BIOMASS

THE CONTRARIAN

WILLY BRANT’S DIARY

Joe and I were on our annual pilgrimage down south across the Bear Narrows Bridge to look for a moose.  We have not done so well over the years; I think the score is Willy and Joe 1, moose 14, but it gives us an excuse to go walking in the bush. I keep telling Joe that we should go prospecting instead, don’t need to carry that heavy rifle, and buy that expensive moose licence, but Joe just says you can’t eat gold.  Apparently he hasn’t noticed that you can’t eat the moose you didn’t get, either.

Anyway, as we drove past Reed Mountain, that huge pile of bark behind the mill, it reminded me of a news item, and I remarked “I see Ontario is bragging about saving the planet by burning biomass instead of coal in the Atikokan station.  Guess they must finally be finishing the monumental task of converting it over.”  “Yup,” says Joe, “and I drove by the new solar farm north of town, looks like it might be generating one of these days too.  We will be so green.”

Drove for a few minutes, we were in Joe’s beat up old pickup truck, Joe says he could afford a new one, but if he scrapes it on some brush or around the barn it is a $10 000 touch to fix, while any dent he puts in the old one only depreciates it by maybe $10.  Then he comes up with “Atikokan couldn’t be modified to burn biomass as it comes from the hog, so they need to pelletize it before they burn it, so we need a pelletizing plant.  That led to a multi-year argument as to whether the new pelletizing plant would be built in Kenora, or in Thunder Bay, our political centers.  Apparently nobody thought about all the diesel fuel it will take to ship the stuff all over the place, rather than put the pelletizing plant at the Atikokan station so we only ship the biomass once.  Funny, we haven’t heard an announcement about the pelletizing plant, maybe they decided to put it at the Atikokan station in spite of all the politicking.”

Drove a bit further, then he went on “Of course it is all dumber than a pig with his head stuck in a pail.  Most of the surplus biomass is right here in Dryden, now that all the other mills are shut down.  The mill here is equipped to burn it all without pelletizing it, generating electricity, but the trouble is Hydro won’t buy any electricity from them and they are not allowed to sell it to anyone else.  Some kind of punishment for Dryden being so politically incorrect, I suppose.  Of course burning it here might actually make economic sense, and only needs a decision, not a multimillion dollar construction project, but obviously economic sense is not nearly as high a priority as buying votes.  So we will ship biomass all over northwestern Ontario to a politically located pelleting plant, then to Atikokan, in diesel-powered trucks.  Not very green, but hey, they can boast about the biomass.”

“Yup”, from me “and the announcement said Atikokan will be the biggest biomass-fueled generating station in the world.  How politically correct is that? Should buy a ton of Toronto votes.”

Drove on for a while, then I chipped in “The real loss as far as being green is concerned is that our mill might have been able to reclaim Reed Mountain for fuel, taking away a huge environmental liability.  Hypocrisy rules.”

After a mile or so, Joe goes “yep”.  It’s a long old trip; don’t want to use up all our conversation too soon

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