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Europe’s biomass boom is destroying America's forests

By Kesavan Unnikrishnan     Nov 23, 2015 in Environment
European Union’s stringent renewable energy requirements are forcing coal-based power plants to use biomass fuel. Swaths of woodlands in Southeastern United States are being cut down to fuel the biomass boom across the Atlantic.
In 2007, the European Union set an ambitious goal to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to 20 percent below their 1990 levels by 2020. The move forced coal-based power plants to convert their facilities to burn wood sourcing most of the bio-fuel from United States. Export of wood pellets from the US to Europe has increased six-fold since 2008.
A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council has pointed out that 15 million acres of unprotected forests in the Southeastern United States, home to more than 600 imperiled, threatened or endangered species are at risk due to booming wood exports EU and UK. Additionally, pollution from logging has put more than 18,000 miles of impaired freshwater rivers and streams at new risk.
Debbie Hammel, the director of the Land Markets Initiative at NRDC says that Europe must cut down the subsidies for biomass based power plants to save forests in the United States.
Drax Power, which is the largest energy producer in the UK and has converted three of their facilities to burning biomass, stands to receive around 660 million British pounds in subsidies in 2016 alone. They are currently the largest user of wood pellets from the southern United States, but are only able to do this because they are receiving all of this government money. If it wasn't for that, they wouldn't have gone this direction.
Biomass advocates say the technology is good for the environment because it’s carbon-neutral. The greenhouse gas intensity of biomass fueled electricity is approximately 75 percent lower than that of coal-based electricity.
More about Europe, Biomass, Forest, United States