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TAS Country : September 16th 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010 Tasmanian Country 9 Opinion gives fuel for thought GREEN POWER: A lot more carbon can be sequestered when a forest is actively managed by selective logging. The most important issue for Tasmanians is our environment. If we muck it up, all is eventually lost. ' Continued Page 10 sugars and then to ethanol.In Brazil, ethanol is made from sugar, in Aust- ralia it is made from wheat starch -- both are foods. His process is to use the cellulose and hemicellulose in sugar cane stalks, wheat straw, council green waste, waste paper and cardboard, sawdust and other wood waste, even wood grown for this purpose in woodlots, leaving food crops to be used as food. Tamar NRM's recently released re- port shows that when measured prop- erly the 17 farms they investigated in the Tamar Valley and at Blessington are, in aggregate, carbon negative, meaning they are sequestering more carbon than they are emitting. This report is attracting national interest as it was widely believed farmers are large emitters of carbon. The Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting and the Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Corporation's joint re- port Forests, Wood and Australia's Carbon Balance, issued some years ago, shows we can sequester a lot more carbon as a society when a forest is actively managed by selective logging than when it is simply allowed to grow and then kept as a carbon store. Minister McKim recently released the Wedges Report, which shows Tas- mania's current carbon footprint as emitting 9.3 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) this year. Because of the Tamar NRM report I have taken the liberty of adding back the 2.2mt CO2e emissions attributed to the state's farmers in the report. I've also added back the carbon I think is currently being sequestered each year in the state's private forests and the carbon I think is being sequestered in Forestry Tasmania's forests -- assuming half of its forests are working hard. If the Wedges Report's authors haven't included the above then these adjustments may mean Tasmania, this year, is actually carbon negative. Tasmania is less than two percent of Australia's land mass but has about 12 per cent of Australia's water. The CSIRO recently confirmed the re- liability of water in a number of Tasmania's catchments using its climate-change modelling. We can capture the sunlight here in Tasmania because we have the water necessary for photosynthesis where carbon dioxide, water and sunlight combine to produce, in the case of trees, cellulose and hemicellulose cells held together by glues called lignins. The nutrients in trees are found in their bark and leaves. When my family harvests a tree, we leave the bark and leaves on the forest floor as slow- release fertiliser. When we manage native forest, we capture sunlight as wood without using chemicals or intro- duced fertilisers. As farmers, we can plant at least 15 per cent of our land as shelter belts and woodlots and still have the same food and fibre production. This is because of the ''non-wood benefits'', such as shel- ter, that trees provide. We can grow some trees on our farms in this way without reducing food production. Many Tasmanians use wood for domestic heating. The particulates emitted by most solid woodheaters cause health issues in basins, such as Launceston. Wood in pellet form is used extensively for heating in the northern hemisphere. Industry figures show particulate emissions from pellet heaters are as low as for natural gas heaters. What about the state's economy? In a recent report for Private Forests Tasmania, Professor Bruce Felmingh- am showed Tasmania's gross state product as a pie chart. This shows about one quarter is the wealth cre- ators, the next those sectors that provide services to the wealth creators and the other half includes the services we seek, such as health and education. In his wealth-creating quarter, he shows the four large sectors of manu- facturing, forestry, agriculture and fishing, and mining, in that order. Professor Jonathan West of UTAS last year provided the Premier with advice on an innovations strategy for the state. Rather than trying to compete with Asia in high-tech industries, his advice is to look at existing large- industry sectors and pick areas which have the capacity to innovate. He chose agriculture and from with- in it, food. The Government is follow- ing his advice. Prof West points out last century's successful innovation strategy of at- tracting heavy industry by generating hydro electricity. We pioneered mak- ing high-quality paper from short-fibre wood. We cannot assume these indus- tries will continue forever. The Burnie and Wesley Vale paper mills have now closed, and we have lost one of our vegetable processing plants. Where are our new industries? Dr Reeves tells me the sugars that can be made from cellulose and he- micellulose have many uses apart from making liquid fuel, such as bioplastics. We could have new industries making fuel and bioplastics from our wood. He also tells me his process can make mor than 400L of ethanol from one tonne of cellulose, meaning high prices can be paid for the feedstocks. 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September 9th 2010
September 23rd 2010