Burning Forests for Power - The Threat to WA's Forests
A new form of madness: burning our south-west forests to generate electricity
Western Australia’s unique and irreplaceable south-west forests are facing a new and potentially devastating threat- the Barnett government is making plans to burn huge quantities of wood from our native forests to generate electricity.
Rather than taking the logical next steps of restructuring the failing timber industry out of native forest logging and into sustainably managed farm forestry, the Barnett government is seeking new and highly destructive ways to prop it up. The native forest logging component of the timber industry is not economically viable and as tax payers we are actually funding the destruction of our forests.
And now, rather than addressing this untenable situation, the Barnett government plans to make it worse.
WA’s Forest Products Commission has been conducting ‘total extraction’ and ‘logging to waste’ trials to assess the viability of supplying power stations with ‘biomass’ from our native forests.
Just imagine how a forest looks after this kind of intensive logging has been carried out – and what happens to our unique and endangered forest wildlife like the black cockatoos, chuditch, numbats and woylies.
The last thing our already stressed forests and wildlife can tolerate is more intensive logging.
In 2008 the Forest Products Commission called for tenders for the sale of up to 400,000 tonnes of ‘native forest low grade logs’. The preferred tender was Collie power station operators Griffin Energy, which proposed to burn the logs to generate electricity.
The state’s major electricity companies, Verve and Synergy have both refused to rule out generating and retailing native forest biomass electricity and the Forest Products Commission is shamelessly marketing native forest timber as a feedstock for the furnaces.
There is also a 40MW ‘biomass’ power station approved and ready to go at the Diamond chip mill site near Manjimup. Bridgetown residents rejected it and it was moved deeper into karri country - and further from the plantations that it is supposed to use. It is simply not economically viable for the plantations to be trucked such distances and if the station fires up, it may not be long before our native forests are being thrown into the furnace.
In fact, the Department of Environment and Conservation has been caught out suggesting that the power station burn karri as a way to justify having it at the Manjimup site.
The Manjimup farming community is understandably strongly opposed to a power station of this kind polluting their farms and devaluing their crops.
In the 1970s woodchipping was introduced to the south-west and laid waste to tens of thousands of hectares of irreplaceable forests. Then in the 1980s SIMCOA was given the right to buy 150,000 tonnes of jarrah logs a year to use as charcoal in its silicon smelter.
No one in their right mind wants another unsustainable, high volume, low value industry to get a grip on our forests.
Imagine boiling your kettle knowing that you are using energy provided by burning the forests and the homes of cockatoos, chuditch, numbats, woylies and all the other wildlife that live in them!
It is time to fully protect our remaining native forests and restructure the timber industry into sustainably managed farm forestry plantations.
More information on the Manjimup plant can be found at www.nobiomass.com
Federal renewable energy legislation is currently encouraging the burning of native forests for power and requires urgent amendment. Click here to find out more
The WA Forest Alliance is actively campaigning to prevent the development of this and other destructive industries getting a foothold in our forests. Contact us for more information or to get involved.