U.S. environmental groups shower praise on European climate control policies and beg for comparable American actions. But governmental mandates in Europe to reduce carbon emissions have shown remarkably ineffective results.
Interestingly, Georgia is playing a notable role in European energy folly. The Europeans have decided to include the burning of biomass – mostly wood – in their renewable energy standards. Here’s the logic behind their decision: Trees naturally die and degrade, releasing carbon dioxide. So, if you burn wood but replace what is burned with newly planted vegetation, it’s carbon-neutral and renewable.
If this sounds too good to be true, you’re right. Driven by the European Commission’s 2020 climate and energy plan, the Europeans have developed a voracious appetite for timber. The wood that initially was intended for biomass power plants was supposed to be waste wood from mills or the forest floor. But instead, logging of forests is feeding much of Europe’s wood demand – and that’s where Georgia comes in.
Georgia, the largest timber producer in the Southeast, has become a major producer and exporter of the wood pellets that are being burned in Europe’s biomass plants.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, exports of U.S. wood pellets jumped from two million tons to more than four million tons per year between 2012 and 2014. They’ve only continued to climb since. And of those exports, more than 90 percent head to Europe.
Rising demand for wood pellets has been great for American producers but, it turns out, not so great for carbon reduction efforts. A new study from Chatham House, a leading British think tank, shows that the burning of all this wood actually may be worse for global carbon dioxide emissions than burning coal.
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