Hardwood forests in the southeast US are being cut down to provide wood pellets for the UK’s energy industry, outraging environmental activists.
‘The precious remaining coastal wetlands and bottomland hardwood regions that span from coastal Virginia to Mississippi and Louisiana, contain rare forest types and unique carnivorous plants like the Venus flytrap and pitcher plants,’ said Adam Macon, campaigns director for US forest NGO, the Dogwood Alliance.
Dogwood gathered 50,000 messages asking Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate change, to end government support for biomass energy.
Wood pellets are used in biomass power stations across the UK, which the government hopes will generate low-carbon electricity. The Department for Energy and Climate Change has approved two biomass stations at Selby and Immingham that will provide power to 500,000 homes.
Dogwood’s campaign takes a nationalist tone, urging Americans to ‘see how our forests fuel Europe’. North America’s wood pellet industry has existed on a small scale since the 1930s. Biomass demand has encouraged growth in the last decade with 1.1 million metric tonnes produced in 2003 and 6.2 million tonnes in 2009, according to a US Department of Agriculture report.
Biomass success relies on short transport distances to the plant, reduced moisture content in the wood through drying and greater efficiency at the plant, according to the report. A Department for Energy and Climate Change report suggests that by 2020 between 3.4–7.5 per cent of the UK’s energy supply will come from biomass. US wood pellets will be the main source for biomass supply, but the report indicates that the output of greenhouse gas from biomass depends on multiple factors. In some scenarios biomass produces more green house gases than coal.