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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Push polling on ‘forest furnaces’ as Senate mulls RET

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(Very) old technology: burning wood to generate electricity is again being considered as 'renewable'.
(Very) old technology: burning wood to generate electricity is again being considered as ‘renewable’.

Push polling is being conducted in Tasmania over the burning of native forest biomass for electricity generation, coinciding with a controversial proposal to include it in the revised Renewable Energy Target expected to be voted on in the Senate in coming weeks, according to information received by Markets for Change.

The proposal to burn native forest biomass is being pushed by the Coalition and the forest industry in Canberra. Whilst opposed by Labor nationally, in Tasmania the state Labor leader has broken ranks in support of the bid.

It’s clear that some entity wants to claim public support for native forest biomass to go into the Renewable Energy Target to put pressure on the Senate in what is expected to be a tight vote,’ said Markets For Change CEO, Peg Putt.

‘It’s likely that the move is also designed to drive the Labor split in Tasmania on the issue further.’

‘We’ve been informed of this push polling which involved contact on the phone by an automated poll identified to the recipient as ReachTel. It presented an extremely biased description of native forest biomass burning when asking the person to indicate whether they supported it.’

‘This poll question is obviously designed to get support for this environmentally damaging proposition, and does so by misrepresenting it as just a minor bit of tidying up of sawmill waste and branches when it actually involves large volumes of freshly logged native forest, in the same way that woodchipping was portrayed as just cleaning up waste and actually became by far the largest volume industry in native forests.’

‘Given that in Tasmania generating electricity from forest furnaces is seen as a way to underpin controversial industrial logging following the collapse of woodchip exports from native forests, the question would have been more honest if it asked if it was a good idea to continue broadscale clearfelling and then burn the greatest proportion by volume of what is logged for electricity.’

‘The “robocall” also failed to point out that burning native forest is highly emissive of carbon dioxide, and not carbon neutral as claimed by the forest industry.’

Ms Putt said the best way to pose a question would have been to cite the Australian government’s statement about why burning native forests was excluded when Labor was in office, which is as follows:

‘In 2013 the Australian government stated: ‘Wood waste from native forests was removed from the RET as an eligible renewable energy source in 2011. This amendment was made to ensure that the RET did not provide an incentive for the burning of native forest wood waste for bio-energy, which could lead to unintended outcomes for biodiversity and the destruction of intact carbon stores.’

The person being polled could then be asked whether they agreed or disagreed that the exclusion should continue, Ms Putt said.

‘Beware of opinion poll results obtained by blatant push polling on the issue of burning native forests for electricity,’ she added.

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