As time passes and information spreads, people will have to take the status of Earth and the environment very seriously. The evidence of change - of shifts in the climate, ecosystems, and the living beings that thrive in them - has long since started to pile up, and action needs to be taken. The efforts have already started, thankfully, but one can only hope that efforts go to the right places. If they don’t, then they might create more problems than solutions - as wood fuel has, incidentally.

The assumption is that switching over from coal to virtually anything else would prove beneficial. It’s not the wrong mindset, but a recent investigation conducted by the News organization Climate Central has shown that it isn’t enough to substitute one resource for the other.

While it may be true that one is less damaging and more renewable than the other, the problem lies in the execution. The assumption is that burning wood fuel negates any negative consequences, because any harmful emissions released would be absorbed the forests used to create them. The investigation showed that there was no evidence that such an assumption would hold true, and there’s even less evidence of any benefits. The process has only led to more razed forests - and power plants don’t have an incentive to stop.

An Environmental Loophole

Power plants in the United States and Europe have long since turned to burning wood pellets as a fuel source. The reason for that is as much about safeguarding nature as it is exploiting the situation; thanks to the regulations in place, wood is considered to be a carbon-neutral energy source.

As a result, the plants that make use of it receive large subsidies, just as they would for solar or wind power - only wood lets them work at a fraction of the price. The regulations create a higher demand for wood, which lead to more wood harvested by chopping down forests. In turn, the forests don’t get the chance to grow back and compensate for the extra activity - and by extension, chopping down forests means that there are fewer trees to work on behalf of the planet and climate control.

By burning wood, power plants in both the United States and Europe have managed to see high profits thanks to subsidies and - via policies in place - the fines that would normally hamstring anyone who did harm to the environment. With the process on the rise year after year, it’s possible that at some point in the near future, people will wish that power plants relied on coal.

If there isn’t a course correction, or at the very least a change in the regulations that allow reckless burning, then wood is going to make a bad situation worse.

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