It’s always interesting to see how our northern friends deal with similar forests with different social, political and economic views. This is from Prince George BC. Thanks to the Forest Business Network for providing this link!
The issue is burning slashpiles in the open air instead of selling the material for bioenergy, and the policies that work against it.
“We want to put it to productive use,” said Stirling. “The idea that we don’t have to burn things into the airshed, we can mitigate the risk of forest fire, and take that forest residual in as a product we can make use of, products we can sell into Japan where we are offsetting nuclear and coal emissions, what could be better?”
All wood-pellet (also called bioenergy, biomass or biofuel) plants in northern B.C. already sell as much product as they can manufacture, as fast as they can make it.
Most of it goes to Asia or Europe where it is used in industrial furnaces or electricity generation facilities to reduce the amount of coal, natural gas, nuclear and the worst of the greenhouse gases pollutants used by factories, mills and communities.
Pacific Bioenergy recently signed the biggest contracts in the history of the fledgling bioenergy sector, a sector that was pioneered out of Prince George. These pacts are for the largest amounts of pellets ever asked for and for the longest duration ever established.
Here’s why PacBio and the other pellet companies can only stare at these grey skeletons of trees – entire forests of the stuff.
“There may not be saw-log material in that stand, but there certainly is material – ideal material, actually – for our business,” said Stirling but he explained that by provincial legislation, only the lumber company with the charter for that forest is allowed to cut it down and they are only allowed to cut down a set number of trees per year. If they cut down the dead pine, even to give it away to the pellet plants, that leaves them unable to cut down the equivalent amount of trees they need to make lumber.
Furthermore, a lumber company has to pay stumpage (a fee to the taxpayers’ bank account in Victoria) on every tree they cut, but the fee is too high if it’s only going to sell at pellet rates. Stirling said what’s needed is a government policy allowing for biomass harvesting of the otherwise useless timber so that it doesn’t count against the associated lumber company’s harvesting rights. Also, a stumpage rate has to be implemented by Victoria that charges an amount realistic for pellet sales instead of lumber sales.
There is another hurdle, though and it pertains to the brush piles. The lumber companies are held to rigid tree-planting requirements that gets in the way of bioenergy companies moving in to collect the woody debris.
“Don’t give out a contract on December the 10th and say you have to have it done by March 31st,” said Parfitt, illustrating a typical scenario. “What if it snows? What if the roads aren’t in shape until June? And that is why they (lumber companies) want it to burn, because they don’t want to plant it later,” as waiting for the right conditions for bioenergy staff and machines to go in and get the piles sets the treeplanting process back.
O’Donnell said, “That’s where it’s frustrating, because Canfor and Lakeland and all those guys understand that and will make concessions for us to go in there and get their piles. FFT (Forests For Tomorrow, a government program for forest management) and the B.C. government? No.”
It might be changing, said Stirling, offering cautious hope despite it being too late for a lot of piles already in flames.