Scientists: burning wood is not green energy

Burning wood is not green energy and will not reduce CO emissions2. Moreover, “low-quality” wood, which will be able to be used in the energy industry in accordance with the new renewable energy regulations, is now a valuable resource for nature, scientists said on Thursday.

The amendment to the Act on Renewable Energy Sources passed on July 16 introduces a new definition of energy wood. According to the government, thanks to this act, inferior wood will be used in the energy sector. On the website of the State Forests we read that energy wood will be “primarily wood from sanitary cuts, i.e. removal of trees dying or dead as a result of drought, diseases, activity of insect pests or fungal pathogens (deadwood), and often also trees felled or broken by storms.” (tips and scrap). The provisions of the act are to apply from October 1 to the end of 2021.

These regulations were referred to on Thursday during a press conference organized by Greenpeace by scientists involved in forest research.

As explained by the head of the Forest Biology Laboratory of the University of Wrocław, prof. Tomasz Wesołowski, “co-combustion, treating wood as input for power plant boilers – is nonsense when it comes to limiting the production of carbon dioxide.” He added that we produce less carbon dioxide when we burn hard coal in power plants than when we co-burn wood. “If we take the matter seriously, not a single pine cone or a single branch from the forest should go to power plants to produce electricity,” he said.

A decaying tree is a place for many other species to live

Head of the Białowieża Geobotanical Station of the University of Warsaw, prof. Bogdan Jaroszewicz explained that burning wood does not affect nature in the same way as leaving it in the forest. He explained that although wood decaying in the forest gradually releases CO2 into the atmosphere, it is a process that extends over time. Carbon decomposition is a biological process there – some of the carbon from wood is incorporated into their organisms by, for example, fungi. From there, the carbon goes to insects and other organisms that feed on fungi. Carbon stays in the ecosystem for a very long time. “And when we throw a log into the furnace, all the carbon from the log is in the atmosphere,” he concluded.

Burning wood is said to produce green energy, but it can only be called “greenwashing” (implying that something is eco – editor’s note) of this energy. But it is definitely not green energy – added prof. Jaroszewicz.

Ph.D. Przemysław Chylarecki from the Museum and Institute of Zoology of the Polish Academy of Sciences expressed fear that the new regulations would result in more low-quality wood being obtained from forests because it could be turned into money. Meanwhile, as he explained, dead wood is an essential element that determines whether the forest functions well. So far, in his opinion, this resource has been relatively safe.

Director of the Institute of Mammal Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Białowieża, Ph.D. Rafał Kowalczyk, professor at IBS PAN, said that wood raw material, which is perceived in the economy as “lower quality”, may be more valuable from the point of view of nature than “good quality” material.

He expressed fear that the new regulations would result in massive cutting down of trees that could not be sold anywhere else except as firewood.

This is not the direction we should go: that we are burning Polish forests in our power plants, he said. He suggested that when talking about green energy, we should focus on other sources.

Prof. Tomasz Wesołowski explained that a decaying tree is, among other things, a place for many other species to live. Such wood is also important in, among others, in the circulation of elements in nature or water retention.

By removing dead trees, it’s as if we had amputated half the forest. What remains is a dummy forest. What we treat with some disgust as rotting, decaying, decaying, “death” – is full of life. Dead trees are more alive after death than when they were green, he said.

According to prof. Wesołowski, only the State Forests will benefit from the new regulations. “The rest of society will lose from this. Both in terms of nature and in terms of climate change reduction goals,” he said.

Foresters’ position

The RES Act has been submitted to the Senate. The State Forests ensure that the change to the RES Act will not have any impact on the volume of wood harvested.

Foresters also ensure that the amendment will not create a pool of wood intended or reserved for the energy sector. “For years, the wood offered for sale by the State Forests has also included the lowest quality raw material, often unpurchased and unsuitable for the timber industry, which has already been harvested or would have to be harvested anyway for environmental and safety reasons (disaster wood from trees dying due to drought, disease , gradations of pests, overturned and broken by storms)” – explained in the LP’s announcement.

The new definition of energy wood – according to foresters – will expand the group of potential buyers of the lowest quality wood. As explained, such wood will be offered in online tenders on general terms – as in the case of other types of wood.

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