BRUSSELS, Sept. 23, 2013 (Press Release) -Questionable subsidies to support biomass are putting Austria's traditionally strong wood and paper industry in jeopardy, threatening jobs in the sector. A more intelligent approach to the use of wood could help retain the benefits of biofuel usage, whilst also making the best use of one of our most reliable natural resources.
Biofuels can help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by providing an alternative to releasing fossil-fuel carbon into the atmosphere. The European pulp and paper industry is a strong supporter of renewable energy and is in fact the biggest single producer of renewable energy in the EU today. 54% of the industry's total primary annual energy consumption is biomass based. However, it does not support the direct use of wood for energy.
"We have to be more intelligent in the way that we use our natural resources. We can either burn wood directly to make energy; or we can take advantage of wood's many versatile and renewable properties to firstly create wood products, pulp and paper, and recycled paper, all of which can then be used for renewable energy after their material use. By extending the lifecycle of wood before it is ultimately used for energy, we can add value to the economy, create and retain jobs, and in effect use our raw materials more efficiently," said Berry Wiersum, CEP, Sappi Fine Paper Europe.
The biomass industry has been telling their story as if they were only using forest residues of an otherwise low value. The truth is that reserves of good quality wood are now being dipped into.
Over the last 10 years, the energetic use of wood in Austria has doubled, diminishing the wood supply, resulting in a need to import. Not only does this have a negative impact on the 300,000 people employed in the Austrian wood sector, the country's paper industry is also suffering. Wood import costs have to be added to the costs associated with maintaining the highest environmental and safety standards, in an increasingly global competitive environment.