Carbon-Neutral designation a black eye for wood pellets? It all depends on what they are fueling!

by Jeff Rubin | June 17, 2018

Carbon-Neutral designation a black eye for wood pellets? It all depends on what they are fueling!

The way we should be fueling Electric Generation is not the same as Home Heating. How does the conversation keep missing such an obvious point!

Air_pollution_by_industrial_chimneysThis article from Reuters conflates wood pellet fuel for electric generation with wood pellets used for home heating. When it comes to electric generation we certainly have cleaner options than wood pellet fuel but if you live where winters are cold, heating with wood is your most environmental option.

Certainly the official (political) carbon–neutral classification of wood pellets is a step in the right direction but the article completely omits the important conversation about the way wood pellets are burned and the source of the fuel. Comparing wood pellets with coal (even for electric generation) misses the point that wood fuel is part of the natural biogenic carbon cycle of the earth where as coal is geologic carbon and is therefore always aggregating new carbon into the earth’s natural cycle.

Manufacturing wood pellets by clearcutting southern forests is an abomination. Shipping them to Europe adds an additional layer of “sunk” carbon. Burning them in a coal plant is only 20% efficient. What a mess! By comparison heating with an EPA-approved, green-tech wood pellet furnace or boiler is 85% efficient. Sourcing wood from regional, sustainable forests keeps the supply chain short, and sunk carbon very low. Switching from an oil furnace to one that runs on renewable wood pellet fuel will cut your carbon footprint in half, while incentivising sustainable forestry. Wood pellets are the  lowest-cost heating fuel, and they keep 78¢ of every heating dollar local instead of sending that financial resource out of the region to the big petroleum industrial complex.

Throughout the history of heating, wood has been dirty and sooty but the new generation of EPA-approved, clean-tech pellet boilers and furnaces combined with sustainable forestry practices represents a virtuous cycle that protects forests and the environment. Rather than focusing on a partisan political point, we need to advance our green-energy economy by making a distinction between how pellet fuel is used. When it comes to keeping our homes warm, wood that is sustainably sourced; and burned in a high-tech, green-heating appliance is the most environmental option.

Let’s not besmirch the reputation of wood pellet heating because there are better options for electric generation. Switching from oil heat to a green-tech pellet boiler or furnace is the best thing any of us can do to reduce our carbon footprint.