Wood pellets are the latest threat to Southern forests. Also known as bioenergy and biomass energy, many countries burn wood pellets for electricity. Despite 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. Bioenergy harms the climate, communities, and forests in our region.
Switching to burning wood pellets from fossil fuels seems to be a simple climate solution. Carbon counting assumes that trees will always regrow, and so, the greenhouse gas emissions are “free.” But the truth about bioenergy’s impact on climate is not so simple. Over a million acres of US forests have already been cut for biomass. Replacing cut trees can take decades, and there is no guarantee that trees will even be regrown ever. Cutting trees in the US to burn overseas internationally makes it even more complicated.
We simply don’t have enough time. Our climate needs action now. Not in decades when trees finally, maybe regrow. Burning wood pellets releases more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than burning fossil fuels like gas, oil, or even coal, accelerating climate change. We need to use low-carbon technologies like solar and wind to produce energy, not wood pellets or fossil fuels.
Stopping Wood Pellet Bioenergy
We are in a global climate, biodiversity, and racial justice crisis. Biomass fuels for energy production have a negative impact on all three. Power stations that burn biomass energy emit massive amounts of carbon, fueling the climate crisis. Logging for biomass feedstock harms precious forests and the wildlife that depend on them. Wood pellet production is twice as likely to occur in environmental justice-designated communities.
We have to stop the growing demand for biomass as well as our continued drive to cut down everything to meet that demand. Dogwood Alliance is working at many levels of government to stop companies from burning our forests as fuel. The wood pellet industry relies on renewable energy subsidies. The forest industry is exempt from many pollution control regulations. The permitting process for biomass facilities fails to address the health, environmental, and climate injustices.
Biomass, biofuel, and wood pellets should not be considered a renewable energy source. Dogwood Alliance wants your help. Visit our “Act Now” page to find campaigns happening from the facility level in states across the South all the way up to the international forest policy level.
Where are wood pellet facilities?
Wood pellet facilities are located across the US South. You can see the latest version of our biomass tracking web map right here!
Key Biomass Facts
- Over a million acres of forest have already been cut in the US to feed the biomass industry, releasing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. At the end of 2020, 88 million tons of carbon dioxide had been emitted from the production and combustion of biomass from US trees
- Not all biomass feedstock are made equal. Liquid fuels are different in energy efficiency than woody biomass and are generally used to power vehicles, not generate electricity. Plus, liquid biomass fuels often have dedicated energy crops.
- Biomass production facilities are twice as likely to occur in environmental justice communities.
- In 2019, the UK energy company Drax received $965 million dollars in subsidies for wood pellets produced mostly from forests in the US South.
- Enviva and its various subsidiaries received $7.6 million USD in subsidies in a five year period (2012-2016) for building facilities in North Carolina.
- Enviva will receive up to $17 million in taxpayer-funded grants, incentives, and tax breaks for its Lucedale, MS facility. This translates to over $188,000 to subsidize each job promised at that Enviva facility.