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Byron Shire
August 4, 2021

Snap action at Condong Power Station

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As the climate election heads towards the pointy end of the campaign, protesters are also heating up their activities to get their pointed message across.

More than 20 planet protectors gathered at the Condong power station near Murwillumbah on Friday to protest the burning of trees for electricity being classified as ‘renewable energy’ by the State and Federal Governments. Most had been to recent screenings of the eye-opening film Burned – Are Trees the New Coal.

NEFA spokesperson Susie Russell says that burning trees in power stations and calling it renewable, clean and green is false and misleading. ‘Burning wood in a power station produces more – about 50% more – greenhouse gases compared to that emitted by burning coal,’ said Ms Russell. ‘It not only pollutes the atmosphere, it destroys the only working method that we have to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it – in trees.’

Photo Susie Russell.

Ms Russell  says the protesters are not advocating burning coal. ‘We want genuine renewables like wind and solar,’ she said. ‘There should be no subsidies for a polluting and inefficient industry based on a lie.

‘There is no carbon accounting for the loss of the trees through logging, land-clearing and the resultant soil disturbance, and the emissions when the wood gets burnt aren’t counted either. It’s deemed to be carbon neutral because in 50 -100 years the trees might grow back. But we don’t have that much time.

‘We need to stop polluting right now!

‘This industry has only a toehold in northern NSW so far, but we know there are plans for a major export market to send wood from our forests to Japan and South Korea to be burnt in their wood-fired power stations. As long as it’s considered carbon neutral it’s a green light for business’, she says.

Ms Russell says it’s now clear we’re in the midst of not only a climate crisis but also an extinction crisis. ‘The community wants genuine action to reduce emissions not a tricky book-keeping subterfuge that sees trees burnt for electricity, and counted as zero emissions.’

‘We want to see forests recognised and protected for their carbon storage value – along with all the other ecosystem services they provide.’

Ms Russell says the message from Friday’s action is a warning to whoever wins government next Saturday. ‘An export industry of wood from our forests destined for the power stations of Asia will be strongly resisted. Renewable energy credits for wood-fired power has to stop’.

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  1. Just curious about the actual source of the fuel at Condong plant, because their website states that all materials burned come from one of 4 sources: bi-product of sugar cane processing, plantation timber that is specifically grown for energy production, weed species and subdivision clearance or waste timber from sawmilling. It does not state that they are randomly chopping down forests in order to produce electricity. It would seem that they are simply recycling green waste that has already been produced. Is this not true?

  2. Please could the Echo follow up on this story – % of biofuel that is from plantation timber – accurate info about Condong Sugar Mill and talk to the Mill direct.
    Sarah – the point bein made is that burning TREES for energy is not a solution – but is part of the problem.

  3. In fact these wood chips are being transported by semitrailer truck from at least 80km away and emissions generated by the trucks are not factored in (and with 10 trucks/day it’s at least 1 tonne of CO2/day just in transport)
    Write to Anthony Lean, CEO of Office of Environment and Heritage, PO box A290, Sydney South, NSW1232 and ask for disclosure of source of the “biofuel” under FOI guidelines. Cape Byron Management P/L is required to disclose to the OEH so we can get the facts that way. All I know is that when trucks have come off the road (because it’s happened a few times) the wood chips were native timber not camphor. Under the exemption granted to pollute back in 2014 the company was not supposed to use material which might have “higher value use such as mulch”. Obviously that clause has been ignored as native forest woodchip is a good source of mulch… I recommend you contact OEH

  4. This is greed at work again. This cost and safety to the local community and environment is wrong. The number of trucking accidents on Kyogle Rd would suggest that this practice of transportation of woodchips for energy supply must stop.


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