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Turning ancient forests into wood pellets is putting the country’s tourism and climate commitments at risk.
Wood pellets cause more climate pollution than coal when they’re burned. So why does Europe call them ‘carbon neutral’?
The panel I was moderating on the wood pellet trade was bombing. Precious minutes disappeared as we waited for a PowerPoint to load. All three speakers exceeded their time, detailing every facet of the biomass industry rather than focusing on its climate impact, as I had (so naively!) suggested. Worst of all, throughout the 45-minute session that stood between cocktail hour and the attendees of the annual energy conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, the opposing sides didn’t seem to agree on even a narrow set of facts. Jen Jenkins, vice president at Enviva, the world’s largest pellet producer, said her industry helped solve the climate crisis: The pellets displace coal, and even though their combustion releases carbon emissions, those would be sucked out of the atmosphere by replanted trees.
Without policy support, plant operators in Michigan say they can’t compete with wind, solar and natural gas.
Activists in the southeastern U.S. see shifting politics in the United Kingdom as the best chance to curb demand for pellets.