Welcome back to my blog!
Let’s talk about forests. To understand the power of forests to sequester carbon, look no further than the yearly drop in CO2 levels from NOAA’s Mauna Loa station (graph below). Those dramatic seasonal drops are from forests absorbing gigatons of CO2 during their summer growth cycle. Our forests are doing exactly what we need them to do, sequestering CO2 and safely storing it as terrestrial carbon. That’s why maintaining healthy forests are so vital to ensuring the future of humanity’s climate adaptation. (Notice the 5-year CO2 trend below)
Our forests are doing exactly what we need them to do, sequestering CO2 and safely storing it as terrestrial carbon. That’s why maintaining healthy forests are so vital to ensuring the future of humanity’s climate adaptation.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, Burning Trees for Clean Energy, the wood pellet and woody biomass industry is rapidly expanding in America and worldwide. The demand for forest biomass is driving the logging industry to extract more timber. The biomass industry is reaping the benefit of an industry mutualism shared by the timber and biomass industries. What’s good for one is good for the other. Big logging companies love the biomass industry because it means they can harvest more trees as “renewable energy.” Let’s face it; the commercial forestry and timber industries have large lobbying and interest groups that make considerable campaign contributions. For instance, under the pressure to support jobs in the timber and biomass industries, Oregon became the first state to legally declare woody biomass as carbon neutral. This means that Oregonians can burn as much of their forests as they want; and none of the forest loss and CO2 emissions will ever be counted.
The woody biomass industry is considered “low hanging fruit” in the race for renewable energy. In 2014, Drax Biomass was doing so well with its subsidized “America to UK” wood pellet scheme, that they set up shop in Atlanta. Drax Biomass now has wood pellet plants in Mississippi and Louisiana, which give them unabated access to extracting US southern forests. Additionally, Drax was instrumental in organizing the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP), which is a sustainable certification system for woody biomass. There’s only one problem with this, the SBP system is “greenwashing” the egregious harvesting practices of the biomass industry, while the CEO of Drax was writing SBP policy as head of its board. Essentially, Drax became the fox guarding the hen house.
There’s only one problem with this, the SBP system is “greenwashing” the egregious harvesting practices of the biomass industry, while the CEO of Drax was writing SBP policy as head of its board.
Along with Drax Biomass, Enviva wood pellets used this questionable SBP certification scheme to expand their operations and legitimize “waste wood” as their environmental calling card. In less than a decade, Enviva has grown to six wood pellet plants and four major shipping port facilities, to export tons of American forests as clean energy for the heavily subsidized EU market. Additionally, the lure of making money from green energy caught on with the global investment banking industry. Biofuelwatch, a UK based environmental group, calls out Green Investment Bank and its ties to funding big biomass, with this poignant grass-roots video (below).
I only covered a small portion of the forest related issues from biomass. Next week I’ll talk more in depth about forest certifications and introduce you to reports on deforestation and habitat loss from the timber and biomass industries. Cheers.