|[Source: www.bclocalnews.com, January 28]|
The future of forestry lies in wood waste, carbon credits and an expanded Asian market, provincial Forestry Minister Pat Bell told a full house Tuesday.
But first, Campbell River has to choose whether or not it wants to have a resource-based economy.
“Do you want to be a strong resource community? If you do, you need to start thinking and framing your decisions that way,” he said, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting. “How do you see Campbell River 10 years from now? What is your focus?”
In front of a crowd of politicians and forestry company representatives, Bell spoke plainly about the future he sees for the coastal forestry industry. He said Campbell River needs to reinvent its economy, or work hard to strengthen its traditional resource-based economy.
“I think we are at a place where we need to make some serious decisions,” he said. “I think we need to decide what we are in B.C., and what we are in Campbell River.”
Making money from the forests has always come easily, but now we have to work for it, he said.
“Frankly, we’ve not always had to work hard to be competitive,” he said, adding that B.C. has been too willing to “accept what the landscape has given us.”
That needs to change, he said, outlining three ways forestry companies can adapt in the next year to take advantage of new markets.
Bell said the wood waste left behind from active logging is a potential gold mine. The waste can be used in biomass burners to generate electricity, a growing market the North Island is perfectly situated to take advantage of, he said.
Bell hinted that sometime this year, he expected there to be some kind of announcement related to bioenergy business ventures in the Campbell River area.
There’s a lot of money to be made from advanced silviculture, Bell said, suggesting that forestry companies could get cash simply for growing trees.
That’s because of carbon credits, he said. Companies trying to go ‘green’ can buy credits from other companies, neutralizing on paper their effects on the environment. For example, a factory in China which produces carbon dioxide could buy credits from a B.C. forestry company with an abundance of trees – natural carbon sinks which absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen – so the factory can claim it has a net zero impact on the environment.
“Sequestering carbon is, I think, going to be a huge new business venture,” Bell said.
He said that if carbon credits go for $30 per ton, companies on the B.C. coast are capable of generating $150 million in revenue per year.
Any companies thinking of restoring wood exports to the US after B.C. recovers from the recession are making a mistake, Bell said.
“Wrong decision – you shouldn’t even be thinking that way,” he said, suggesting the US should no longer be B.C.’s number one customer.
The Asian market – particularly the Chinese market – holds huge potential for B.C. coastal lumber producers in the coming decade. In the last three years, B.C. has more than tripled its exports to China and there’s no sign of a slowdown in demand, Bell said, pointing out that last year B.C. exported roughly 1.6 billion board-feet to China.
Bell said B.C. needs to focus on value-added products for non-residential construction, particularly engineered wood products for multi-housing and commercial products. He pointed to a recent test done in Japan which proved a wood-frame, six-storey building could survive the most violent earthquake in recorded history (see video above). That’s a market B.C. companies need to tap – construction and rebuilding in earthquake zones overseas, he said.
NDP MLA Claire Trevena wasn’t inspired by Bell’s speech.
“There was not much offered on the (Catalyst) mill situation,” she said afterwards. “It’s something the government has failed on for so many years.”
Trevena said that if the government really wants to help the forestry industry, it needs to get involved in the Catalyst taxation dispute