Canada: Boreal Clearcutting reducing opportunity down to the last scraps

Some winters last so long that you have to burn your own furniture to
stay warm and stay alive. Of course some ran out of furniture to burn
and they didn’t live to see spring. Likewise, it seems that in the
dark long winter of the housing bubble bursting Canada’s clearcut
industry has a failed business plan model that has been reduced to
burning their own furniture becasue they’ve run out of good wood.

As if the wanton desecration resulting from clear-cutting our
provincial forests isn’t enough, the profiteers now want to literally
scrape the ground of so-called forest waste to be used in the
manufacture of fuel pellets and wood chips. How short sighted can they
be? Can these people not be made to understand that there is no such
thing as waste material in our boreal forests?

It boggles the mind
that people can be so ignorant of the precarious nutrient cycle in the
thin topsoil of our forests and believe for a moment that removing the
entire biomass will not affect re-growth – or do they really care? The
spokesman for the Annapolis Digby Economic Development Agency says
that the proposed biomass harvest and wood pellet production must be a
community project. Heaven forbid that the innocent and ill informed be
suckered into the scheme. Paid consultants, who always provide the
answers sought, concluded that some 500,000 tonnes of biomass might be
harvested from community woodlots. Bear in mind that they did not say
500,000 tonnes a year. It would be a one-shot harvest; how could it be
otherwise? According to the consultants’ report the proposed
$4-million plant could produce five tonnes of product per hour, which
means that in a 40-hour week some 200 tonnes, or 200,000 kilograms of
pellets would be produced, and that 15 to 20 jobs would be created,
with most of these being taken up with the harvesting of the biomass.
Let’s examine what is meant by biomass. It is, in effect, everything
not taken during logging or commercial woodcutting, which includes:
stumps, tops, branches, leaf detritus, moss, brush and anything else
that can be pulverized, dried and compressed into fuel pellets.
According to the plan, the woodlot owners are expecting a break-even
return of $30 per tonne which, based on production estimates, and
assuming there is no waste (including water, which is the heaviest
component of the biomass) would place an initial cost against the
product at $6,000 per week. Add to that wages in the plant proper,
mortgage and plant operating costs, including power, taxes, insurance
and a return for investors, and we have a conservative total cost of,
say, $25,000 per week. This would place a break-even wholesale price
on the product at $8 per kilogram. Add to that a retail profit, and
the consumer is going to be paying dearly for a kilogram of fuel; much
more than hardwood in the round, and very much more than oil or
natural gas for an equivalent amount of heat energy. As surely as the
sun comes up, in the final analysis others, those Nova Scotians not
even burning the product, are going to be paying for the inevitable

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