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Beware of bioenergy

Letter to the editor

To the editor,

Bioenergy spans a range of practices, from the harmlessly helpful, to those that are among the most destructive things humans can do.

The Tibetan nomad practice of burning yak dung for heating and cooking fuel tops the list. Yaks eat the grass, process it to extract their bodily energy and excrete the leftovers. When burned, the dung gives off carbon dioxide which is then re-absorbed by growing grasses, all within a matter of hours. The process, identified as “closed loop,” simply recoups the solar energy stored in grass. In the nomads’ world, there’s a job for everyone, including the picking up of dung.

The prize for the very worst of bioenergy practices goes to the giant Drax power plant in the UK. Drax is converting its giant coal-fired plant to burn wood chips instead of coal. This is said to be “good for the planet” but the truth is that it’s far, far worse.

In 2020, Drax consumed chips from more than 14 million tonnes of green wood, much of it from living trees to run its power plant. Most of this wood, in true colonial style, comes from somewhere else, much of it from Canada. Drax operates pellet plants in B.C. and, more significantly, the industry also owns and operates its own magazine to spout the wonders of bioenergy.

Scientists have warned Drax of the dangers to its practices, implying that these skillfully worded “wonders” are a pack of lies. Yet, where money is involved, a lie quickly becomes the truth. Drax receives huge government subsidies to finance its climate-destroying operations and this helps to “seal the deal,” forcing taxpayers to become complicit in destroying their own climate.

We don’t have to look very far to see the influence of bioenergy. The Wells Gray Community Forest, in partnership with the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, funded by the federal government, is engaged in cutting old growth forest, chipping it and shipping it to Kamloops to be burned to generate electricity.

In the most recent project, about 20,000 cubic meters were cut and chipped. The press release claimed it to be good for the climate yet, this is emphatically not the case.

I have calculated the emissions from the above project, in five categories; cutting, chipping, transportation, respiration and combustion. Road building, for which no figures were available, was left out. All told, this project produced at least 28 million kilograms of CO2 .

Given the present rash of forest fires and the increasing frequency of such fires, it is high time that we take climate change seriously. As more facts come to light, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we have two crises to grapple with: a climate crisis and a wholesale perversion of the truth.

The WGCF was founded on the basis of sustainability and the presumption of good forestry practices. Because it hands out candy at every street corner, its public image has become confused with dollar signs. Money is good, so they say. Thus, the WGCF has escaped public scrutiny.

Now, it’s high time to put aside the image in order to see what this rogue outfit is really doing.

David Simms

Clearwater, B.C.

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