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Wood Pellets Can’t Be Carbon Neutral, Can They?

Wood Pellets Can’t Be Carbon Neutral, Can They?

Once again wood pellets seem to be on the receiving end of some rather poor press this week, with The Times declaring that they are only considered ‘carbon neutral’ due to a ‘loop hole’ in EU law[1]. There are a couple of scorching lines in the article, including an assertion that “ministers [made] false assumption[s]” about the carbon neutral nature of wood pellets. Concluding that wood pellets are not a “genuine carbon neutral [technology]” and thus it is “ridiculous” that wood pellets receive the same sort of subsidies as these genuine technologies.

It appears that Mr Brack – the fellow who wrote the report quoted in the Times – is basing his argument on the fact that if one chops a tree down and burns it, it releases carbon into the atmosphere, and that simply planting a tree at the same time you chopped one down doesn’t count because it’ll take ages for that new tree to absorb the carbon released by burning the first one. Even if that is the right way to look at this (it’s not), I’m still not sure that his case stands up. So, for the layman (with the odd simplification), lets run through how this works in practise:

You own a forest. It’s a small forest, it’s only got 20 trees in it. They’re all different ages too. There’s a 1-year-old tree, a 2-year-old tree, and so on right up to the oldest and biggest tree that’s 20-years-old. At the end of the year you chop down the 20-year-old tree and burn it. It releases 1 tree’s worth of carbon back into the atmosphere. You also plant a new sapling. At the end of the following year, you’ve got 20 trees again. There’s a 1-year old tree …. Between them those 20 trees have absorbed 1 tree’s worth of carbon from the atmosphere. 

This is the basis of the ‘carbon neutral’ nature of wood pellets. 

“Aha” you might exclaim, “but it takes a whole year to absorb the carbon from the tree that you burnt in one day!” 

Oh dear. The above is an example. The reality is that forests and woodland are continuously managed, with trees being planted and harvested constantly, and so the consumption and release of carbon from the atmosphere is pretty much neutral – hence the term.

“What about those unscrupulous companies clear felling acre after acre of forest and not replanting them?”

Interestingly, the wood pellet industry is stopping exactly that scenario from happening. Wood pellets in the UK go through an incredibly laborious sustainability certification scheme to ensure that they do not come from anywhere with unsustainable forestry practices. While unsustainable pellets probably exist somewhere, there isn’t anywhere else in the world that checks the sustainability of regulated pellets as laboriously as the UK.

In 2013 the US consumed 63.6 million tonnes of wood less than it did in 2003[2]. Part of this is due to the cyclical nature of wood consumption – but a large part of this is down to the digital revolution. I’m assuming you’re reading this on a screen and not on paper? 

Making sure that forests have a ‘job’ is an important part of ensuring their continued existence. If the land currently forested can’t deliver its owners a yield, a natural consequence would be that land being put to a different use – we’d call that deforestation. Thus the use of wood pellets ought to be viewed as an important positive influence on the environment from both a carbon and forest perspective. Those seeking to portray wood pellets as carbon spewing harbingers of doom need to find a clue, fast.

Stuart Fitzgerald

Managing Director

White Horse Energy

[1] http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/450m-lost-over-failed-green-power-programme-n7hf0h6ht

[2] https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplrp/fpl_rp679.pdf 
Posted: 23/02/2017 16:58:36 by Stuart Fitzgerald | with 0 comments

Website Update - Order Add On's

Order Add On's

We’re excited to announce a brand new feature to the White Horse Energy site in the form of our new Add on's feature.
Simply add your items to your basket & at the bottom of your checkout the available Add on’s will display at the bottom of the page.
This is perfect if you haven’t already experienced our phenomenally long lasting burning Briquettes or premium bagged Firewood before. It’s as simple as selecting the quantity (3min-20max) of the item you’re after & the individual packs will add to your shopping basket allowing to customise your purchase with us.
We feel this will allow our customer to further experience our premium White Horse products in more flexible qualities.

Posted: 07/02/2017 09:20:27 by Stuart Woodward | with 0 comments

Platinum Plus - Temporary Stock Shortage

Platinum Plus - Temporary Stock Shortage

We apologise if our Platinum Plus shortages have caused any inconvenience to our customers. This is very uncommon & we are confident this shortage will only be a short term issue.

Platinum Plus will be back on the website at the earliest oppertunity with higher volumes available from Tuesday 14/02, we would advise during your order you check the website and your invoice for an order arrival date. Following Tuesday's stock arrival we don't foresee any further stock issues.  

With any stock changes we will post via both our Facebook & Twitter pages as well as via a website post.

Posted: 02/02/2017 15:06:36 by Stuart Woodward | with 0 comments