Biomass burning – a plus for sustainable management

Having only recently seen the end of woodchipping it’s not surprising that the North Coast Environment Council would express concerns about NSW Government proposals to burn native forest ‘waste’ biomass for electricity.

Although the EPA’s draft regulation is yet to be put out for comment, Chief Executive of the Aus Forests Products Association Ross Hampton explained ‘ . . Biomass is the small branches and offcuts left over when trees are harvested and sawmill waste, such as chips and sawdust, that are generated by cutting round logs into square timbers’ and suggested ‘Using biomass is good for the environment as it displaces fossil fuels with a renewable carbon-neutral resource’.

Of course whether native forest logging is renewable is the crux of the issue, because if it was the loggers would all be earning carbon credits, but they don’t.

On the other side ‘ . . Susie Russell, President of the NCEC said there were no positives in the move to allow forests to be logged to feed in to power stations for electricity. “Sawmill waste can already be used as a fuel, what is being proposed here is that trees that were being exported as woodchip (pulp) should now be burnt” she said.’

While the differing opinions may seem remote from each other, the same cannot be said about die-back and BMAD in particular, because the approach taken by both the industry and the north coast conservation movement is based on the Vic Jurskis (forestry) idea, that there is too much nitrogen in the soil due to a lack of burning.

Regrettably, a better understanding of BMAD it is unlikely before a credible scientific understanding of the issue is embraced and it’s a fair bet the south coast conservationists are unlikely to take on information while north coasters are yet to.

However, from the forest restoration perspective and leaving aside the recent dramatic drop in the carbon price, the use of biomass that would otherwise be burned or bulldozed, to produce a commodity to improve soils, hopefully increase the chances that eucalyptus trees survive, gain carbon credits and generate employment seems like a more sensible and sustainable approach.



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