Enviva, the world’s largest wood pellet producer, lies about its use of tree waste at its North Carolina production facilities and substantially overstates the environmental sustainability of its product, a whistleblower says, corroborated by Mongabay reporting. Demand for wood pellets has increased in recent years due to EU loopholes allowing power generators to count it as “renewable energy.”
The wood pellet industry in the American south is responsible for 60 to 80 tons of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution per year, a type of airborne pollution that can cause heart attacks and is damaging to human lungs. Extractive ‘plantation’ practices in the industry also mirror American slavery and the Atlantic trade of enslaved people.
Burning Wood Not Carbon Neutral
Enviva claims it only uses wood from forests that will be replanted and uses ‘waste’ wood, like branches and treetops, that would be discarded after normal lumber processing. Even if all its trees were replaced — a claim Mongabay’s reporting refutes — the replanted trees would be a far cry from the forests they replace in terms of both biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Burning wood and other biomass has “wrongly been deemed ‘carbon neutral’” more than 650 scientists warned recently in a letter to world leaders in the runup to the COP15 UN biodiversity summit in Montreal, adding “The best thing for the climate and biodiversity is to leave forests standing – and biomass energy does the opposite.”
The whistleblower, who left the oil industry and moved to Enviva in 2020, seduced by its claims of environmental sustainability, says Enviva is clearcutting forests and using wood from the entire tree — not just branches and treetops. “What a joke,” the unnamed whistleblower told Mongabay. “We use 100% whole trees in our pellets. We hardly use any waste. Pellet density is critical. You get that from whole trees, not junk.” (Mongabay; Letter: The Guardian)