Jobs, wildlife and forests chipped and burned in Toronto ‘power plant’

Feature story - November 8, 2011
Greenpeace activists gathered near Queen’s Park today to expose current biomass projects and new plans to burn forests for energy. On site with a wood chipper and a simulated power plant, the activists showed how the emerging forest bioenergy sector is threatening public forests, northern jobs and the climate. Symbols representing lost wildlife and jobs were chipped and thrown into the smoke-belching power plant.

 “Ontario forests are starting to be cut and burned for energy on an industrial scale,” said Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Catharine Grant.  “These projects are not clean, green and carbon neutral, as they are promoted. The amount of wood that is set to be burnt in power plants or turned into liquid fuels is growing exponentially without the public's knowledge and little government oversight or regulation.”
Last week, Greenpeace released the science-based report “Fuelling a Biomess”, which highlights the dangers of the large-scale use of wood and tree harvesting for heating, electricity generation and liquid biofuels. The report showed that burning forests for energy will increase short-term climate change and provides up to 80 per cent fewer jobs than traditional forestry operations. 
 “The standing trees in our forests are far too valuable to be simply chipped and burned for energy,” said Grant. “They provide essential ecological services, economic opportunities and protection from climate change. By burning our forests, we are sending our future up in smoke.”
Greenpeace is concerned that the growing demand for trees associated with the bioenergy boom will drastically increase pressure on forests and out compete the traditional forest products sector, particularly with respect to available wood supply and the development of new products and jobs.
The Ontario government has allocated 11 million cubic meters of wood - the equivalent of 177,000 hectares of public forests (or 248 000 soccer fields) - to be cut down annually for biomass extraction and traditional logging.
Greenpeace is calling on the Ontario government to suspend these allocations until public hearings, environmental impact assessments and a full carbon accounting of biomass projects are implemented.