Report from the Dogwood Alliance, Natural Resources Defence Council and Southern Environmental Law Centre.
Global demand for wood pellets is devastating forest ecosystems in the Southeast United States. Investigations by media and independent watchdogs over the past decade reveal the truth about the supply chains for pellets exported by Enviva, the world’s largest wood pellet manufacturer. These investigations expose the damaging logging practices used to source the so- called biomass industry, including the clearcutting of iconic wetland forests. Enviva’s pellets from these ravaged forests are then shipped to utilities, such as Drax Power in the United Kingdom and Ørsted in Denmark.
Despite the claims of the industry, the independent reporting shows a disturbing pattern: wood pellets burned by Drax and others come from wood that is harvested from native hardwood forests in an area designated as a global biodiversity hotspot. They also spotlight the vast quantities of whole trees and other large-diameter wood— biomass feedstocks known to be high-carbon—that are entering Enviva’s supply chain.
Not only is this devastating for these irreplaceable forests, but it’s worsening our Earth’s climate crisis. Multiple independent, peer-reviewed studies have determined that burning biomass from forests for electricity creates more carbon dioxide emissions than burning coal, and that increased carbon dioxide concentrations persist in the atmosphere for decades or more.
Two recent investigations add new evidence about the destructive logging practices being used to provide biomass to Enviva, adding insult to injury in a region that’s suffered years of unsustainable logging. In March 2019, investigators in North Carolina again tracked logging trucks from a mature hardwood forest to Enviva’s Northampton wood pellet mill. In January 2018, reporters from the UK Channel 4 News program Dispatches traveled to North Carolina to examine what is happening on the ground in the forests that have become ground zero for feeding Drax Power Station’s voracious demand for wood. The images from the Dispatches investigation tell a story of ecological devastation in the name of clean energy: a once majestic wetland forest clearcut to supply wood to Enviva, and ultimately to Drax.