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Byron Shire
June 14, 2021

Burning our forests for energy unsustainable say NEFA

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Previous clearing at Wild Cattle Creek State Forest. Photo supplied.

Aslan Shand

As glaciers, ice sheets, and the poles continue to melt due to the human impacts on the environment it is bordering on criminal for the Australian and NSW governments to be supporting the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, let alone clearing and burning trees for biomass energy production.

According to studies being done on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet reported in phys.org it is becoming clear ‘that increasingly warming climate, as expected for the near future, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet could be less stable than previously thought’.

‘The future melting of polar ice sheets and the associated rise in global sea level as a consequence of climate change will have a substantial impact on low-elevation coastal areas.’

Yet the Federal government is promoting a gas led COVID-19 recovery, the NSW government has facilitated the approval of the Narrabri Gas Project, and the biomass Redbank Power Station near Singleton appears to be planning a reboot.

Fuelling global heating

‘The imminent rebooting of the mothballed Redbank Power Station (near Singleton) with north-east NSW’s forests will make it Australia’s most polluting power station and an existential threat to the future of our children and wildlife,’ according to the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA).

According to NEFA Hunter Energy is currently seeking expressions of interest for timber from across north-east NSW to fuel their Redbank Power Station, with plans to restart the facility in mid-2021 fed by native forests to make it one of world’s ten biggest biomass power plants.

‘The claims are that it will power 200,000 homes, which was identified in 2017 North Coast Residues Report as requiring one million tonnes of biomass to be taken from north-east NSW’s forests and plantations each year, with 60 per cent of this coming from private forests,’ said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

‘This is sheer madness as burning this volume will release some 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year to fuel climate heating, increased droughts, heatwaves, and more intense bushfires, while increasing forest degradation and hastening species extinctions.

‘The community needs to urgently speak up to stop the NSW and Commonwealth Governments from allowing this environmental disaster,’ Mr Pugh said.

NEFA have said that biomass is even more polluting than coal and releases up to 50 per cent more CO2 to generate the equivalent amounts of energy.

Damage to rural communities

‘Then there’s all the CO2 released by machines during logging and in hauling the wood from across north-east NSW to Singleton,’ said Susie Russel from NEFA.

‘It will be a nightmare for rural communities with thousands of extra trucks plying narrow rural roads, crossing small deteriorating bridges, passing through peaceful villages and then roaring down the Pacific Highway to Redbank.

‘This will be subsidized by taxpayers under the pretense that burning trees is renewable energy as the trees will regrow and decades or centuries later take up the carbon released by burning them.

‘We are in a climate emergency and cannot afford to spew millions of tonnes of additional carbon into the atmosphere at a time when we need to be urgently reducing atmospheric carbon, and we need to leave our trees alive to do it as they are the only viable means of carbon capture and storage,’ Ms Russell said.

Mr Pugh continued, ‘Our suffering forest wildlife will be impacted most severely as forest degradation skyrockets with all those previously uneconomic trees taken.

Removing protections

‘It is no wonder the Nationals tried to remove protection for core koala habitat, environmental zones, wetlands and littoral rainforest, because they are going to need every tree they can get if this monstrosity gets going.

‘Both NSW and Commonwealth governments have systematically removed the numerous prohibitions on burning biomass from native forests for electricity generation to pave the way for this development, and the NSW government has increased allowable logging intensities in forests to feed it.

‘The NSW government recently changed the logging rules for State Forests to reduce the number of trees that need to be retained by 50 per cent, while zoning 140,000 hectares of public coastal forests from Grafton to Taree for clear-felling.

‘Their draft logging rules for Private Native Forestry also intend to reduce the number of trees that need to be retained by 50 per cent, while allowing 20 per cent of the logging area to be clear-felled in each operation.

‘These changes are all about allowing more trees to be logged as biomass for electricity generation.

‘As both public and private forests are becoming increasingly devoid of large sawlogs the push is on to take smaller and defective trees to make money.

‘Biomass electricity is three times more expensive than solar to produce and requires massive public subsidies under the guise of its being renewable energy, so will effectively push up power prices for taxpayers.

‘What we need to be doing is paying farmers to leave trees standing to go on sequestering and storing atmospheric carbon, while providing habitat for koalas and our other imperiled species, not subsidizing corporations to profit from clearing, logging and burning them,’ Mr Pugh said.

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  1. How did protestors of coal not see what would unfold? Blind freddy could see the ‘renewable’ energy’ label was too broad to discriminate. Let this be a valuable lesson. We must not bow to populist hysteria with knee jerk policy. Balanca balance balance.

  2. Increasing CO2 is madness & by far more expensive [in dollar terms] than
    solar. This aint sober thinking so I’ve had a chat to the Woman ‘upstairs’. The
    message is “Don’t make me come on down there.”

  3. Thanks EchoNet for publishing this story. It’s typical of this government and their cronies that will support burning anything rather than support genuine renewables.
    Can’t help wondering if the new 25m fence line clearing rules and attempt to give access to koala habitat on private land have a hidden agenda of generating fuel for this dirty polluting power station.
    Keep the fossil fuels and the forests in the ground!

  4. It is just insane to be burning through the natural capital for short term profit. These are the years to be bending our carbon release curve flatter and down.
    Don’t Waste Forests!

  5. Back to full scale protests then. Can’t believe Hunter Energy will find enough trees on private land to warrant reopening their white elephant of a power generator that relies on burning wood. The thing should never have been given permission to be built….with taxpayers money no doubt. No wonder voters are angry and confused. What are we meant to think except stupid stupid stupid?
    Let’s put energy into stopping it happening.

  6. I did say earlier when the Gove spoke ‘renewables’ that it was too good
    to be true. Leopards don’t change their spots. The brats that rule this
    country are just biding their time for the next round. Pack ’em all up &
    send them to Trump; he needs more supporting tips.


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