FutureMetrics Has Published a New White Paper: “Alternative Facts” in the Recent Chatham House Study
(FutureMetrics) Providing misleading, inaccurate, and sometime outright fiction as facts could be called propaganda. With overtones of Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the term “alternative facts” has recently been coined.
Either way, it is information that is biased and misleading that is used to promote a point of view. We have written critiques of other papers, by among others, the World Resources Institute and Climate Central, for writing biased, incomplete, and misleading publications that use alternative facts to promote an agenda that opposes a strategy that we have coined as a rational and pragmatic off-ramp to a decarbonized future.
Now we add the Chatham House paper to the list. The recently released paper by the Chatham House is a study that contains many inaccurate statements about the use of wood for energy. Those statements are presented as facts or as uncontested conclusions. This white paper focuses on the study’s discussions that pertain to the sourcing of raw materials for industrial wood pellets. READ MORE and MORE (Renewable Energy Association) Download paper
Excerpt from FutureMetrics paper: To enable and ensure a continuous supply of raw material, the quantity of the logs and chips coming into the mills cannot exceed the growth rate of the surrounding managed forest otherwise the mills, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, would have to close once they depleted the resource they depend on to operate. Sawmills, pulp mills, and pellet mills are sized to match the ability of the surrounding working forest to supply affordable wood every day for decades. Sawmill, pulp mill, and pellet mill business models require good forestry practices that yield a sustainable outcome. But beyond that, particularly for industrial wood pellets being exported from the US and Canada into the UK and other nations, there are rigorous certification schemes that demand auditing to prove that the forests are not being depleted and that the stock of carbon held in the forests is not being reduced.
The millions of hectares of working forests in north America that supply the forest products industries are like the millions of hectares of cropland in north America. The stewards of those lands are growing plants that are used for food and industry. Trees in these managed forests have much larger stems and take longer to grow than corn, wheat, sugarcane, or soybeans but they are nonetheless a crop.
The privately-owned forests in the US, which make up about 60% of all US forestland, most of which are managed to continuously produce the raw materials for making lumber, paper, pellets, and other products derived from wood, also hold billions of tons of carbon.
The landowners of those private forests and the workers that manage and harvest trees get paid for growing and producing wood fiber, not for sequestering carbon. However, the inherent sustainability of the resource that accrues from good forest management practices means that the aggregate carbon stock held in private forests are not being depleted. READ MORE
Excerpts from Renewable Energy Association: 2. The report claims that it can take decades or even centuries to reabsorb carbon released by biomass power
- a) This shows a deep misunderstanding of how forests work. A single tree may take time to regrow, but a forest is managed on an ongoing basis. A well-managed forest grows at an optimum rate, promoting carbon absorption. This means that trees can be harvested for the timber industry (and their offcuts, thinnings and residues going to bioenergy) whilst still maintaining a positive growth rate. This means carbon lost is immediately reabsorbed – there is no delay involved.
- b) US forest cover is increasing and so the amount of carbon contained in US forests is increasing: the US Environmental Protection Agency reports that the amount of carbon contained in US forests is around a third higher now than it was in 1991.
3. The report implies that UK biomass use is resulting in decreased US forest stock
- a) It is stated that “Policy frameworks [ignores] changes in forest carbon stock”, however the UK’s sustainability regime overseen by the independent regulator Ofgem strictly demands that there can be no change in land use or deforestation.
- b) The US Department of Agriculture Forest Service says forest cover has been increasing for over 50 years withstanding volume increasing by 50% since the 1950s. At the same time net volume per acre has increased 94% since 1953 thanks to better forest management. The US forest estate now stands at 751 million acres, the same figure as in 2010. Biomass supports the forest and woodland growth.
4. The report also claims that “the feedstock derives from harvesting whole trees”
- a) This has little evidence to support it, as it simply does not reflect normal forestry practice because it is economically unsustainable. Forest owners sell the best wood (tall, straight log wood) to the construction industry for the highest prices. Then the next grade down goes to the industries such as furniture production. As they work down the different grades of wood, eventually they come to very low-grade material and this goes to industries including the bioenergy sector, for the lowest prices. Bioenergy cannot compete on price with the construction sector for the same wood – it takes the leftovers.
- b. However, it is true to say that forest thinnings go to bioenergy … READ MORE