Thursday, August 31, 2017

A powerful and disturbing film

We went tonight to the premier of a new film by local filmmakers Alan Dater and Lisa Merton. It is called Burned, and is about the biomass fuel industry which is clear-cutting vast acres of forest in the U.S., especially in the Southeast, making it into pellets and shipping it to Europe, where it is used to generate electricity. There are also now over 200 bio-mass generating plants in the U.S., some of which (like one in Michigan), are permitted to burn chipped railroad ties and rubber tires, thus emitting toxic fumes and dust which threaten a nearby town.

There is a widespread misperception that "biomass" = "waste" wood. But entire forests are being consumed. Also, The biomass industry is able to function only because it receives huge government subsidies, without which it would be economically unfeasible. This is true both in the U. S. and Europe. This is based on the fiction that biomass is carbon neutral, and thus a "green" alternative to fossil fuels, like wind and solar. But in reality, burning wood releases as much or even more carbon than coal. In theory, the tree you cut down would eventually have died and decayed and been replaced by another tree. It is a "renewable" resource.  But that takes a long time and global warming is now. The planet needs more trees to sequester existing carbon, not fewer. 

The film sparked a heated discussion with the filmmakers afterward. It is a discussion that needs to take place all over the world . 

 Filmmakers Lisa Merton and Alan Dater

A scene from Burned showing a chip pile at a biomass plant

Dater and Merton made an earlier film about Wangari Mathai, Kenyan Nobel Laureate who started the successful movement to plant trees in Kenya to reclaim the desert. That film led to this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment