Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Europe Aims to Close Loophole on Wood Energy That’s Felling American Trees

Southeast U.S. Wood Pellet Plants Exporting to Europe (Credit: Southern Environmental Law Center) Click to Enlarge.
European officials are moving to close a loophole that promotes the burning of wood for electricity by an industry that’s felling American trees, and a new report they commissioned has laid bare the urgent need for reform.

European Union climate rules treat woody biomass energy as if it’s as clean as solar or wind energy, despite it releasing more heat-trapping carbon dioxide for every megawatt of electricity produced than coal.  Producing wood pellets for fuel can also foster climate-changing deforestation.

The European Commission, which advises European Union lawmakers, last week identified myriad environmental hazards from the transatlantic wood energy trade in a 361-page report.

The loophole in Europe’s climate policies is a veritable accounting error that has led to national energy subsidies that are financing a burgeoning industry.  The subsidies are paying for wood pellet fuel to be produced at newly built mills in the American South, where trees are plentiful and forest protections are minimal.

Without reducing climate pollution, the industry is helping European countries meet European Union rules on carbon emissions, if only on paper.

Dozens of Southern mills produced an estimated 5 million tons of wood pellets that were exported to Europe last year, with production growing by a third on average each year since 2012. Producing each ton of dried wood pellets requires roughly twice that amount of freshly cut wood.

“The U.S. is the main exporter of wood pellets to the EU,” said Daniel Calleja Crespo, who directs the European Commission’s environmental department, which commissioned consultants to produce the report.  “The growth of the industrial pellet industry has raised concerns about possible negative environmental impacts — direct and indirect.”

Read more at Europe Aims to Close Loophole on Wood Energy

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