This article appeared on the front page of the the Tuesday, May 28th edition of the Wall Street Journal. It continues on page 12.
In summary, the article brings to light a fact that has been developing for the last 2 years — that European coal burning power plants (Japan and Korea are headed in the same direction) are switching to wood. Europe however, does not have enough wood and is thus willing to import several ship loads per month of wood pellets from overseas. Job-strapped communities in the US Southeast are eager to find new markets for their wood (mostly fast growing Yellow Pine) and have set up massive plants to produce and ship wood pellets.
This is a controversial article is so many ways:
- Are we exporting our soil to Europe in the form of biomass pellets?
- Can we do this sustainably? Does that mean we first need to be aware of what sustainable soil is?
- Should’t we be using this biomass for our own power production?
- When are there/what are sufficient policies in place to prevent us from regretting this direction?
- Europe is developing harmonized policies/standards for the use of biomass for energy, since they are currently regulated by the individual 21 members. Should US forests be subject to the same regulations? Several power plants in Europe have stated that this is their intention and that the biomass must come from sustainable practices that rival the paperwork for getting certified organic.