Does B.C. Minister of Forests believe burning wood pellets produces clean energy?

Oct 4, 2022 | 42-3, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Sessions, Video | 9 comments

In my first Question of the Fall session I asked Minister of Forests, Hon. Katrine Conroy about the growing controversy surrounding the wood pellet industry.

Journalists in both the United Kingdom and here in Canada are investigating the claims of the British Columbia government and Drax, a large multinational corporation that controls about two-thirds of the wood pellet industry in our province. Evidence they have published is calling into question the claims that the industry is going further than just turning wood waste from the forestry industry into pellets, and instead are pelletizing whole trees and forests.

We are in a climate crisis! Our Minister of Forests continues to speak of our forests as if we obliged to cut them down, and defending an industry that is combusting carbon and masquerading it as a renewable, clean, green, source of energy.

What can be worse? Well, Drax continues to lobby our BC NDP government and they continue to hand out public subsidies for their so-called renewable energy operations.



A. Olsen:

To the Minister of Forests, does she believe that in 2022, in a worsening climate crisis, burning wood pellets is clean, green energy?

[10:45 a.m.]

Hon. K. Conroy:

I thank the member for this question, because there’s been quite a bit in the media about pellets lately, and I think it’s good to be able to have this discussion. I think pellets are a low-value product in our industry. I know that people are saying that pellets are creating more GHG, but in fact, they’re not. We are selling pellets to countries that are using pellets to lower their usage of coal.

So it’s a product that is used worldwide. It’s a product that is made from waste — waste in the forest. I think I need to make sure I say that because people are saying it is made of whole logs. It is not made of whole logs. If someone was going to sell a whole log to a pellet factory, they would be losing money, because logs that are going into saw…. Sawlogs are getting about $100 a cubic metre, whereas waste that is going into pellets averages about $25 a cubic metre. So nobody that is involved in the sawmill industry is going to be selling whole logs to go into pellets.

I know that’s probably the next question the member is going to ask, but I believe that the pellet industry is one that we need in this province. It is using up…. It’s reducing waste in the forest industry, which is an important thing, and it’s moving forward. We know that it is a part of the forest industry that is working.

Mr. Speaker: Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.


A. Olsen:

Here are some facts. Drax is a massive company in the U.K. They’ve been quietly consolidating the wood pellet operations in British Columbia, controlling almost two-thirds of that industry.

To correct the minister, burning wood pellets is actually more carbon-intensive than burning coal. Drax regularly lobbies. This government is subsidized by both the U.K. and the B.C. government’s clean energy funds. They burn millions of tonnes of wood pellets from British Columbia in their energy plant in Yorkshire, England. Evidence turned up by investigative journalists in Canada and the U.K. shows that they have acquired tenure, that they are logging, grinding and burning B.C. old-growth forests.

Last year the former B.C. chief forester, Diane Nicholls, abruptly left her post next to the Minister of Forests to immediately take a job with this company, Drax, as their VP for corporate sustainability. The revolving door between the Ministry of Forests and the forest industry continues to turn in this province.

So I’m going to ask a very specific question of the Minister of Forests. Will the minister commit in this assembly and to the people of British Columbia that wood pellet companies are not using whole trees to turn into pellets?

Hon. K. Conroy:

Yeah, I can answer that.

Companies are not using whole trees that would be used as sawlogs. If they’re using a whole tree, it’s been burnt, it’s been damaged by beetle kill. It wouldn’t work as a sawlog. So yes, companies might use a whole tree for a pellet factory, but it’s a tree that wouldn’t be used in a sawmill.

I just wanted to refer to Diane Nicholls, a woman who had many successes throughout her tenure and did not leave abruptly. She did not leave abruptly. Not only was she B.C’s. first female chief forester; she was also the first woman in Canada. You know, her expertise and enthusiastic approach to what she did is going to be difficult to replace. She was instrumental in ushering in a new era of forest management in this province and also very successful in developing low-carbon economy programs for the forest industry. She did a lot of work.

I just want to clarify for the record in this Legislature. There is not old growth being cut down to utilize in Drax’s mills across this province. So I just want to make that clear and put that on the record and correct the member for what he misspoke.


  1. douglas gook

    Thanks Adam!
    Please keep at them regarding this disgraceful example of Corporate Industrial Fibre Mining.

    • Anastasia Jobe

      After watching that video I really don’t think the forest minister truly answered your last question regarding using whole trees for pellets. She says no and then she says yes and then she says no. She totally went a different direction regarding the past minister and DID not answer that question truly. What a joke.. thank you for speaking truth.

  2. Ben Barclay

    Hi Adam, good on you for challenging our NDP government as they hasten the societal collapse predicted by the UN’s IPCC due to deforestation, and the “land degradation”, of clearcutting “forests”, to create “plantations”.

    An issue you might wish to weave into this debate is clearcutting. Using trees to make lumber would be fine if we didn’t clearcut. We would have twice as many forestry jobs, if we didn’t clearcut. We would save 300 million tonnes of C02 emissions in BC annually, if we didn’t clearcut. We would still have all our old growth left, if we hadn’t been clearcutting all these years.

