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  • Leading Forest Experts Confirm British Columbia Wood Pellets Are Responsibly Sourced

    Evergreen Alliance Staff

    In the press release below, the Wood Pellet Association of Canada claims that, along with “sawmill and harvest residuals” only “low-quality logs” are being used to make pellets. What are the facts?


    September 20, 2022 – Vancouver, British Columbia – A new study confirms that wood pellets in British Columbia are sourced entirely from sawmill and harvest residuals or from low-quality logs and bush grind rejected by other industries.

    The study was commissioned by the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. Respected forest experts and Registered Professional Foresters, Professor Gary Bull, Dr. Jeremy Williams, Dr. Jim Thrower and Mr. Brad Bennett analyzed government and industry databases, confidential commercial data, and audit reports and conducted personal interviews with individual pellet plant operators and local communities.

    “We reviewed the data for virtually every truckload of fibre for each pellet mill in the province and were able to source forest-based residuals down to the forest harvesting block for each mill,” said Bull. “The findings were clear: 85 per cent of the fibre for pellets comes from the by-products of the sawmills and allied industries, and the remaining 15 per cent comes from bush grind and low-quality logs where the only other option is to burn the low-grade logs and brush piles on site in order to reduce fire risk.”

    In addition, almost all the pellets produced in B.C. are certified under the international recognized Sustainable Biomass Program and the fibre is from sustainably managed forests in B.C. certified under the Canadian Standards Association, the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

    “The notion of harvesting whole stands of timber or displacing higher value forest products for the purpose of producing wood pellets is counter to the overall economic and environmental objectives of using wood pellets,” added Thrower.

    The study also concludes the B.C.  pellet sector:

    1. Utilizes and creates value from the mill residuals;

    2. Works with Indigenous and other communities to improve forest health, support local economies, and strengthen community resiliency;

    3. Creates an additional revenue stream for sawmills and other facilities;

    4. Eliminates smoke and particulate emissions associated with beehive burners or landfills;

    5. Utilizes low quality biomass that comes from natural disturbances;

    6. Creates viable economic opportunities and employment;

    7. Contributes to managing wildfire risks; and

    8. Increases the substitution of renewable energy (biomass) for fossil fuel (coal).

    Around three quarters of the world’s renewable energy is from biomass.  Bioenergy accounts for about 10 per cent of total final energy consumption and two per cent of global electricity generation.  In the United States and the European Union, bioenergy accounts for 60 per cent of all renewable energy. In fact, over the past 20 years, bioenergy  is responsible for the most greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, much in the form of bioheat, which has a 90 per cent share of the EU renewable heating market.

    “Today our sector is taking what was once considered waste and instead is enhancing forest health, creating jobs, and reducing wildfire risk and GHG emissions from slash burning,” said WPAC Executive Director Gordon Murray.  “British Columbia wood pellets are a vital solution in the global fight against climate change by replacing fossil fuels like coal and providing a gateway to the bioeconomy.”

    The study also looked at the impact of pellets in both the broader forest sector and in communities like Burns Lake where the pellet plant has played an important role in addressing the mountain pine beetle epidemic, providing an outlet for local sawmills and low-quality roundwood and strengthening the local economy.

    “As a community forest that surrounds much of the community’s recreational playground, if we didn’t practice complete utilization we would hear about it in town from the public,” said General Manager Frank Varga, Burns Lake Community Forest. The Community Forest is owned by the Village of Burns Lake which equally shares its revenue with the Tsi’lKazKoh and Wet’suwet’en First Nations communities. “Without the Burns Lake Drax facility, we wouldn’t have a home for a significant component of our low-grade harvesting profile and the level of waste would not be socially acceptable.”

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    This new front in the logging industry’s continued misguided self-justification is sadly predictable. When you have been bull-shitting for 70 years, it’s hard to suddenly become a straight-shooter.

    The basic underlying premise of this report, that logging at the scale being practiced in BC is “sustainable”, is certifiable nonsense. Just because the Canadian logging industry created and funds a “certification” industry that then gives the logging industry a guaranteed stamp of approval doesn’t hide or undo the damage the industry is doing:

    Through logging's associated carbon emissions and consequential reduction in the natural level of carbon sequestration, the industry is making an over-sized contribution to global heating and climate instability. That's not sustainable.

    Clearcutting eliminates practically all biodiversity in the area of a clearcut. Allowing several thousand clearcuts every year relentlessly reduces biodiversity over a wide swathe of BC—200,000 to 250,000 hectares—every year. That's not sustainable.

    The growing prevalence of those clearcuts raises forest fire hazard above the level of a mature or old forest. The plantations that follow the clearcuts raise the fire hazard even higher, in many cases for decades. The result is a frightening new era of forest fires that are initially harder to control, grow faster, and lead to larger fires and exponentially higher carbon emissions. That growing area of logged and burned forest is resulting in more frequent and more devastating flooding. All of this is made worse by the increased temperature, longer periods of drought and higher wind speeds resulting from climate change—each of which, in turn, are made worse by the scale of logging in BC. None of this is sustainable.

    The industry is also liquidating BC's old forests to far below levels needed to sustain biodiversity, claiming that plantations will, in the distant future, turn into new old-growth forests. This notion, that a future logging industry would somehow be more responsible than the current industry and will allow nature to recover, is nonsensical. Thinking nonsense isn't sustainable.  

    The only aspect of logging at the scale being undertaken in BC that can be counted on in the future is the damage the industry does. The foolish course adjustments the industry is now taking—including green-washing reports like this one—will only make it more likely that damage will be sustained.

    So let’s dispose of the underlying premise of this report, that the 85 percent of wood used in making pellets that comes from "sawmill and harvest residuals" is somehow “sustainable”. It isn’t.

    And what about the 15 percent the report claims comes from “low-quality logs and bush grind rejected by other industries”?

    Bull-shitting is a slippery slope. Only someone sliding uncontrollably down that slope would be unable to recognize that calling a natural forest “low-quality logs” or "bush grind" is the kind of semantic invention that occurs just before the inventor falls over the edge into the abyss.

    That so much waste is being created that it needs a new industry to grind and burn it away is a situation that arises only because the scale of logging that has been occurring in BC is so vast. Eighty-five to ninety percent of that waste is created to provide cheap wood products for other countries, mainly for the US, China and Japan. As a result of that relentless over-cut—combined with the long decline in the market for pulp and paper—BC mills would be drowning in their own waste were it not for the pellet industry.

    But the solution to that overwhelming level of waste is not to grow a green-washed pellet industry. When burned for thermal energy, pellets produce as much carbon emissions per unit of energy generated as does coal. Coal! Pellets are a solution to nothing but the logging industry's embarrassment of widespread waste.

    The only solution for an industry drowning in waste from the over-cutting of publicly owned forests is for government to reduce industrial access to those forests. Logging should be limited to only what British Columbians need for their own use.

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