The trouble with biomass
The wood pellet industry was meant to be about using wood waste but has grown to include the use of whole trees to be burned as biomass. However biomass burning is worse than burning coal for climate change due to wood’s moisture content. The problem arose with the demand for an alternative to coal along with massive subsidies for the biomass industry and therefore has resulted in huge pressures on forests in southern United States, the Baltic States, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. As a result trees from all over the world have been cut down to feed Europe’s voracious biomass burning industry.
An EU loophole has meant that biomass and biofuels are considered to be carbon-neutral however they are not. Drax, in Yorkshire, for example, is one of the worst offenders for burning trees for energy.
Growing BC wood pellet industry
Approximately 12 percent of trees logged in BC become wood pellets to be burned. For instance BC is the largest area producing wood pellets in the world and nearly all of it goes to Asia and Europe. While the biomass industry says the wood pellet industry employs large numbers of people the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) found that only nearly 300 people are employed in the sector. However far more jobs could be generated by returning to producing lumber and wood products and ending the practice of exporting raw logs.
Drax purchase of Pinnacle Renewable Energy imperils British Columbia forests
In April 2021 Drax Group from the UK received a final order from BC Supreme Court approving their acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy further imperiling BC’s forests. This is such a bad idea that many environmental organizations signed on to a letter to shareholders from Biofuelwatch, an environmental advocacy group from the UK, asking them to vote against this takeover. It turns out that Pinnacle is sourcing trees from boreal and temperate forests critical to preventing even worse climate change and appears to be using whole trees from primary forests. In addition the NRDC writes that the Drax purchase of Pinnacle would implicate the UK in the loss of Canadian forests.
Forest emergency and the climate emergency
Biomass burning and cutting trees down for wood pellets is contributing to the forest emergency and the climate emergency.
At what point do governments take climate change seriously and put a stop to this way of producing energy? Above all it is critical that we protect what little old growth is left and put a stop to biomass burning if we want to survive climate change and provide the maximum number of jobs for forestry workers.
Smithers – Credit: Stand.earth
Conservation North – protect primary forests now
Stand.earth – Stop logging whole trees for wood pellets
YouMoveEurope – The EU must protect forests not burn them for energy
Cut Carbon Not Forests – Say NO to burning trees for energy
Rainforest Rescue – Is burning trees the new coal? Say NO to fake “renewables”!
Old growth petitions
Background image by Andrew Coelho on Unsplash