After our great victory in helping end coal shipments from the Levin Terminal in Richmond, there’s a new plan to export a fuel with even worse climate and environmental impacts: wood pellets to burn as “biomass.” This fake climate “solution” is based on the claim that wood is “renewable energy” because growing trees absorb carbon dioxide.
Golden State Natural Resources is proposing to build two of the country’s largest wood pellet production facilities in California’s Lassen and Tuolumne counties, using wood obtained by cutting and removing “trees and other forest materials, of any type and size . . .within a 100-mile radius of each pellet facility.”
The wood pellets would then be transported by rail to ports in Stockton and Richmond, where they would emit methane, dust, and fine particulate matter. From there they would be shipped overseas to burn in power plants converted from coal, releasing CO2 and co-pollutants.
In a comment letter on the scoping plan for the environmental impact report on this project, the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations, including Sunflower Alliance, wrote: “Wood pellets are a highly polluting, expensive, and inefficient energy source that have no place in a clean energy future. Burning wood for electricity releases more carbon emissions at the smokestack than fossil fuels, including coal, per unit of energy produced.
“Numerous studies show that it takes many decades – to a century or more (if ever) – for cut forests to re-sequester the amount of carbon that is emitted from logging and burning woody biomass for energy, even when forest “residues” (i.e. “waste”) are burned. Producing wood pellets is extremely carbon-intensive because the wood must be debarked, chipped, dried, pulverized, and compressed into pellets. . . Wood pellet production facilities also emit toxic air pollution that harms public health. These facilities are often concentrated in communities of color and low-income communities, worsening environmental injustice.”
For a deeper dive, check out this recent episode of Terra Verde on KPFA.