Home Madrid university Ancient Spanish resin harvesting practice could be the key to the energy future

Ancient Spanish resin harvesting practice could be the key to the energy future

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Guillermo Arránz spends his days in a forest pruning pines to extract what is for him liquid gold.

Some might see it as lonely and grueling work, but for Arránz it brings great satisfaction. He is his own boss and spends his days enjoying nature.

Arranz is one of the Spanish resineros, or resin extractors, whose centuries-old practice is to bleed trees with their milky sap.

This simple practice has taken on new importance as Spain struggles to cope without any natural energy source. Energy analysts say pine resin could be the new oil.

The resin can be used to create plastics, varnishes, glues, tires, rubber, turpentine, and food additives, much like petroleum.

With around 18 million hectares of forest, Spain has the largest forested area in Europe after Sweden and Finland. Along with Portugal, it is the third largest producer of pine resin in the world after China and Brazil.

Spain has been pushing to explore alternative energy sources, especially after Algeria – Spain’s main gas supplier – halted natural gas deliveries last month by one of the two submarine gas pipelines due to the escalation of the dispute between Algeria and Morocco.

The Maghreb-Europe pipeline crosses Morocco towards Spain. Flows through a second pipeline, the Medgaz pipeline which directly links Algeria to Spain, have remained uninterrupted. Spanish officials, however, feared they were insufficient to avert an energy shortage at a time when Spain is already grappling with soaring fuel costs.

Protesters demand action to control the price of electricity in Barcelona, ​​Spain, November 6, 2021.

To find other sources of energy for the future, the Spanish government has made the promotion of renewables like solar and wind power a pillar of its policy as the world moves away from fossil fuels.

As part of this mechanism, Madrid launched a plan in March to restore the economic potential of its forests.

“We must encourage forests to be well maintained and managed because they are a source of job creation and the livelihoods of millions of people around the world depend on them,” said Teresa Ribera, Third Vice President and Minister of the Environment. .

Blanca Rodriguez-Chaves Mimbrero, a law professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid specializing in the protection of natural resources, especially mountains, waters and coasts, believes Spain is well placed to get most of its resources. pine resin which, she says, is of the highest quality in the world.

FILE - An environmental officer shows off his resin-stained gloves after picking up pine cones from Spanish fir trees (Abies pinsapo) on them to collect their seeds for reforestation in new areas of Andalusia, in the Natural Park and Biosphere of the Sierra de las Nieves reserve, in Ronda, southern Spain, on November 9, 2018.

FILE – An environmental officer shows off his resin-stained gloves after picking up pine cones from Spanish fir trees (Abies pinsapo) on them to collect their seeds for reforestation in new areas of Andalusia, in the Natural Park and Biosphere of the Sierra de las Nieves reserve, in Ronda, southern Spain, on November 9, 2018.

The oil of the future ”

“The world is looking for ways to replace the oil that will likely run out by mid-century. Resin is a means, ”she told VOA. “These living forests that consume emissions can provide renewable resources to replace petroleum products. “

She notes that the sticky and scent substance is an ingredient in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, glues, varnishes and is also used in construction.

Rodriguez-Chavez also said the pine resin industry, which currently only provides work for around 1,000 people, could help tackle the rural exodus, an issue that is central to politics. Spanish.

The work is intrinsically linked to the villages of Castilla y Leon in the north of Spain and to a lesser extent in Extremadura in the west of the country.

Over the past 50 years, the Spanish countryside has lost 28% of its population, according to the National Statistics Office. Only 15% of its inhabitants live in more than half of Spain.

Spain’s government pledged $ 11.9 billion in March for measures to improve rural business infrastructure to reverse a trend known as España Vaciada – or “Empty Spain,” which is also the name of a new political party.

The España Vaciada party could win 15 seats in the 350-seat lower parliamentary chamber in the next general election in 2023, according to a recent poll for El Spanish, an online newspaper, perhaps making its members kingmakers in a very divided parliament.

Arránz comes from a family of resineros, who passed on the know-how of extracting sap to four generations from his great-grandfather.

“Work is hard work. I work eight hours a day from Monday to Friday. But it gives me a feeling of freedom and I can be in the middle of nature, ”he told VOA.

“The beauty of pine resin is that it can be used to make a lot of different things, but it’s renewable. All these trees will grow back.

Arránz, who is vice-president of the National Association of Resin Collectors, works from February to November, collecting the milky white liquid from pine trees near his village Navas de Oro in Segovia, north of Madrid.

He collects 20,000 kilograms of resin per year but, realizing that he will never make a fortune in this profession, he supplements his income as a forest engineer.

Each kilogram sells for just $ 1.14 to local businesses who distill it into a material that can be used for commercial purposes.

Arránz removes the outer layer of tree bark, before nailing a plate to the trunk and a collection pot is hung on it.

He then makes diagonal incisions in the bark and “bleeds” the trees before the resin seeps into the pot.

“It’s nice to know that I’m sort of cultivating something that is healthy and that can also offer an alternative for the future,” said Arránz.

Some of the information in this report comes from Reuters.