U.S. Pellet Exports Boom As Europe Tries To Reduce Carbon Footprint

Worse than coal. Exploits a carbon loophole. Creates a carbon deficit. No, we are not talking about drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Rather, these are a few of the complaints critics level against burning wood pellets in place of coal to reduce Europe’s carbon footprint. You might assume that exporting a […]

Worse than coal. Exploits a carbon loophole. Creates a carbon deficit. No, we are not talking about drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Rather, these are a few of the complaints critics level against burning wood pellets in place of coal to reduce Europe’s carbon footprint.

You might assume that exporting a renewable and sustainable product to help wean Europe off coal-fired electricity would bring accolades from environmentalists on both sides of The Pond. But such is not the case. Wood energy has its share of critics. And the scientific community is at odds. Why does the export of wood pellets provoke such a polarized response?

The pellet export industry in the United States has boomed in recent years, driven by European Union member states seeking to meet aggressive renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets. The Southeast U.S. exports more than 6 million tons of wood pellets a year, primarily to the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy and Belgium.

More than 30 plants in the Southeast use low-value wood (mill residues, tops and limbs, thinnings, and crooked or rotten trees) to make wood pellets. Shipped overseas in bulk, European utilities burn the pellets mixed with coal (a practice known as co-firing) to lower carbon emissions from aging coal-fired electric-generating plants.

Replacing coal with wood pellets is part of an EU strategy to reach 20 percent renewable electricity by the year 2020. Renewables now account for 13.2 percent of EU energy production and, of that, almost half (44.7 percent) comes from wood or other solid biomass fuels.

From Treesource: https://treesource.org/news/climate/wood-carbon-footprint/#more-1755

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