Faulty assumptions translate to burning Southeast forests for European energy

Logging of wetlands is one of the many problems with biomass production in the Southeast. (© Fern)

The profile of biomass energy has been raised in recent weeks as faraway policy decisions in the European Union implicate the health of Southeastern forests. Publications in the south have responded with editorials underscoring the very real threat this poses in our backyard.

European countries are looking to Southeastern forests under the faulty assumption that burning wood pellets, called biomass, can help reduce their carbon footprint. As a result, they’re designing policies that would encourage more biomass energy, a move that translates to cutting more Southeastern forests.

Enviva, the largest producer of wood pellets in the United States with four pellet plants in North Carolina and Virginia, has been promoting these misguided European biomass policies so they can profit by sending our forests to be burned for fuel in Europe.

Just last week scientists sent a letter detailing the absurdity of considering burning forests for fuel as carbon neutral. This echoed concerns voiced earlier this year when 190 scientists from around the world signed a letter highlighting the problematic calculations behind the industry claims that biomass is a better fuel. Their key finding: “Bioenergy is not carbon-neutral and can have seriously negative climate impacts.”

In fact, burning wood pellets for electricity, particularly when sourced from clearcutting bottomland hardwood forests, such as those produced in some Enviva facilities across the Southeast, which have been documented using whole trees and other large wood, make them a source of carbon emissions.

Clearly biomass is not the answer in our search for cleaner fuels. Instead the focus, here in the U.S. and abroad, should be on genuinely clean, carbon free energy sources like wind and solar.

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