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The Energy Boom You Haven't Heard About: Wood Pellets

The Energy Boom You Haven't Heard About: Wood Pellets

It's feeding Europe's energy needs, but how green is burning wood?

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Deep in the forests of the U.S. South, tree scraps are fueling a little-known but controversial energy boom: wood pellets. Long used to heat homes in the country's Northeast, they're now destined for a new market.
Europe is importing the pellets in ever higher volumes, burning them for electricity to meet renewable energy targets, prompting a doubling of biomass exports last year. More than half of the exports go to the United Kingdom.
The pellet boom is not without controversy: the pellet industry says it's using wood by-products that would otherwise go to waste. Critics say the expansion hurts forests and does not help the climate.
Unlike fossil fuels such as coal and oil, wood is a renewable fuel: Where one tree goes down, another can grow. As a weapon against climate change, however, harvesting mass quantities of forest and shipping them across the Atlantic has drawn skepticism.
By Christina Nunez in National Geographic (DECEMBER 8, 2014)

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