Louisiana forests being sacrificed to fuel Europe's biomass boom


BATON ROUGE, La. — The smell of freshly cut wood wafting from a dirt lot along an industrial stretch of road near the state capital might not conjure up an image of green energy, but some say this is the future of sustainability.

The smell comes from two white plastic domes rising high along the Mississippi River. Stored inside those domes are millions of wood pellets, which started as trees in the surrounding 50- to 75-mile area, and were converted to easily shippable and burnable material at mammoth factories where wood can stretch as far as the eye can see.

The white domes aren’t the pellets' final destination.

After being packed into containers the wood is shipped to Europe, where power companies will burn them in an effort to meet the European Union’s stringent renewable energy requirements.  

This is known as biomass energy.

The problem is, not everyone thinks burning wood is green.

Environmentalists in Louisiana are crying foul over European corporations using Louisiana’s forests for their profit, and perhaps polluting the planet in the process.

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Europeans are not blessed with the abundant natural resources we take for granted.  They have to burn something.  The timber industry in Louisiana could use another end user category as it is a mere shadow of its former self.  And there are limited uses for waste material that can be pelletized.  Claiming that pellet manufacture will lead to cutting cypress trees or over harvest of our prodigious pine stands is fear mongering. 

thanks skip, I like your answer.  but, how much does it affect Europeans importing our gas/oil?

Europe get most of its natural gas from sources other than the U.S.  I'm unsure how much refined product we export to Europe but we can not export crude.  There is a growing debate to change crude export regulations in light of new domestic supply projections.  Pelletized wood has limited applications and is used primarily in home heating.  I don't think exporting pellets to Europe will displace any significant sales of U.S. petroleum.  It may however be a significant help to the timber industry in LA.

good, I have land w/ timber.  I sent this for general information.  thanks

We can always use another timber outlet. The more, the merrier. There's one currently under construction at Woodville, TX and another by the same German company planned for north of Alexandria which is supposed to be really huge in capacity. Many of the pellets made in the USA going to Europe will wind up being burned in household wood heaters and saunas. Sounds like a winner to me...

The technology employed in modern wood pellet stoves is impressive.  They will be in high demand globally wherever there is a lack of energy through access to hydrocarbons.

The pellets generated in Louisiana and Texas are going to power plants not homes.  Its a boondoogle of epic scale.  We lower our carbon emissions with clean burning gas, and they buy our converted pulp and burn it there.  There is still coal in newcastle, 

I was unaware of the industrial use, dbob.  What is the emissions profile on the pellet burning plants?

slightly better than lignite coal (less heavy metals) maybe not as good as the denser coal.  But there are subsidies for them to burn the biomass, even though there is a net carbon foot print to cut it down, haul it to the mill, pellitize it, dry it, then transport it across the Atlantic.  

The one good thing (from our side) is that it is essentially helping prop up the pulp market.  


Does anyone know how much stumpage the timber owners are getting?

And are they taking trash trees (tallow, gum, etc.) or good timber (oak)?


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