New findings conclude burning SE forests as wood pellets increases heat-trapping pollution

Forests across the Southeast are being clearcut to be burnt as wood pellets in Europe, a process that generates significant carbon pollution. (© Dogwood Alliance)

An independent analysis published today by the United Kingdom’s Chatham House confirmed that chopping down the Southeast’s forests and wetlands to burn as wood pellets in U.K. power plants has increased, not decreased, the nation’s heat-trapping CO2 pollution.

For years SELC has been exposing the adverse impacts of wood pellet plants, like those of Enviva and U.K.-based Drax, for communities across the Southeastern United States.  

“These reports confirm once again that cutting down trees and burning them as wood pellets in power plants is a disaster for climate policy, not a solution,” said David Carr, SELC General Counsel. “Forests in our region are being clear cut to provide wood pellets for U.K. power plants. The process takes the carbon stored in the forest and puts it directly into the atmosphere via the smokestack at a time when carbon pollution reductions are sorely needed.”

Chatham House found that burning wood from the U.S. and Canada in the U.K. emitted 7.8 million tons of carbon pollution in the year ended June 2016. This is contrary to claims by Drax and the U.K. official that such pollution would drop. In fact, burning wood pellets for fuel emits up to three times more carbon pollution than burning coal.

“To make matters worse, U.K. taxpayers and ratepayers are being asked to subsidize this dirty energy play to the tune of £800 million per year,” said Carr. “Instead, the U.K. should be investing in clean, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and more efficiency.”

In addition, the study revealed that the U.K. claimed zero emissions from burning solid biomass—the Southeast’s beloved hardwood forests shipped overseas and burned—due to an accounting flaw in both U.K. and international accounting rules.

SELC is working with partners on both sides of the Atlantic to develop policies that reflect the true climate cost of burning these carbon-rich trees.

The new analysis is available from the U.K. independent policy institute Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

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