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Don't use forest biomass for industrial heating, power: Greenpeace

A tractor-trailer rig dumps a load of wood chips at Woodland Biomass Power Ltd. in this file photo.

BOB GALBRAITH/Associated Press

It is a mistake to use forest biomass on an industrial scale for heating, to create biofuels, or to generate electricity, Greenpeace says in a new report released Tuesday.

The environmental lobby group says large scale use of wood or wood waste will harm the global climate and damage forests, and should be discouraged. However, using mill waste and residue in small-scale local heating systems -- where fossil fuels are being replaced -- can be efficient and less damaging, the report says.

A key problem is that there is now so much demand for biomass that it can't be met simply by using waste -- bark, sawdust and other residue from sawmills and paper plants -- Greenpeace says.

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The use of standing trees could put severe pressure on forests, and even surpass forest use by the traditional forestry sector, it says.

Burning forest biomass is not carbon neutral, the report says. Power plants that used wood can emit more carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter than coal-fired power plants generating the same about of power, it says.

"Using woody biomass to produce energy should be restricted to local small-scale uses of mill residues," said Nicolas Mainville, a Greenpeace Canada forest campaigner.

The report recommends that provincial governments suspend the approval of new biomass projects, review existing ones, prohibit whole-tree harvesting, and focus more on wind, solar and geothermal, along with energy conservation.

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Reporter, Report on Business

Richard Blackwell has reported on Canadian business for more than three decades. At the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail he has covered technology, transportation, investing, banking, securities and media, among many other subjects. Currently, his focus is on green technology and the economy. More

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