As nations search for renewable resources to meet their energy goals, burning wood pellets which many have touted as a “clean form of energy” may not be the way to achieve them. One Texan home owner moved in 2014 close by to the German Pellets manufacturing plant. At first, there were no complaints about the plant it remained quiet and peaceful, but then the home owner began to have multiple respiratory problems and developed asthma. Since the production ceased in 2016 and the company frilled for insolvency 2016, the owner has noticed an improvement in their health and a difference in the air quality.
Though, it cannot directly link the plant to the decline
in their health. Industry has pushed the burning of forest biomass as a clean
alternative to coal and gas. The export volumes of wood pellets have
increased from almost nothing in the early 2000s to 4.6 million tons of
pellets in 2015. Most go to European countries trying to find alternatives to
the coal power plants.
Wood pellets industries claim their products come from tree branches and waste wood, but that has been disproven by environmental groups. The groups discovered that the wood for pellets have come from untouched forests. The issue with burning wood as UK-based researchers have discovered is whenever an older tree is burned, it releases abundant amounts of carbon, and forest are not always replanted after being cut. Also, it can take up to 100 years for a replanted forest to absorb as much carbon as its predecessors. The shipping of the pellets to the UK emits a significant amount of emissions.
Biogeochemist suggest wood burning, if managed and certified properly, could be used as a bridge between coal and gas usage to renewable resources to solar and wind, as it does produce less emissions than coal. Burning younger trees and replacing them produces less emissions and is more sustainable than going after larger and older trees. Recently, the head administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency announced that the burning of wood pellet could be classified as a renewable energy resource, despite its own scientific board still working on the environmental impact of burning wood to generate energy.