Since the Paper mill half-reopened at Point Tupper, we have looked on in disbelief at the vast areas that have been clear cut, especially the hardwoods in Cape Breton. NSP have built and run a very large biomass electric power generating plant alongside the mill so as to provide steam and electric power for the mill. Many transport trailer loads every day arrive at the mill from Nova Scotia Crown land forests.
Last week we read a Government announcement that they are looking for other uses for N.S. forests. This is baffling because the huge biomass clear cutting to feed the point Tupper boiler left at least four sawmills in eastern N.S. short of logs. When sawmills shut down, there is less waste wood material available to ship for the Point Tupper boiler. The result is more trees must be cut to sustain power and steam production. Apparently saw logs were being chipped to feed the NSP plant.
Let's look at CO2 absorption by trees. Saplings store as much as 48 pounds of CO2 by age 10. By age 40 each tree may be storing one tonne of CO2. These numbers are highly variable depending upon the soil nuitrients, soil water during growing season, sunlight days, air quality and length of growing season. An acre of trees may sequester 2 to 6 tonnes per year as well as some sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and ozone. (International Society of Arboriculture)
The typical Acadian forest is mixed species and of multiple age trees. White Birch, Poplars and Balsam Firs have short life spans of 30 to 75 years. Spruce and Pines have medium life spans of 100 to 200 years. Hard Maples, Oak, Beech, Yellow Birch have longer lives of 100 to 325 years. As they grow bigger and taller, they capture and store more CO2 from the air. An acre of mixed species trees of varying ages can absorb enough CO2 over a year to equal the amount of CO2 produced by a medium size car or pickup truck driven 42000 KM. Driving an economy car on gasoline for 20,000 KM/year puts about 6 tonnes of CO2 out into the air. A heavy truck fuelled by diesel driven 80,000 KM/year puts out about 104 tonnes of CO2/year. (North Carolina State University)
Thus, if we do the math, we see that it may take 400 saplings growing robustly to absorb the CO2 from an economy car per year. Trees only absorb CO2 during the growing season. Other seasons the CO2 falls into the oceans or rises far up into the upper atmosphere and adds to the greenhouse gases there.
The heavy diesel truck above will need as many as 7600 saplings to absorb the CO2 it puts out. Or about 104 of the age 40 years plus trees to absorb its output of CO2. Forest acreages contain from 150 to 700 maturing trees per acre.
Here's where I'm going with this: The biomass-fuelled electric/steam plant at Point Tupper is hauling in excess of 20 trailer loads per operating day (some say as many as 50 loads/day). Often these loads include prime mature hardwoods, which make more BTUs than softer woods. Each load contains 50 to 100 trees of ages 30 to 150+ years of age. Two or three loads can clear an acre of hardwood. Thus removing about 175+ tonnes/acre of storage for CO2 for a very long time.
The highway tractor trailer, like the one above driving 80,000 to 100,000 KM/year, is one of many hauling the cut wood from the forest to the mill. Each puts out in excess of 104 tonnes of CO2/year. Then we add the CO2 put out by the cutting and forwarding machines plus the road building machines and the various service trucks. Cutting machines often run 20 hours a day. I can't estimate what this total might be, but it's a very big number.
The Paris agreement says that Canada will reduce CO2 emissions. Our Premier, however, didn't bother to attend this conference. His government continues to allow the clear cutting of vast forested areas thus allowing huge outputs of CO2 so that a biomass plant can make electricity and steam. And the Province has lost an incalculable amount of trees that could be absorbing CO2 in the stems, trunks and roots. That's a double loss. The roots slowly give up the CO2 over many years after the tree is cut.
And they plan to increase biomass cutting of trees.
When the totals are counted, clear cutting for biomass is anything but GREEN. It's madness. There are affordable alternatives if only they would stay up-to-date on technologies. HRM / Solar City are showing one way forward. Townhomes using geothermal for heat and cooling is another.
Guest blogger, D.G. Wilson, Brule Point, N.S.