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Panel board company accused of biomass opportunism



A new investigation into the profits and costs of Canadian panel board manufacturer Norbord suggests that its lobbying against renewable biomass energy is motivated by expediency and profits.

Three weeks ago panel board manufacturer Norbord paid a City-based advertising agency to lobby MPs and place adverts in the National Press criticising the use of sustainable UK timber sources for energy generation. On its website the company claims Government support for bioenergy has increased average wood prices by 60%.

However, official statistics published by the Forestry Commission just two days later revealed that average timber prices in the UK are 29-42% lower than they were twenty years ago in real terms.

The investigation by Enagri has also revealed that Norbord’s profits are currently undergoing a resurgence; rising five-fold at the end of April 2013 compared with the previous year. The Canadian-based company has admitted that it’s European factories, including three in the UK, are operating “full out” to cope with rising sales and that cost cutting activities, including raw material sourcing, saved it US£26 million last year.

Commenting on these price figures and Norbord’s results, Richard Crowhurst, editor of the Enagri BioenergyWeekly, said:

“With such a large rise in its profits and European output at a time when UK timber prices are falling and forestry investors are losing money on their day-to-day activities, the fact that Norbord Inc. is lobbying MPs and the public to oppose the use of biomass to generate low carbon renewable energy on the grounds that it rises wood prices is at best opportunistic and at worse deeply cynical.

“Unfortunately it looks like a debate on the pros and cons of using biomass as part of the UK’s energy mix is being driven by people with vested market interests and large advertising budgets, rather than science and common sense.”

The full investigation was published in BioenergyWeekly on Monday 3 June 2013.