Climate change scientists forecast hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters. We’re going to need all the help we can get to store the water that we’ll get the wet half of the year. In the absence of extensive forests, we’ll be in trouble.
We’ll be in additional trouble on the water quality front. Hotter, drier summers tend to make for warmer, clearer water. That makes lakes vulnerable to blue-green algal blooms, especially when there is not enough surrounding vegetation to absorb the nutrients these blooms need. We are discovering that too often, the wee cells in these blooms produce extremely nasty toxins, which can lead to serious public health issues. We’re going to hear a lot more related stories in coming years, unfortunately.
Ecologists are scientists, not special interest lobbyists. The most important aspect of their work is to give the rest of us early warnings of where our current behaviour is leading. We’d better listen. It may not be possible to reverse current forestry practices overnight, but the process needs to start, yesterday. Dialling back the use of forest biomass to generate electricity would be a good beginning.

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“Less Plastic!” Let’s Make a Boomerang Bag #2!: Sat., Nov. 24

We had so much fun, we are doing it again!
Workshop to make grocery clothbags from your worn-out clothes. We call them Boomerang Bags – they keep coming back for more groceries.
The original idea comes from Australia where they started making lots of cloth bags and hung them up in grocery stores for people to borrow when they had forgotten their own. They are labeled “Borrow and Return”. We plan to do the same once we have lots of bags. Everybody is welcome to join in this effort.
Pattern, instructions and help are provided. Bring your sewing machine (or use one of ours), scissors, pins and your worn-out clothes; pants are very suitable.
Program Room Yarmouth Library, Sat. Nov. 24, 1:30 to 3:30 pm
For more information contact Margrit (secretary Yarmouth Environmental Think Tank)
902 742-5542

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Burned — Are Trees the New Coal?

A compelling new film about the rise of the biomass industry is on tour now in Nova Scotia.
The Ecology Action Centre with support from TREPA (Tusket River Environmental Protection Association) and other local community groups across Nova Scotia are presenting screenings of the new film “Burned – Are Trees the New Coal” The award-winning documentary “Burned” focuses on the eastern seaboard of the United States but the story could be anywhere – including Nova Scotia where the recent advent of big biomass has consumed millions of tonnes of our forests and driven forestry practices to new lows. In a perversion of the term “green”, forests worldwide are being clearcut and burned for electricity generation under the guise of producing “green energy”. And it’s happening at the precisely the time we need our forests more than ever to help combat climate change. “.
A brief discussion will follow each screening.

TREPA will be showing the film on November 14, 2018 at 7:00 PM at the Yarmouth County Museum and Archives. No admission charge.

For more information about the film and to watch the trailer visit: www.burnedthemovie.com

For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact EAC Wilderness Coordinator Raymond Plourde – 902-478-5400, wilderness@ecologyaction.ca

“Burned – Are Trees the New Coal” Screening & Discussion

The Ecology Action Centre is partnering with TREPA to present the award-wining documentary film “Burned – Are Trees the New Coal” about the recent rise of the global biomass industry and it’s impacts on our forests and the atmosphere. The film will be shown at Yarmouth County Museum and Archives on November 14th, 2018 at 7:00 PM.

“Burned” is a riveting film every citizen, taxpayer and electricity ratepayer should see – especially if you care about forests.

A short discussion will follow the screening.

For more about the film visit: www.burnedthemovie.com

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Access to Water Quality Reports

— John Sollows

Folks have been asking me about public access to the various reports on water quality done by the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment, Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture, a raft of volunteers, and us TREPA folks.

They are on the Yarmouth municipal website. Things have recently been rearranged, and they are now harder to find. To reach them now, click or copy-and-paste https://www.district.yarmouth.ns.ca/index.php/community/community-organizations-programs/224-carleton-river-watershed.

The final phase of sampling is happening this month so it’s a little premature to say how things are going this year. Once again, we had a hot, dry summer. That made for warmer water and less runoff. Less summer runoff means likely drops in both colour (from decaying leaves) and nutrients.

Warmer, clearer water means that lakes are more vulnerable to blue-green algal blooms, so we all need to be increasingly careful about what runs into our rivers and lakes. Waterfront landowners need to maintain wild shoreline buffers. The mink industry and other users who can potentially pollute need to follow regulations and voluntary guidelines, as well.

Blue-green algal blooms are not just hard on property values, they are hazards to public health.

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New TREPA shoreline protection brochure available

TREPA is pleased to announce that its new shoreline protection brochure is available. It has been redesigned to assist developers, contractors and owners meet shoreline protection regulations and develop properties in a manner to protect the water quality of their home locations. Unfortunately, improper development of the shoreline can lead to pollution of the very resource, the lake or river, for which the property was purchased. To get copies contact John Sollows <nhungjohn@eastlink.ca>

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