Evaluating targets for reducing carbon emissions. NY Times

An interesting series in the New York Times called Hindsight has been evaluating business and government pledges on various social issues such as global warming, deforestation, drinking water availability and other social crisis’ that have brought attention and demands for change.

This week, they looked at promises made in the 2010 timeframe to lower carbon emissions in the EU. What did they find that’s interesting to us on the Peninsula? That Biomass was thrown in with the mix of “solutions” and that it is not a solution at all.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/02/climate/europe-climate-pledge-carbon-emissions.html?referringSource=articleShare

Back in around 2010, this blog covered the efforts of then State Representative Kevin Van De Wege to promote biomass as a solution to lowering energy costs and protecting the environment. His work was based on research by WSU that resulted in a paper that was heralded as as a reason to promote using clear cut slash (also known as ‘hog fuel’) to burn to create electricity. No environmental organizations at that time bought the idea, though it was passed using a special designation of calling it “experimental” in the bill. It never was taken off experimental status.

Rep Van de Wege understandably promoted it because it gave more jobs to out of work loggers here on the Peninsula and incentivized pulp plants in P.A., Port Townsend and Shelton to experiment with burning hog fuel. Concerns by environmental organizations were ignored in order to allow the companies to build the plants and start using the fuel. Ultimately, all attempts to make this source of energy failed. Additionally, as the NY Times article points out, it actually made things worse.

As one drives around 101 on the Peninsula these days, it is impossible not to notice the enormous amounts of clear cuts going on, from west of the Hood Canal Bridge to Port Angeles. The stacks of slash are sitting in massive piles, some burning, some just rotting. With them go any hope of using the vast forest resources of the Peninsula to sequester carbon for reasons documented in the article above.

PT Mill applies to generate electricity – Concerns raised, comment period open

The PT mill, has filed for the ability to generate “green” energy by building a steam fired electricity plant, apparently fueled by biomass (meaning forest slash, etc.), recycled paper, and other reclaimed materials. Some emissions will be increased by this move, some decreased, further evaluation of the request is needed to understand it’s true affects. A public comment period of thirty days has been opened from July 16th to August 18th, but the public meeting won’t be held until August 17th (!). This is a very suspicious move by Ecology, and leads one to wonder about the motives of this permit.  Port Townsend Air Watchers and the Sierra Club have already asked for an extension on this, and this publication also believes that giving one day to the public to comment after the hearing does not constitute a decent interval for concerns about an ‘upgrade’ that will lead to significant new pollutants being dumped into the air we breathe.

The steam turbine would be fueled by “Hog Fuel” which is an unprocessed mix of barks and wood fiber. It is ground up after logging activities. It takes ‘slash’ that might be recycled on the ground and burns it. There is some controversy about this process, and whether it is ‘green’ or not. It appears that it is better than burning petroleum products. But, for example, would we be experiencing as much pollution from this if it were to burn natural gas?

While lowering some pollutants, like particulate matter, and Sulfer Dioxide,  we can expect to see increases in the following:

  • Fuel handling, mainly particulates, read ‘dust’ or ‘soot’
  • Carbon Monoxide pollution will increase by 43 Tons a year. This will bring us up to having 635 tons of CO put into our air, a year. Mainly people downwind or in the plume will be affected.  CO is a major component of smog, and may be contributing to ocean acidification. CO changes into CO2, the major component being considered as a contributor to global warming. It also leads to ozone depletion (remember concerns with the ozone hole in Antartica?)
  • Volitile Organic Carbons (VOC) will be increased by 1.1 Ton a year.

So how “green” is this steam plant going to be? That is debatable. You can add your input on this, learn more, and ask questions, as you will be living with this new pollution levels for decades to come. Questions also have been raised about the affects of stripping the forests of slash.

If you want to ask Ecology to extend the comment period, please call Angie Fritz at Ecology, (360)407-7393.

The copy of the proposed order can be viewed at the PT Library or at :

http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/industrial/pulp_porttown.html

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