Tree-based biofuels (derived from pulpwood and wood chips) are increasingly being promoted as an alternative to fossil fuels. These biofuels, or biomass, may be burned to generate electricity, either by co-firing with coal or otherwise. Southern forests, currently the largest paper-producing region in the world, are projected to be the region in the United States most heavily exploited for this fuel production. The biomass industry will compete with an already unsustainable pulp and paper industry in the Southern US, and together could cause irreparable harm to the forests and communities of the region, including forest destruction and unsustainable levels of water use.
Even as new pellet mills and co-firing facilities have been proposed or built in several locations in the Southeast, new research indicates that burning biomass may have a larger carbon footprint in the medium-term than burning coal. We are working with our long-time partners, the Dogwood Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council, on a campaign to raise awareness, both domestically and internationally, of the impacts of biomass production. We will focus on exposing and documenting the entire supply chain: from the conversion of native hardwoods to pine plantations; to the newly-opened and under-construction pellet mills in several states; to biomass burning facilities; to the export facilities where pellets are loaded for shipping to the European utilities that consume the bulk of the Southeastern biomass supply.