Americans to European leaders: SOS! Save Our Southern Forests

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Today, thousands of concerned citizens across the U.S. are delivering an SOS message to leaders in the European Union: Save Our Southern Forests!

“SOS” is famously the international Morse code distress signal. It’s being used to call attention to the alarming growth of the wood pellet industry in the Southern U.S., which now threatens some of our most ecologically valuable and carbon rich forests.

Millions of tons of trees in the region are being harvested, processed into wood chips, loaded onto cargo ships and shipped across the ocean to be burned in European power plants. When European leaders mandated that 20% of Europe's energy should come from "renewable" resources, this is likely not what they had in mind.

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Yet today, European electric utilities are the biggest drivers of expanded demand in the region for wood pellets as a fuel source, led by the UK’s Drax Power and its U.S.-based supplier Enviva. The massive fuel needs of these energy companies could double logging rates in the Southeast, threatening some of the most biologically-diverse forests in the world. 

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And that’s not all. These energy companies are actually being subsidized for burning trees under European renewable energy policies.

The good news is that concerned citizens in the South and across the U.S. are standing up and letting policymakers in the UK and EU know that the large-scale burning of wood pellets is not a solution to climate change or a feasible alternative to coal and other fossil fuels. The production of wood pellets from our forests negatively affects our health, environment, climate and quality of life.

The science is squarely on their side. Mounting scientific research shows that burning wood pellets manufactured from trees and other large-diameter woody biomass actually increases carbon emission compared to coal for anywhere from 35 to 100 years or more, accelerating climate change at a time when we need to be rapidly cutting emissions and scaling up our use of truly renewable, low-carbon energy resources like energy efficiency, solar, wind, and geothermal.  

A recent report released by the UK’s own Department of Energy and Climate Change confirms that all scenarios in which whole trees or coarse woody residuals are used for wood pellets produce a result that is not carbon beneficial.

Southern forests are also home to more plant and animal species than anywhere else in North America and protect the world’s most diverse freshwater ecosystems. They contain the greatest diversity of freshwater wetland communities on the continent and rank among the top ten in the U.S. and Canada for numbers of reptile, bird and tree species. Beyond biological diversity, these forests, like forests around the world, protect drinking water for millions of people, prevent flooding and serve as vital carbon sinks. 

Rising demand for wood-fueled electricity in Europe risks irreversible damage to our cherished Southern forests. But there’s time to turn the industry around.

Today, we’re asking leaders in the UK and EU to end incentives for dirty energy produced from wood pellets and to focus instead on investing in real, clean renewable energy.

We can’t allow our most valuable forests to be destroyed in the name of renewable energy. Join us today to say SOS! Save Our Southern Forests.