A yearslong battle between a small, majority-Black, low-income town in rural Mississippi and the Drax Group, a multi-billion dollar UK-based energy company, highlights a major pitfall in EU renewable energy policy, NBC reports. Drax opened a wood pellet manufacturing plant in Gloster, Mississippi, in 2016 under the guise of providing rural jobs locally and “renewable, carbon-neutral” sources of energy to meet the EU’s appetite for biomass. Drax has significantly degraded local air quality (amounting to millions of dollars worth of fines) without actually decreasing the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s because wood pellets are a decidedly poor fossil fuel replacement – producing numerous hazardous pollutants during the manufacturing process and emitting 150% more carbon dioxide than coal per unit of energy produced. Ultimately, Drax’s “clean energy” image is based on a carbon accounting loophole that fails to address the complexity of the carbon cycle and reality of the timber industry. “They claim to be the good guys, but the industry is one of the most polluting and most damaging to the environment and to communities,” Robert Musil, head of the Rachel Carson Council, told NBC.
The EU’s burning of wood pellets for electricity shares obvious parallels with the cotton and Atlantic slave trade, where primarily Black and poor communities in the American South are harmed for European benefit. In addition to the pollution of communities near its manufacturing facilities, new reporting from Bloomberg shows that while UK electricity prices soared last year, Drax cut back UK electricity production during a national electricity shortage to avoid repaying taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds for exceeding profit limits on their subsidized operations there. (NBC; UK power hoarding: Bloomberg $; Drax denial: The Guardian)