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CoastLine: Emerging Wood Pellet Market Boon for NC; Opponents Claim It Decimates Forests


Wood pellets.  They’re a simple idea, but their potential implications are far more complicated and controversial.  Member countries in the European Union are buying these small, compressed cylinders, which are made up of everything from sawdust to wood pulp, to use as a more planet-friendly fuel source than coal.   Eventually, some say increasing restrictions on allowable carbon emissions will force the discontinuance of wood pellets as a fuel source because they’ll no longer meet government requirements.  But right now, European subsidies are fueling an important emerging market in the southeast – and particularly North Carolina. 

Environmental advocacy groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Southern Environmental Law Center, and North Carolina-based Dogwood Alliance all say that the use of wood pellets for fuel not only decimates forests.  It actually produces higher carbon emissions than fossil fuels. 

On this edition of CoastLine, we explore some of these claims – and we’ll also find out what kind of economic impact the wood pellet industry is likely to have in North Carolina and the Cape Fear region. 

Enviva, a large manufacturer of wood pellets, recently built a storage facility at the Wilmington port and has plans for two manufacturing plants in the state.  The company was seen as such an economic boon by state leaders – potentially investing more than $200 million in North Carolina – that they could qualify for up to one point seven million dollars in incentives from the state. 

How will the wood pellet industry impact North Carolina and the Cape Fear region economically and environmentally.


Adam Macon, Campaign Director at Dogwood Alliance, a North Carolina-based forest advocacy group

Morgan Pitts, Manager of Communications and External Affairs for Enviva, a large wood pellet manufacturer and supplier

Clay Altizer, Utilization Forester at the North Carolina Forest Service

Listen to Segment 1 here.

Listen to Segment 2 here.

Listen to Segment 3 here.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.