Public (and Senators) forewarned are forearmed!
Trying to deceive the public is certainly not an endearing trait the public want to see in their elected pollies when creating legislation but the Abbot Government seems to do it so often that the public have become normalised by it.
Then it is left up to the crossbench senators to sort out the mess and determine fact from fiction, juggle a procession of lobbyists all the while compromising their morals and expectations from such diverse electorates.
So, it was not surprising when Tony Abbot and Co arrogantly and irresponsibly interfered in the Renewable Energy Target with the last minute inclusion of native forest (NF) wood waste into the mix. Subsequently, our group, Gippsland 2020, were rightly enraged as we follow the RET circus and we are extremely alarmed as all is not as it seems. With Greg Hunt’s speech on the second reading of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015 on Wednesday 27 May, 2015 he states,
‘Eligibility was subject to several conditions, including that it must be harvested primarily for a purpose other than energy production. This is about the use of wood waste; it is not about cutting down biomass to burn.’
Obviously, someone in VicForests has some concerns that this, in fact, will not be as Greg Hunt implies as the three year corporate and business plan submitted by VicForest to the Treasurer has been conveniently leaked. On the six pages that Gippsland 2020 has seen it confirms that VicForests officially concedes -
'Timber harvesting operations in the East Gippsland Forest Management Area (FMA) have not been
profitable for VicForests for many years.'
However, what is more worrying is the declaration of a new use for poor quality, low volume sawlogs to generate electricity. Given the introductory statements about the loss of woodchip markets, the leaked Vic Forests Business Plan totally destroys the industry/ government rationale and arguments about 'waste' and biomass.
Along with composite wood products, investigation into the use of wood for energy generation
continues around the globe.
VicForests will continue to monitor developments and markets, investigate technologies and support
pilot projects wherever possible. Given the lack of large sales arising from the low grade log RFP,
ample resource remains available for companies to purchase this material.
The use of wood as a brown coal substitute is another possible opportunity, but its use will be dependent
on what renewable energy targets are set by the Government. For co-generation, logs
are converted into wood chips or pellets before being used by the power station.
So, how convenient that wood waste is included in the RET. And even more opportune that Greg Hunt, in his speech on the bill, reminds us that our hard earned State and Federal taxes are heavily subsiding different forms of biomass and co-generation technology in Gippsland.
‘In addition to the support for small- and large scale renewables, which this bill provides, the government is providing over $1 billion towards the research, development and demonstration of renewable energy projects.’
Up till now, the world has been blinded by industry and government spin on the benefits of biomass heat and electricity generation but explosive revelations from Peg Putt, CEO of Markets for Change , who has just attended an event in Bonn at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change exposes the facts. A section of a Chatham House research paper (due to be published in full in October 2015) examined the worldwide impact on forests and climate of the use of wood for electricity generation and heat. Chatham House is an International think tank also known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs.
Key messages are:
- The assumption that forest-based biomass is carbon neutral is flawed
- The UNFCCC's GHG accounting framework treats biomass as carbon neutral within the energy sector based on the faulty assumption that emissions will be fully accounted in the land-use sector
- The current land-use accounting rules result in a significant quantity of emissions from forest-based bioenergy being excluded from the global accounting system.
- The global increase in the use of biomass for heat and electricity is making it increasingly clear that the accounting rules currently in place cause gaps in carbon accounting that can lead to perverse climate outcomes
“The proposal to include native forest biomass burning into the Renewable Energy Target is deeply flawed
and should be rejected when it is debated in Parliament in coming weeks,” Ms Putt concluded.
Therefore, it is with relief that Labor has finally made a stand and declared that they do not support Part 4 of the bill (reference to wood waste) with Mark Butler planning to put an amendment up in the Senate as the bill, including Part 4, has passed the lower house.
This would mean to successfully remove Part 4 in the Senate a total of 38 votes are need (the amendment will be put in the negative) so, therefore, 3 crossbenchers are required to vote with the Greens and the ALP for any specific amendment.
Shame they don’t have the same concerns about us in the Valley.
Coal mines and coal fired power stations in Morwell were the biggest source of toxic pollution in Gippsland. One of the highest PM pollution levels in Australia. The 2014 Hazlewood coal mine fire caused pollution 15 times the acceptable limit.
What an absolute insult that they have set up an inquiry about wind farms full cost analysis whilst ignoring that our communities in the Latrobe Valley are exposed to toxic pollution from dirty power generators, which for some, lead to premature deaths. Then add the massive taxpayer monies ‘donated’ to Abbot’s Liberal cronies who, ironically, would be the beneficiaries of this very scheme with biomass burning. How is that OK?
If these three senators vote to include wood waste, as is being touted, they are destining our Gippsland forests and communities to a damn site more impacts than what wind farms will ever do.
This is hypocrisy at its most dangerous and, yet again, we in Gippsland are supposed to just suck it up, literally.
“burning wood is vastly more polluting with more toxic components than coal. How will they protect local residents from PM2.5, carbon monoxide, mercury and cyanide compounds which are commonly released by burning wood? It would add to the cumulative damage of smoke from bush fires, planned burns and household wood heaters, all of which are particular problems for people in rural towns.”
With Ricky Muir heavily lobbied and Jacqui Lambie supporting the wood waste inclusion, there are only three senators, Wang, Lazarus and Xenophon that potentially hold the key and could rightly be our saviour here in Gippsland. Although Xenophon is not a fan of wind energy’s dominance over other forms of renewable energy we hope there is still a chance that common-sense will prevail. Senator Ricky Muir lends his voice to Forestry’s carbon message -youtube Interestingly, Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Media Comment on 12 May 2015 was suspiciously quick with their release and out within minutes of the announcement. AFPA seemed to know what the minister said before he even said it!
