A letter signed by over 100 scientists across the world, including professors at UNC, urged Gov. Roy Cooper to implement forest restoration in his climate action plan, and immediately address the environmental problems caused by the expanding wood pellet industry.
Dogwood Alliance, a forest-protection advocacy group based in Asheville, penned the letter in response to a proposed wood pellet mill in Hamlet. Enviva, the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, looks to make this their fourth facility in North Carolina alone.
These wood pellets would be shipped to the United Kingdom, where they would be burned for biofuel as an alternative to coal. The idea is that burning wood can be a carbon-neutral, renewable energy source, as trees are one of the most effective absorbers of carbon from the atmosphere. The scientific community calls this a false assumption.
“They call it a renewable source because you can give the trees a chance to grow back and cancel out the carbon we’re releasing through burning,” said Tim Searchinger, research scholar at Princeton University. “That is true if you let the trees fully grow back. But for various reasons, including the inefficiencies because trees grow slowly, you’re actually increasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere for decades.”
The burning of wood itself is another issue that scientists who signed onto the letter see in this industry.