Forest activists gear up to fight burning trees for electricity

Dogwood Alliance campaign image photo
Screen capture Dogwood Alliance

Fresh from a major campaign victory in which they convinced the largest paper manufacturer in the world to reform its forestry policies in the Southern United States, you'd be forgiven for thinking that The Dogwood Alliance would be taking a little breather.

They are concerned, however, about a new threat to forests in The South, this time in the form of energy companies sourcing forestry biomass for electricity generation, often shipping pellets from the US over the Atlantic to supply power stations in Europe:

Energy from burning trees – or biomass – has been widely promoted as a form of renewable energy along with technologies like solar, wind, and geothermal. Over the past two years, however, mounting scientific evidence has discredited biomass from forests as a clean, renewable fuel. Recent scientific reports document that burning whole trees to produce electricity actually increases greenhouse gas pollution in the near-term compared with fossil fuels and emits higher levels of multiple air pollutants. This fact, combined with the negative impacts to water resources and wildlife associated with industrial logging have discredited whole trees as a clean fuel source. But current European and U.S. renewable energy policies and subsidies encourage the burning of trees as a “renewable” source of energy for power generation, helping to facilitate the rapid increase in demand for trees from Southern forests to burn in power plants.

The activists are setting their sights on European energy companies like Drax, Electrobel and RWE, and the pellet companies like Enviva that are converting forest into biomass pellets to supply them. This isn't the first time there have been concerns around forests being burned for electricity, as previous studies have shown that using forest biomass as a fuel may indeed increase greenhouse gas emissions. With hopeful signs that the paper industry is taking major steps in the right direction, activists are now stepping up their efforts to make sure that another villain doesn't step in to fill their shoes.

Tags: Activism | Biodiversity | Biofuels | Electricity | Forestry | Renewable Energy | United States