In response to the June 18 Point of View “The wood-pellet industry and the harm it’s causing”: Our energy company is creating hundreds of jobs and investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Eastern North Carolina while making an environmentally sustainable product that protects Southern forests. And our wood pellets – a small, seemingly ordinary product – bring big reductions in climate change around the world.
Don’t take my word for it. Agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and researchers at Duke University and N.C. State University agree: Wood pellets are good for forests, the environment and the economy.
“An industry that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase forest growth and create jobs sounds too good to be true,” Robert Johannson, the Agriculture Department’s acting chief economist, wrote earlier this month. “But that is the reality of the emerging wood pellets market in the Southern U.S.”
My organization, the Enviva family of companies, is the world’s largest manufacturer of wood pellets. Since 2011, we have invested more than $300 million in Eastern North Carolina. We have three manufacturing plants in Ahoskie, Northampton County and Sampson County, and a new export terminal at the Port of Wilmington. And we are creating more than 700 jobs, including 250 positions at my company that will pay an average of more than $35,000 a year.
Wood pellets burn like coal, with one big difference: Electrical utilities that convert from coal to wood pellets can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent. As a result, our product has a big impact on global climate change. What’s bad about that?
A few critics would have you believe that wood-pellet production poses a threat to North Carolina’s forests. But the facts say otherwise. According to the U.S. Forest Service, North Carolina had 18.6 million acres of forest land in 2013, an increase of more than 28,000 acres since 2007. Forest growth on that land increased even more, almost 4 percent.
At the same time, steep declines in demand for paper and residential construction caused the state’s timber harvests to plummet almost 20 percent. In a recent study, researchers from Duke and N.C. State concluded that there is more than enough wood available for pellet production, writing, “Pellet demand is found to have a small relative impact on regional forest product prices, removals and inventories.”
And the Environmental Protection Agency endorsed the environmental benefits of wood pellets late last year, saying, “The EPA also recognizes that biomass-derived fuels can play an important role in CO2 emission reduction strategies.”
We work every day for lower emissions, healthy forests and strong communities. Without the people of Eastern North Carolina, our work would not be possible.