It is touted as a smart way for Europe to reach its renewable energy goals. But try telling Lisa Sanchez thousands of miles away in America that burning wood chips is a form of clean energy. The bucolic charm of her rural home in the Piney Woods forest region of east Texas is undercut by the big German Pellets manufacturing plant just beyond the bottom of her garden. The German-owned plant is capable of producing 578,000 tons of wood pellets a year, which are destined to cross the Atlantic to satisfy a vibrant market for the product there. Sanchez moved to the eight-acre property in Woodville, a hundred miles north-east of Hou ston, in 2014. As she sat by her pool on a sunny evening last week, two horses grazing in her field, it was easy to understand why she and her husband Tony swallowed their doubts about the location. “The plant wasn’t loud, it was more peaceful than I thought it was going to be,” she said. But within a year, “I started having a lot of respiratory problems, I was getting sick all the time.” From being in excellent health, she added, “I have emergency inhalers, I was on all kinds of things. I have asthma now.” Opening her windows and doors to let in the breeze was an unwise move, she said: the air felt more sooty than fresh. Burning forest biomass – essentially, wood – has been promoted by industry as a cleaner, more renewable energy alternative to coal and gas. American companies such as Enviva have developed a growing export industry for trees diced into wood pellets, with export volumes increasing from almost nothing in the early 2000s to 4.6m tons of pellets in 2015 – almost all of which goes to Europe to displace coal in power plants there.
Guardian 30th June 2018 read more »