‘The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) welcomes the reiteration from the Federal Government that native forest wood waste must be from sustainable forest harvesting operations to be eligible for renewable bioenergy as part of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme.’
“Recently the Australian Government announced that it will reinstate native forest wood waste as a feedstock for renewable biomass as part of the Renewable Energy Target. I understand that this feedstock will be waste material such as tree branches, sawdust and timber offcuts from sustainable forest harvesting and processing operations. Can the Minister confirm that this is the case?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAflqWMhqY4
“it is only the stuff left on the forest floor after we harvest".
Under existing legislation, forest waste has a broad definition and can make up more than 80 per cent of the forest harvest.
‘let’s be clear, this isn’t some minor boutique industry that is being proposed, it is a direct swap for the
job-killing and forest-destroying export woodchip industry facilitated by a big fat taxpayer subsidy in
the form of a renewable energy certificate.’
Senator Jacqui Lambie would have done better working on reinstating the 2012 Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement that the new State Liberal Tasmanian Government so unceremoniously “tore up” in 2014 after coming to power. The State Liberals conspiring with Federal Liberals and Lambie happy to play her part in deceiving the public to undermine the renewable energy industry.
Tasmanian Peg Putt told our group,
"Claims that native forest biomass burning would only involve sawmill offcuts and branches are a confidence trick. In fact it would burn vast quantities of logs direct from the forest, rivaling woodchipping in scale and impact on Australia's native forests and wildlife."
‘If the RET is reduced to 33,000 GWh according to AFPA biomass might account for around 15 per cent
of the target.
The declining world price of wood chips and customer preferences that have shifted away from native forest products has had a significant impact on the level of forestry activity in Australia. As a result, if a new market for forest products is created as part of the RET there is significant capacity for the forestry industry to expand to meet the new demand from biomass burners.’
No one is accounting for the massive loss of stored carbon – conveniently!
It is absurd to think you can cut down a 200 year old tree, burn its stored carbon and expect it to regrow in the limited time we have to reduce carbon emissions. This is not renewable. So what is Abbot’s motive?
Here in the Latrobe Valley, that coal rich area supplying electricity generation for the majority while the minority suffer the environmental and health impacts, the power generators are experimenting with new coal technologies with Biomass in the mix. If Biomass inclusion is successful, energy via combustion and/or co-combustion with conventional coal could be eligible for carbon credits.
This puts a serious question mark on the purpose of including biomass in the renewable energy mix.
Is it about new stand-alone generation or is it really about coal fired power stations claiming REC for burning a bit of wood in pre-existing burners ... in which case no growth in jobs? If new stand alone, that raises questions about particulates, mercury and other toxins from wood burning, affecting local communities.
Can we believe that it is not just to prop up the ailing timber industry or some bigger agenda that the Abbott government wants to manipulate the system at a later time to significantly expand potential wood exports and/or to benefit future coal products where coal + biomass = renewable which would not be what the RET is designed for. Clearly it is both.
The new CSIRO DICE coal technology (direct injection carbon engine) is a specially adapted diesel engine that uses coal and carbon-based (biomass) slurry as fuel. CSIRO in partnership with Ignite Energy Resources are researching this technology in Latrobe Valley and have received over $30 million in ‘grants’ even though in significant financial trouble. Why? Because Dr John White, chairman of the DICE Network and co-founder of Ignite Energy is an old Liberal heavyweight who was John Howards right hand man in developing the Uranium Industry Framework where we lease nuclear fuel rods to power stations overseas and take back the spent fuel rods and bury them in the outback. John White hopes that ultimately the direct injection carbon engines will qualify for a share of the billions that will be made available through the Emissions Reduction Fund.
‘… this new technology, will reduce CO2 emissions dramatically and they will be able to make a bid into the Emissions Reduction Fund’s reverse options, and supply carbon credits and obtain some extra revenue,' he says.
The picture is from the CSIRO link
Damon Honnery, a specialist in energy systems from Monash University's School of Engineering, says clean coal technology is hugely problematic - expensive, difficult to implement and incapable of providing carbon emissions reduction on the scale required to mitigate climate change.
'The problem with DICE is that while it could reduce the carbon footprint from a coal-fired power station
its CO₂ emissions would be well above 0.1kg per kilowatt hour, the value generally agreed to be required
by about 2050 if we are to stabilise the climate.'
But there is more. Ignite also have the Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor Another form of biomass technology that Dr John White hopes can help his company avail themselves of the billions in Emission Reduction Funds and carbon credits all to get our money to put more carbon emissions into the air we breathe. Disappointingly, last month Gelliondale Resources PTY LTD under Ignite Energy, were granted a retention license by the Victorian State Government ‘to facilitate the development of the Gelliondale Coal Project’ in Yarram, South Gippsland.
Why would there be a need to expand another open cut coal mine in Gippsland?
Because Dr John White wants to use biomass technology in his Super Critical Hydrothermal Reactor To do this he needs a secure feedstock and our Gippsland forests are his playground. Are we seeing a pattern here? Introduce a change in policy to pump up a dodgy logging industry and accommodate some form of government subsidy to dubious clean coal technologies to make a few filthy rich while trashing our forests and environment.
The nexus between biomass and renewable energy is a scam for industry heavyweights to exploit and has nothing to do with reducing greenhouse emissions.
Government is so sucked into the bowels of industry that industry dictates policy and civil society is collateral damage where our taxpayer dollars are bled to subsidise the few at the expense of the many.
So, the cross bench Senators are the last line of defense, again, to apply the two critical skills of commonsense and forethought to counter the perverse favourtism that Abbot so blatantly displays.
Feel sorry for the crossbenchers but be very afraid of what their vote could decide.