Woody Biomass for Energy
Logging and burning trees to generate electricity results in massive amounts of climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions, loss of of forests vital for carbon drawdown and sinking, devastated ecosystems, and displaced or dead wildlife. It also has a big impact on public health, especially among underserved and overburdened communities as pellet factories are placed in 'opportunity zones.' In addition, forests located around low and middle income communities' often are the first to be destroyed, limiting access to shade, moisture, clean water, clean air, clean soils, recreation options, and exacerbating the cumulative impact of climate change on our most vulnerable communities. Our forests have also been kept artificially young for centuries through intensive logging. Today, there is particularly high untapped potential for forests to accumulate more carbon over time if we simply allow them to continue to grow.
Despite all of this, the U.S. government and other nations continue to wrongly define woody biomass for energy as a "clean and renewable" source even when it pollutes as much as coal or more. Currently around 5% of electricity in the U.S. comes from woody biomass, but companies and governments are seeking to expand this because incentives for "clean and renewable" make it very profitable. Big biomass corporations such as DRAX and Enviva are clearcutting forests across the U.S. and mostly manufacturing pellets for export. You, the unwitting rate-payer, are paying for the incentives through your utility rates while weak elected officials look the other way.
*Sources and additional information are embedded.
Woody Biomass for Energy is NOT CLEAN
The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) unofficial* numbers put wood closest to coal in its emissions. The combustion Wood emits 206.74 pounds CO2 per Million Btu or 93.77 kg CO2 per million Btu. The worst emission accelerating climate change is CO2.
*The numbers are *unofficial* because the EIA is not officially supposed to count emissions of 'woody biomass' since it has been designated a clean source of energy. This is how our elected officials and industry are profiting from polluting our planet and logging our forests.
In addition to CO2, burning wood emits benzene, benzo(a)pyrene and dibenz(a,h)anthracene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, organic gases (including aldehyde gases and other respiratory irritants), nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and dioxin.
We know we need to STOP BURNING STUFF and that includes wood in any form.
The cost of this madness, is paid for by you! The consumer. As the consumer automatically subsidizes 'clean energy' in their utility rate payments, we're inviting and accelerating the industry's destruction of our forests.
“The idea that incinerating trees is good for the environment and public health is utterly absurd. Woody biomass energy is also extremely expensive, and through these ratepayer subsidies, the costs get passed on to consumers.”
Click on any of the organizations below to see their full statement against woody biomass:
"Governments must end subsidies and other incentives that today exist for burning wood . (...) Trees are more valuable alive than dead for climate and biodiversity."
Common myths about woody biomass
"Industry only uses "waste wood'" ~ Unfortunately, industry clear cuts entire forests and uses mature trees.
"Industry replaces logged forests with new ones" ~ Newly afforested plantations are 'tree farms', not self-balancing mature forest ecosystems that benefit air, water, soils, and wildlife. And, they'll take decades to grow.
"Afforested areas/ forested lands are the same as forests"~ afforested lands are 'working forests' or 'forests in conservation.' This means the forest will regularly be 'managed' with techniques such as thinning and logging.
"Young trees are more effective at drawing pollution from the air"~ the bigger the surface area of a tree, the more effective at draw down and sinking carbon into the soils. Therefore mature and old growth forests are key!
"We need to thin the forest to avoid wildfires" ~ Recent data shows that thinning of forests has made some fires hotter & faster; a natural fire will leave a heterogenous pattern and may consume less than 5% of mature trees. Finding the best balance for each geography and forest type is key.
"All forests need to be managed"~ integral ecosystems will self-balance even if it there are more frequent fires and storms with climate change. Forest management is key in already disturbed forested lands such as tree farms, wildland-urban-interface (WUI), and new tree plantings.
Woody Biomass for Energy is NOT RENEWABLE
The latest messaging by the industry states that a growing demand for woody biomass for energy will ensure that we plant more trees and faster, thereby increasing forest cover. New afforestation is not comparable to a forest- it's a tree plantation or a tree farm. And if all we'll be doing is log those trees in 40-80 years, and burn them, we're missing the point. Scientists call this a disaster: we need mature trees and integral forest ecosystems for forest resiliency during climate change, for biodiversity, and draw down.
1) We are planting 1 trillion trees worldwide with the hope to fend off the worst effects of climate change - not to bolster a polluting industry, which emits all the CO2 stored in a tree over decades or centuries, and more, back into the atmosphere.
2) Planting seedlings does not replace decades-old trees or centuries-old forests. It will take these seedlings decades to grow into the most effective tools for draw down and centuries to become integral self-balancing ecosystems. The best we can do right now, as recommended by the IPCC, is to preserve our old growth and mature forests intact. Any work we do on these forests should be to expand them to maximize draw down and connect them so that wildlife stands a chance.
3) Tree farms are not forests - a monocrop culture that is sprayed, managed, and eventually logged, simply destroys our soils. When these trees are burned, any stored pollutions is re-released.
4) Logging disturbs the soil carbon and mycorrhizal networks releasing 'soil-c' (soil stored carbon) which can be up to 70% of all stored carbon in a forest.