Reporters followed loggers in Europe, finding that hundreds of timber shipments came from protected forests across the continent — all in the name of renewable energy.
European governments count burning wooden pellets, roughly the side of a finger nail, toward their national renewable energy targets, according to National Geographic. Some of these pellets come from deforested areas throughout the eastern and southern U.S., but a new report by The New York Times uncovered loggers sourcing materials from Europe’s “last wild forests” across Romania, Slovakia, Poland, and Bulgaria.
“None of this is illegal,” The NYT noted, claiming that burning wooden pellets is encouraged because of green energy subsidies throughout Europe. The marketing of this so-called “renewable” energy source focuses on waste and debris, but the reality is far from this, the NYT continued.
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Wood is Europe’s largest renewable energy source, surpassing wind and solar, The NYT reported. But people from across the political spectrum have questioned this classification. “The EU’s renewable energy directive should apply solely to actual renewable energy forms – and forests are not renewable. Forests are ecosystems created by nature that cannot be replanted,” Greta Thunberg and others wrote in a Guardian op-ed published Monday.
The European Union scientific research agency said in 2021 that burning wood as a primary fuel released more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than fossil fuels burning at the same rate, The NYT noted. “People buy wood pellets thinking they’re the sustainable choice, but in reality, they’re driving the destruction of Europe’s last wild forests,” Environment Investigation Agency’s David Gehl told the outlet.
The logging industry has become so enormous that the source of more than 120 million metric tons of wood the EU used in 2021 could not be identified, The NYT continued. The debate over switching up wood as an energy source is part of an ongoing debate throughout the continent that is expected to last as the energy crisis continues. (RELATED: REPORT: Leo DiCaprio Used Dark Money To Annoy People With Climate Lawsuits)
Most backlash against logging comes from scientists, 800 of whom signed a 2018 letter urging politicians and lawmakers to cease treating the practice as a green energy, the NYT continued. Former EU environmental official Jorgen Henningsen said on his deathbed in 2021 that his biggest regret in climate policy was branding wood as a renewable energy source.