    The scientific problem with clearcutting is that it reduces the biomass in a given area by 60% permanently. It doesn’t “grow back”. It dies forever. The Truck Logger’s Association readily admit this. That’s why they want the old growth so bad, because they say it has 3 times the lumber per hectare, and is worth 10 times as much money.

    Reducing the biomass on a given area reduces the “ecosystem services” that area provides. Sequestering carbon and holding moisture are two key ecosystem services.

    By clearcutting 200,000 hectares a year in BC, for 100 years, we have reduced the ecosystem services our forests used to provide to the point where we directly caused the floods in Merritt and elsewhere, and we are pouring gasoline on the extreme wildfires. Scientists have measured this. I can connect you.

    We need to stop clearcutting to get our jobs back. The scientific expression for good forestry is “100 biomass and canopy retention forestry as measured annually in contiguous watersheds”. This is also called “single tree selective forestry”. You live off the “interest”, that grows annually. People do it all over the world, from Ladysmith to Finland, (where 60% of the forests are held by small farmers).

    Clearcutting is confusing the pellet issue. They clearcut old growth, and send the big saw logs to sawmills, and the little stuff to pellet mills. That is allowing Conroy to say “we’re not cutting old growth because it would go to sawmills”.

    Clearcutting creates the “waste” that Conroy is saying “might as well go to pellets”. Actually, that “waste” should be left standing in the forest, where it would be performing ecosystem services like soil retention, water absorption, and C02 capture.

    This all explains the reason why burning pellets is worse than burning coal, which is because the trees that are made into pellets stop sequestering C02 when they are cut. Burning pellets made out of old pallets would be as bad as burning coal. Burning pellets made from standing trees is of course worse.

    It is worth reminding these people, that there is no “Green Fuel”. Burning anything to make energy is species suicide.

    I just wanted to drill down and explain this so you could answer their propaganda in the most accurate manner. We also need to get clearcutting on the table if we want our jobs back, and a future for our children.

    Here’s a link to more science and pictures that demonstrate this.

    I’d be happy to have a lunch with you and go over forestry, and give you some very hard numbers to work with. Thanks.

    Ben Barclay

  3. David Pedersen

    I’m pleased that Mr. Olsen is opposed to the use of wood pellets for energy production; however, can I be assured that he will also speak out against the burning of wood in residential and recreational settings as well since it too is terrible for public health and the climate?

  4. David A. Spence

    Thx for the information regarding DRAX and the wood pellet industry and the subsequent implications. In addition, one of the implications I think that is missing in the conversation is the significance of the nutrient significance of “forestry waste”.
    In the forest, what is left over from logging is not truly “waste”, but rather that which is left contains the nutrients for future growth of trees (and other vegetation) in the forest and the surrounding landscape.
    If DRAX is taking so called “waste” materials off the land and out of the teritory to be an integral part of the “wood pellet industry”, what is the company leaving behind to nourish the ground for future growth of trees?
    Does that perspective and question of reciprocity in the wilderness make sense?
    Are my concerns way off base, or are they out of the ballpark all together?
    What are your thoughts about the nutrients from cut trees feeding the soil for future generations of growth and vitality, for liveability and sustainability?
    Lots of ways to ask the question about the “wood pellet industry”…….

  5. Lora

    We need to smarten up on this issue. Slowly and quietly our trees are being destroyed for profit. This is outrageous people!

  6. Russ

    The last evening I watched the W5 show on the wood pellet industry.
    What a waste of publicly owned resource,using old growth Hemlock or other species of coniferous trees.
    This no doubt cuts jobs in the lumber industry, forcing the closer of lumber mills and right to the beginning of forestry jobs in the woods from fallers to the end product employment.
    Drax’s indicates it can’t get enough wood resources to make their pellets from sawmills.
    Well if the NDP would stop selling our raw logs out of British Columbia to foreign countries, the sawmills in BC would have the left over wood waste to sell to the pellet industry.
    The British Columbia forestry practices need a complete overhaul, it’s a mess and it’ a joke!


    Well done MLA Olsen, expose the bufoonery,
    Four reasons the why the BC logging industry and Provincial government continue to lie about forest ‘sustainability,’ logging being a ‘green industry’, or clear cutting as an ‘economic driver and supplier of jobs’ for the province:
    1. Never argue with a man whose job depends on not being convinced.
    2. It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
    3. It can be very hard to understand something, when misunderstanding it is essential to your paycheck.
    4. It is rather pointless to argue with a man whose paycheck depends upon not knowing the right answer.

  8. Yves Mayrand

    Congratulations for your pointed questions to the Minister of Forests. You are doing your job well at the Legislative Assembly and we urge you to continue doing so relentlessly. While non-answers and more smoke are to be expected from this government on forestry practices, you are helping to build momentum for a real change and for government accountability on these major issues.


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