Wood Pellet Controversy: Seven Strikes Against Wood Pellet Biomass

Submitted by Mary Meade on

Climate change is real. Some solutions are not. This is true when it comes to the wood pellet controversy: cutting down forests, burning the trees, and then claiming forest destruction is a renewable energy source.

That is what industry and some governments are claiming. Known as biomass or wood pellets, many countries burn wood pellets for electricity, claiming it’s green. The industry is dominated by two major companies, Enviva and Drax, that receive massive subsidies to turn forests into fuel, while claiming to be green.

But here’s the truth:

  1. Wood pellets release more carbon than coal when burned!
  2. The carbon stored in trees chopped down for biomass won’t be sequestered again for decades since it takes that long for trees to regrow.
  3. One study shows deforestation from wood pellet biomass harms local drinking water and at-risk species.
  4. Making pellets releases harmful particulate matter damaging the health of nearby communities and disproportionately affecting marginalized communities, mostly located in the US Southeast.
  5. Wood pellet Biomass plants run at all hours, creating noise pollution that keeps local residents awake all night.
  6. The trees cut down and processed into pellets are then exported, often long distances internationally, emitting more greenhouse gases and worsening the climate crisis.
  7. Communities in the US are being harmed so that foreign governments can claim to be using green energy from wood pellet biomass.

Despite this and emerging scientific consensus against biomass energy as a climate solution, the EU, UK, Japan, and South Korea give billions in renewable energy subsidies to these energy companies.

The companies also claim to use only forest scraps for their operations. However, they have been exposed to using whole trees including old growth. Over a million acres of forest have already been cut in the US to feed the wood pellet biomass industry, releasing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. At the end of 2020, 88 million tons of carbon dioxide was emitted from the production and combustion of biomass from US trees.

And the industry continues to grow. The U.S. Forest Service announced in June 2023 around $10 million in grants in support of a range of startup biomass-burning projects in states such as Alaska, California, Washington, Colorado, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Virginia.

“The companies are already destroying forests in the Southeast and now they’re coming for the West Coast and beyond,” said Dan Howells, Green America Climate Campaigns Director. And residents are pushing back.

Join Green America and our many colleagues who see the forest for the trees to oppose current and proposed projects touting the wood pellet controversy, which is cutting down forests as a solution to the climate crisis.

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