2010-04-26

We Need More (not less) Wood Manufacturing in BC

Wood is our oil. Alberta and the northwest corner of British Columbia have vast reserves of petrochemicals that are currently being tapped. But in the Northern, Central and Southern Interior of BC, as well as Vancouver Island, we have our own version of these oil and gas reserves, and that is our vast forests of wood.

Like oil, wood is an organic substance with a complex molecular makeup, from which human beings, through their labour and ingenuity, have developed into a bewildering variety of products and uses. One of the greatest qualities of wood, and the reason why it has been used by all cultures going back hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years, is its tremendous versatility. Used extensively for shelter and tools, as well as transportation (canoes, boats, bridges, aircraft, etc.), wood has played a crucial role in the development of virtually all societies.

Another great quality of wood is its renewability, something which oil and gas lacks. Trees and forests are stubborn things. Not long after the ice age ended and the glaciers receded over British Columbia, pine, spruce, fir and other species re-colonized the devastated, barren landscape and established the forests of today. Even now, in the wake of the pine beetle, these forests have begun their regeneration. If environmentally sound policies are followed now in terms of silviculture and harvesting, there is no reason that the vast pine forests of the Interior will not return.

2010-04-23

Head of B.C. Mining Association Says B.C> on Cusp of Exciting Times

Pierre Gratton of the Mining Association of B.C. says “We’re on the cusp of some very exciting times in our province.”

Already, mining in B.C. provides $8 billion dollars to the GDP and direct employment for 14 thousand people and indirect jobs for 35 thousand more.

Gratton says the new injection of mines on the horizon in B.C., will not only support communities hit by the mountain beetle, it will reverse the province’s trade imbalance and B.C. may begin to export as much as it imports.

2010-04-21

Douglas County may benefit from Canada's timber woes

What the predicted bust of Canadian lumber production means for Douglas County and U.S. timber markets is still unknown, but locals say it will have an impact.

A new study estimates that the mountain pine beetle infestation eating away at Canadian timber stands will force the shuttering of 16 major British Columbian sawmills and reduce Canadian lumber imports to the U.S. by 50 percent by 2018.

According to the article published last month in the Vancouver Sun newspaper, the authors of the industry report expect the shortage to cause U.S. prices to skyrocket.

2010-04-17

Tree-planting, a staple of the summer job market for students, is disappearing

A summer job for students that has become as iconic as the loon and beaver may be going the way of the $2 bill.

Summer tree-planting jobs that helped put thousands of Canadian students through school for decades are declining because of a slack U.S. housing market and pine beetle damage to West Coast forests.

That means fewer jobs for students this summer and lower pay for those who do manage to find work among the mosquitoes, pine and spruce.

2010-04-15

Forest service bracing for another record fire season

The fire season doesn't officially start for another week but already the B.C. Fire Service is training crews to be ready in case this year is anything like 2009.

Last summer B.C. had the worst fire season on record and by all accounts this summer is shaping up to be a repeat of that, based on comparisons between weather patterns from last spring.

Long-term weather forecasting is still an inexact science but if this summer lives up to expectations the forest service wants to be ready.

Fighting forest fires in Washington state

There's nothing like a catastrophe next door to focus the mind, especially when your job is to manage public forestlands.

The environmental disaster is across the Canadian border. More than a billion dead pine trees, killed by beetle infestations, are spread across an expanse of British Columbia equal to Washington and Oregon put together.

"What's happened there is a travesty of global, not just continental, proportions: We don't want the calamity of British Columbia to make it across the border: The devastation there will last for decades," says Washington State Land Commissioner Peter Goldmark.

2010-04-14

Guarding the forests

Bart McAnally has the most beautiful office in the world: the Rocky Mountains. The forest health technician is outside most days, making sure that the forests are healthy.

As he crunches through the snow on a balmy winter afternoon, he stops to point out different things going on in the trees: some bark scraped away by a careless utility vehicle, or a store of pine cones left by a squirrel.

His job seems idyllic, a constant nature walk. However, there are serious threats that lie beneath the serene exterior of Alberta’s pine forests, including the mountain pine beetle.

2010-04-12

Pine beetles just taste of warming's effect: B.C. forestry official

The mountain pine beetle infestation that has devastated B.C. forests is likely to be followed by other new pests taking advantage of rising average temperatures, says the president the Forest Products Association of Canada.

Avram Lazar says the B.C. beetle infestation is almost certain to move across the Rockies into the boreal forest. He believes it shows the need for more public focus on adaptation to climate change.

“We're a little obsessed with this because were paying the price right now,” said Mr. Lazar in a discussion with reporters. “The mountain pine beetle would've died if we hadn't had the last 12 winters being the warmest 12 winters on record.”

2010-04-07

A forest epidemic turns into energy opportunity

Fuel start-up Cobalt Technologies has figured out a way to use trees poisoned and killed by pine beetles to make biobutanol, the company announced Wednesday.

Cobalt develops biofuels that can be mixed with gas, diesel, or jet fuel, as well as used to make plastics. Up until now, the company has used forestry byproducts that originated from healthy trees to make its n-butanol. The result is a gasoline blend made up of 12 percent biobutanol, which the company has claimed can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85 percent when compared to conventional gasoline. It's been touting the fuel as an alternative to ethanol, and in January launched a California plant with the support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The company's process for making biofuel from the unhealthy wood is quite similar to the fermentation procedure Cobalt has used on other nonfood biomass. It applies its own proprietary strains of bacteria to ferment the biomass and convert it to n-butanol with one important exception. Because the sap from the beetle-killed trees is a toxin, the scientists first apply a "pretreatment process" to extract the sap from the dead pine before breaking it down. The heat given off from that pretreatment is directed toward the fermentation process to further save energy, according to Helen Allrich, a spokeswoman for Cobalt.

Cobalt Technologies is First to Create Renewable Biobutanol Fuel From Beetle-Killed Pine

Cobalt Technologies, the leader in commercializing biobutanol as a renewable chemical and fuel, today announced a breakthrough in producing biobutanol from beetle-killed lodgepole pine feedstock. Cobalt is the first company to produce a drop-in replacement for petroleum and petrochemicals from beetle-affected lodgepole pine. To evaluate the fuel's viability for commercial vehicles, the company has signed a fuel testing partnership with Colorado State University.

"With this breakthrough, we've been able to turn a problem into an opportunity," said Rick Wilson, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Cobalt Technologies. "Harvesting beetle-killed trees could produce low-carbon fuels and chemicals, establish a foundation for a sustainable biorefinery industry and create jobs, particularly in rural areas. If we use only half of the 2.3 million acres currently affected in Colorado alone, we could produce over two billion gallons of biobutanol -- enough to blend into all the gasoline used in Colorado for six years."

Cobalt Technologies converts non-food feedstock, such as forest waste and mill residues into n-butanol, a versatile product that can be used as a drop-in biofuel to be blended with gasoline, diesel and ethanol; converted into jet fuel or plastics, or sold as is for use in paints, cleaners, adhesives and flavorings. The company's innovative technology offers the potential for converting beetle-killed pine into a low-carbon, sustainable biofuel and chemical.