Yesterday I got a mail with a link to a report made by an organisation named Global Forest Coalition, which appears to be managed from the Netherlands and claiming to have 50+ member groups worldwide. Also a member group in Sweden. I clicked on the Swedish link, but got an error message.
The link presented the report named Biomyths – The costly carbon scam of bioenergy. There was also a link to an abstract presented at the Paris talks, but unfortunately also the link titled English had the abstract in French – not my strongest language. Instead I choose the English report. I started as usual with the first page to search for some highlights, and found the following:
“Firstly, trees that are no longer standing are not available to continue carbon sequestration, meaning that atmospheric carbon concentration will be higher than it would have been if the trees had been left standing.
Secondly, there is no guarantee that trees that are burned for bioenergy will actually be replanted, and that there will be replacement trees that will regrow and mature.
Thirdly, it may be many decades before the carbon released is fully readsorbed by growing trees (the main argument used to promote biomass), but the time available to reduce carbon emissions before climate change reaches ‘tipping point’ is severely limited.”
Ok let us stop with this. Is the information correct and relevant? Basically it is correct. If you look at a single tree standing in a Dutch city garden – it makes sense. When You cut the tree – it is gone. Instead you may get a street, a shopping mall or a lawn. But if you harvest trees in a forest the game changes.
A. Cut or not to cut ?
A tree not standing up does not capture any more carbon dioxide. It is true. As well as the fact that if you leave the cut tree on the ground it will soon start emit carbon dioxide. The same goes for branches that fell to the ground. Finally all trees die by age and falls to the ground a stormy night. They will of course end up emitting CO2.
Something to think of is that the older a tree get´s the less efficient it gets. There are some trees that can grow healthy for a very long time but for most trees, like people they are more vital in there younger years. So what is best regarding to carbon, to let the tree grow old and die by age or cut it soon after it´s prime and then plant a new tree. In most cases the second option is the best.
The worst case is if you don’t let a new tree or any biomass grow – but why should you do this? – You will lose capital. In most countries there are laws regulating this and modern research shows that the forest capital both in area and volume is growing rapidly. The forests gets more dense by the day. It is a world wide focus on remaining countries having problems with deforestation. Modern information systems can track this and with politics and progressive opinion it can be stopped.
To find out what is best why not just look into your own garden. How do you do to maximise your harvest of biomass of, e.g. carrots. Do you just leave them, don´t bring in water, do not do manual weed control etc. or do you take care of them. This goes for all cultivation, if you manage your crop properly, you will be better of.
B. A forest is not just an added number of individual trees.
A common misstake is to focus on a single tree. A group of trees are normally referred as a forest, this is something else. In a forest there are older trees, younger trees, different types of trees and a lot of other biomass. If you harvest trees in one third of the area then you open up for a new generation of biomass. When a forest become older it often close on top and create shadow on the ground, like an umbrella, and effectively kills sun thirsty smaller species. So to discuss carbon balance properly you must talk about the whole forest and include all of its different typs of biomass. A forest is not just a number of individual trees.
C. System borders, politics and technology
If you present your system as trees or as a forest – you make quite a big difference.
If you set your time fram in 1 years, 5 years, 50 years or hundred years you also get quite a different result.
If you include or not include surroundings, physical as well as human, political and proper behaviour and only maximise missmanagement – of course the result will be different.
Most countries have forest laws. Some countries have laws but sometimes they are not followed by everyone. But we see a big difference today compared to the situation 10 to 20 years ago. You can no longer hide your illegal cutting. Consumer groups are also watching. If an international wood provider is not able to show a certificate or a reliable history, he will have market problems. Not every were, but the free huligan market is shrinking. And for those millions of people using charcoal and old stoves – also here we see a rapid change.
Modern small pellet cooking stoves
Pellets or briquets and cheep modern cooking stoves makes a world of difference in efficiency . Here we have to tackle the local business and make it possible for them to switch from today charcoal producers and distributors and become modern pellet or briquette suppliers.
Ecological biomass hate groups like this have to rethink. Be progressive and join the positive development and do not impose that everyone are doing there worst.
Some errors in the report:
On the third page of the report a half page is presenting Sweden, unfortunately with a number of errors. If the authors treat facts and conclusions in the rest of the report in a similar way then the credibility of the report is low.
Error 1: “Especially wood pellets”,
Sweden use wood pellets but far from “especially”, the figurers of wood pellets use are around 8 percent of the biomass used for energy. In Sweden bioenergy supply accounts for around 128 TWh. The pellets supply is less than 2 million ton, in other words less than 10 TWh.
Error 2: Raw material shortage to produce pellets in Sweden.
There is a lot of raw material for pellets production available, sawdust as well as recycled wood etc. The problem for the pellets business in Sweden is a limited market, many possible users do not need advanced biomass like pellets because they have invested in equipment for cheeper biomass fuels. In the growing oil replacement in the industrial sector, who give priority to short pay-of times, pellets are today competing with success.
Error 3: Sweden has at least 10 power plants that are based solely on the use of wood (as opposed to wood waste etc)
Sweden has no power plants using biomass. Sweden’s has several combined heat and power plants (CHP) with efficiency around 100 percent, because of the common used exhaust gas condensing systems. Almost no prime wood are used, it is to expensive. Most are using waste, recycled wood, forest- and sawmill resides. In time and areas were there are no industrial demand of wood logs for sawmills or pulp and paper the forest owners may supply such material for energy, but this is not a good business, because the energy industry do not pay much. The trade of biomass for energy and industry goes towards all directions, the companies involved are often integrated. As an example there are export of sawdust from the northern Sweden to the Baltic states.
Error 4: The Swedish energy company Fortum has its eye on the fast-growing Asian energy markets.
Fortum is a Finnish energy company. The Swedish connection is a 50/50 owned company in Stockholm for local district heat supply. Fortum have since long been active in Russia and sees Russia as an important market.