51 min

Unmasking the illusion of renewable biomass energy with Justin Catanoso Mongabay Newscast

    • Nature

Burning wood to generate electricity – ‘biomass energy’ – is increasingly used as a renewable replacement for burning coal in nations like the UK, Japan, and South Korea, even though its emissions are not carbon neutral.
On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, reporter Justin Catanoso details how years of investigation helped him uncover a complicated web of public relations messaging used by industry giants that obscures the fact that replanting trees after cutting them down and burning them is not carbon neutral or renewable and severely harms global biodiversity, and forests.
Catanoso lives near biomass industry giant Enviva in North Carolina and has reported on their practices extensively, including the claim that they only use sustainable wood waste in their product, which his investigation disproved. Though it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this year, it remains the single largest producer of wood pellets globally.
“When those trees get ripped out, that carbon gets released. And that comes before we process this wood and ship it…then we burn it and don't count those emissions.  This is just [an] imponderable policy,” he says in this episode.
Read Justin's coverage of the UK biomass firm Drax and their attempt to open two large wood pellet plants in California to ship 1 million tons annually to Japan and South Korea, where they will be burned in converted coal plants.
If you enjoy the Mongabay Newscast, please visit www.patreon.com/mongabay to pledge a dollar or more to keep the show growing. Mongabay is a nonprofit media outlet, and all support helps!
See all our latest news from nature's frontline at Mongabay's homepage, mongabay.com, or follow Mongabay on any of the social media platforms for updates.
Please send your ideas and feedback to submissions@mongabay.com.
Image: Wood pellets for biomass energy. Image courtesy of Dogwood Alliance.
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Timecodes
(00:00:00) Introduction to Biomass and Carbon Emissions
(00:03:08) Understanding the problems with biomass fuel
(00:08:18) Clear-Cutting in North Carolina and British Columbia
(00:12:48) Physics Doesn't Fall for Accounting Tricks
(00:19:55) Understanding the Arguments from the Industry
(00:25:30) Picking Apart the Logic
(00:28:26) Why We Don't Have Long-term Solutions
(00:34:27) Overcoming an Impossible Situation
(00:39:55) Post-chat
(00:49:28) Credits

Burning wood to generate electricity – ‘biomass energy’ – is increasingly used as a renewable replacement for burning coal in nations like the UK, Japan, and South Korea, even though its emissions are not carbon neutral.
On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, reporter Justin Catanoso details how years of investigation helped him uncover a complicated web of public relations messaging used by industry giants that obscures the fact that replanting trees after cutting them down and burning them is not carbon neutral or renewable and severely harms global biodiversity, and forests.
Catanoso lives near biomass industry giant Enviva in North Carolina and has reported on their practices extensively, including the claim that they only use sustainable wood waste in their product, which his investigation disproved. Though it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this year, it remains the single largest producer of wood pellets globally.
“When those trees get ripped out, that carbon gets released. And that comes before we process this wood and ship it…then we burn it and don't count those emissions.  This is just [an] imponderable policy,” he says in this episode.
Read Justin's coverage of the UK biomass firm Drax and their attempt to open two large wood pellet plants in California to ship 1 million tons annually to Japan and South Korea, where they will be burned in converted coal plants.
If you enjoy the Mongabay Newscast, please visit www.patreon.com/mongabay to pledge a dollar or more to keep the show growing. Mongabay is a nonprofit media outlet, and all support helps!
See all our latest news from nature's frontline at Mongabay's homepage, mongabay.com, or follow Mongabay on any of the social media platforms for updates.
Please send your ideas and feedback to submissions@mongabay.com.
Image: Wood pellets for biomass energy. Image courtesy of Dogwood Alliance.
---
Timecodes
(00:00:00) Introduction to Biomass and Carbon Emissions
(00:03:08) Understanding the problems with biomass fuel
(00:08:18) Clear-Cutting in North Carolina and British Columbia
(00:12:48) Physics Doesn't Fall for Accounting Tricks
(00:19:55) Understanding the Arguments from the Industry
(00:25:30) Picking Apart the Logic
(00:28:26) Why We Don't Have Long-term Solutions
(00:34:27) Overcoming an Impossible Situation
(00:39:55) Post-chat
(00:49:28) Credits

51 min