Skip to content

EDITORIAL: Attacks on North's push towards biomass are misinformed


This week we had a story about funding from Ottawa for two green energy projects in the Delta — towards planning a wind farm in Paulatuk and establishing a biomass supply chain in Fort McPherson.

McPherson's plan in particular seems to have drawn a bit of attention from a commenter who identified themselves only as "Peter." Peter's comments on the idea of a biomass project on our website as follows.

"Biomass doesn’t work for the northern communities, lack of wood pellet suppliers, lack of transportation and storage and keeping pellets dry, heavy emissions from trucks transporting pellets from BC/Alberta to the North. Logistics issues closures of ferry’s and ice roads. High cost for transport, maintenance and pellets. 3 times costlier then diesel or natural gas. Not worth it for the minor reduction of emissions as those 18 wheelers diesel trucks have to transport heavy loads of pellets daily."

Aside from suggesting the commenter missed the part of the story that states the wood fibre to fill this supply chain will be harvested from willow trees around Fort McPherson, the comment seems to draw from a gloomy picture of biomass that has been painted by people seemingly opposed to wood as an alternative to fossil fuels.

It goes something like this — vast tracks of pristine forest get clear cut by greenhouse gas emitting machines, hauled to a factory by trucks to be processed into pellets, burning carbon all the way. Then, to add insult to injury, those pellets are carted even further away from their original source to be burned. It certainly makes the process sound unappealing.

But that doesn't seem to be what is happening here in the Delta. This is only the latest development in a series of biomass projects, all of which seem to be acutely aware of the carbon-costs of driving product up here and are focused on the need to locally source our fuel.

Other non-biomass projects also show this understanding —the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is working to resurrect the TUK-18 natural gas well with the logic in mind that it creates far less emissions when burned and there are far less emissions involved in getting it here.

In either case, making the switch would mean far less diesel would need to be driven up here from B.C. and Alberta, on top of the reduced emissions from cleaner fuels. It also promotes energy autonomy in the region, reducing the reliance on the global supply chain, which in itself is a huge source of global emissions. In the wood pellet case, it's also sustainable, promoting the growth of new, carbon-eating trees for future product.

Another biomass-related project the world doesn't know enough about in the region is the Aurora Research Institute's efforts to make pellets out of cardboard. These pellets can be mixed into a wood pellet system, meaning the vast amounts of cardboard that makes its way up north to bring everything from food to life-saving equipment could suddenly become a fuel source.

Other developments in the world, such as the impending rise of electric vehicles, will displace carbon emissions from these grassroots energy projects further. I can't speak for how biomass is being done elsewhere on Earth, but in the Beaufort Delta it seems to be doing the right things.

About the Author: Eric Bowling

Read more