Canada is ramping up turning forests into wood pellets for Europe and Asia.
And generating a lot more CO2.
“Wood pellets are considered carbon neutral because as forests grow they can retrap carbon, but the designation has drawn criticism from environmentalist and academics who have questioned the equation.
John Sterman, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, published a paper earlier this year that argued burning pellets would release more carbon dioxide than coal in the short term because it was a less efficient source of energy.
The lag for when the carbon would potentially be reabsorbed to eventually make it carbon neutral is too long when emissions reduction is needed now, said Sterman in an interview.
“The next few decades, the rest of this century, this is the critical period,” said Sterman. “Biofuels, and especially wood pellets, actually worsen climate change over this period.”
There are also significant concerns about the reliability of the forest retrapping the carbon, since climate change is expected to increase the risks of forest fires and insect infestations, said Sterman.
“The EU has made this error, and accounting error. It’s just a false statement to say that biofuels are carbon neutral. They’re not neutral in the short run, and whether they’re neutral in the long run depends on the fate of the land.” “