asked the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry if he has any proposals for the use of surplus woodpulp; and if he has examined the economics of its use to produce energy in the form of electricity.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Pulpwood Surplus.
I take it that the Deputy has in mind the present temporary surplus of pulpwood arising from an international recession in the panel board industry.
Prior to the recession my Department were already engaged in a study with the Industrial Development Authority to consider the use of increasing supplies of pulpwood coming on stream from State forests and a number of industrial projects for the utilisation of the material are at present under examination.
The question of the utilisation of forest thinnings, which are the major source of pulpwood, for the production of energy has also been considered. A number of Governmental agencies, including my own Department, are engaged in a demonstration project, supported in part by EEC funds, on the growing of biomass, including forest thinnings, for the production of energy.
In addition my Department are in consultation with the Electricity Supply Board on the use of forest thinnings in their smaller generating stations.
What percentage of the products of the State forests are in surplus?
We have a capacity for about 300,000 cubic metres of forest thinnings each year and we have an outlet for about 100,000 tonnes. A cubic metre is practically a tonne. The remainder would appear to be surplus but there are projects being examined, some of them very actively, regarding the utilisation of this surplus. In addition, firms from abroad are showing an interest in these products and some of these firms have come back for a third time in this regard. We hope to interest them in the processing of the material.
I am glad to hear that but I consider it a very serious situation that only half the products of the State forests can be disposed of.
There is no problem in relation to the disposal of solid timber. The surplus relates to thinnings.
Would the Minister consider that a radical change in planting policy may be necessary?
That is a separate question.
It follows on what has been said already.
The Chair would not agree.
Because of a short-term setback we would be very wrong to change our planting policy. For the past 20 years we have had a target of 10,000 hectares and we should not depart from that target because to do so could leave us in a situation of a valley period in years to come. I expect that the present problem will have been overcome within about three years.
I am thinking of the type of trees being planted. I am not advocating any reduction in the acreage which is not sufficient as it is.
Is the Minister aware that hundreds of tonnes of thinnings are rotting in our forests and that there is no industry to take up this surplus? The situation, therefore, is very serious.
I am not aware that thinnings are rotting in the forests.
It is my information that that is the position.