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Europe’s Green Laws Force Them To Burn More Trees For Fuel

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Here’s some Earth Day irony for you. European countries concerned about global warming and eschewing fossil fuels are cutting down more and more trees to keep the lights on.

As it turns out, some European countries have massively increased their use of wood chips since European Union green laws make it too burdensome to burn coal or natural gas. Most of these wood chips are coming from the U.S. and most of them are being shipped to the UK, according to federal data.

The Energy Information Administration reports that “in the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands, wood pellets are used predominantly for utility-scale electricity generation.”

“In 2014, almost three-quarters of all U.S. wood pellet exports were delivered to the United Kingdom (UK), mainly for the purpose of generating electricity,” EIA reports. “Overall, U.S. wood pellet exports increased by nearly 40% between 2013 and 2014, from 3.2 million short tons in to 4.4 million short tons, as the United States continues to be the largest wood pellet exporter in the world.”

Why is Europe using so much wood for power? The European Union’s global warming plan forces countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by cutting fossil fuel use and using more green energy. One relatively cheap way European nations have been using to meet these stringent climate goals is to burn wood chips.

EIA notes that the UK is using “wood pellets in co-firing or dedicated biomass power plants as part of its compliance plan.” The UK’s own global warming plan states that 15 percent of the country’s energy supply come from green sources by 2020. Wood is labelled green energy because it’s biomass.

The country’s green energy credit program has also caused large coal plants to offset some coal burning by using wood pellets, or they convert to wood burning altogether. All this means that UK power companies need a lot more U.S. and Canadian trees to be cut down.

UK electricity statistics show that power from biomass (including wood) increased 47 percent from 2013 to 2014 because a massive coal plant in central England converted to biomass. This one coal plant alone accounted for 80 percent of the country’s wood pellet imports.

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