I recently wrote an article for the New Yorker website called “The Millions of Tons of Carbon Emissions that Don’t Officially Exist” about touring Drax, a company in England that burns wood pellets in former coal plants made from trees harvested in the United States and Canada. This is a common practice in many European nations, who, in order to meet climate goals, take advantage of an accounting error in the Kyoto Protocol that allows them to categorize wood as a renewable resource and to create emissions at biomass plants without officially counting these emissions toward the nation’s total emissions output.
Sound ridiculous? It is. Sadly, 60 percent of Europe’s renewable energy comes from burning wood pellets, many of which are made from whole trees, and all of which actually create more emissions than coal.
I spoke with Justin Catanoso, a journalism professor at Wake Forest University as well as a writer for the website Mongabay. He is an expert on forest ecology and large-scale biomass and we had a lively discussion where we agreed on some things and disagreed on others but kept it classy unlike the people running Drax, who are ghouls, except the tour guides, who are just doing their job and were pretty cool.
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