North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) and the NSW Forest Defenders have thrown their support behind the protests against the burning of Biomass to generate electricity across Australia ahead of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP) 26.
Locally an action is taking place tomorrow at 10am at the Condong sugar mill organised by the Northern Rivers Guardian (NRG).
‘Biomass is being burnt in power stations around the world as a substitute for coal. Unfortunately the most prevalent form of biomass is wood, usually from whole trees, cut for the purpose of supplying the power stations,’ said North Coast Environment Council spokesperson, Susie Russell.
‘Originally intended to be annual crop waste, it was deemed as carbon neutral. The waste was burnt one year, and then the carbon dioxide emitted would be taken up by the crop the following year. Opportunists however, saw it as a money maker. Trees are plentiful, they are the easiest source of biomass to obtain, grind them up into woodchips or pellets, burn them, call it carbon neutral and renewable and massive subsidies are forthcoming.’
A key issue for protestors is the fact that companies that provide and burn biomass use commercial in confidence to refuse confirmation of what and how much biomass they are burning.
‘The pretence that replacing wood for coal is carbon neutral is a dangerous fallacy because it is actually far more polluting than coal, increasing atmospheric CO2, displacing the genuine and cheaper renewables of wind and solar, and taking out the trees we urgently need to capture and store CO2 over this critical decade,’ said Dailan Pugh, North East Forest Alliance.
‘So far the big biomass users in NSW are the two co-generation power stations at Condong and Broadwater. Between them they are licensed to burn about 400,000 tonnes of wood a year. They refuse to tell us how much they actually burn.’
Drax in the UK is the biggest biomass plant in the world burns 9 million tonnes of wood a year and gets more than £2 million in subsidies per day says Ms Russell.
‘It is responsible for major deforestation in the south-east United States where it sources its wood. Trees, some hundreds of years old have been cleared for biomass,’ she said.
Banners have been hung at the Broadwater Mill and another dropped off at the mothballed Redbank Power Station near Singleton.
‘There are proposals to feed more than a million tonnes of wood every year into the Redbank Power Station and to begin exporting woodchips from Newcastle for Japanese power stations. This will devastate all forests within 400 kilometres, and require tens of thousands of truck trips to get it there. The NSW Government and the Federal Government class this as green, renewable energy,’ said Mr Pugh.
A spokesperson for the NSW Forest Defender said that ‘One banner was hung over the conveyor belt at the Broadwater Mill that runs from the woodchip stockyard across the M1 to be burnt for electricity by Cape Byron Power. It is now joined by more concerned citizens holding banners outside the power station
‘The power station would need millions of trees a year to keep it going, taking wood from across NSW native forests… koalas will die to keep this power station alive. It will depend on intensive logging, particularly in the mid-north coast area from Bulahdelah to Coffs Harbour.’
‘Increasing logging and clearing to feed power plants will also compound our rapidly accelerating extinction crisis at a time when we are meant to be increasing habitat protection,’ explained Mr Pugh.
‘Replacing coal with wood is climate and environmental vandalism, we need to stop the NSW biomass industry getting started. We need Matt Kean to rule that burning of forests for electricity has no part in his renewable energy mix before it undermines our chance for a cleaner future.
‘Letting forests grow is the best carbon capture and storage technology we have. Any serious climate solution needs to protect forests and stop biomass burning,’ Mr Pugh said.
Actions will take place in the Hunter Valley at Millfield, and at the Condong power station near Murwillumbah at 10am on Friday, 22 October.