ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The tragic fires across eight Southern states devastated over 100,000 acres of our beautiful Southern forests and cost the states, federal government and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to fight them and in critical relief efforts. As I watched the fires continue to grow throughout Southern Appalachia, my thoughts went out to the brave firefighters who risked everything and to all the individuals, businesses and communities who were directly impacted.
The impact of forest fires is generally measured in two ways—acres burned and monetary cost. Beyond dollars and cents, when forests are destroyed or degraded we lose so much more. We impact the ability of those forests to purify our drinking water. We lose important natural habitat for plants, animals and critical pollinator populations. The vital natural protections to our communities against storms and flooding are degraded. Our best defense against a changing climate literally goes up in smoke.
While we can all agree that unnatural and uncontrolled wildfires harm our environment and communities, what most of us don't realize is how closely the industrial biomass industry parallels forest fire destruction. In 2015, for example, nearly 4 million tons of wood pellets were exported from southern U.S. forests, shipped overseas and burned in massive power stations. That’s the equivalent to nearly 75,000 acres of our forests going up in smoke, which is more that 10,000 acres over the impact from recent fires here in North Carolina.
Despite these facts, the biomass industry and numerous government officials continue to promote industrial biomass as a clean, green energy—and use our tax-dollars to subsidize it as such. This madness must stop. By promoting this false solution to climate change and investing heavily in its growth, we are literally dismantling our best defense against climate change while exposing our rural communities to increased health risks and a decreased quality of life.
Right now on the homefront, more than ever, we need to protect our standing forests. While many of us were forced to sit on the sidelines and watch massive wildfires impact our region, there’s another forest fire that we can do something about. This forest destruction, fueled by subsidies, and cloaked in a green veil of “sustainability” and “renewable energy” is happening both in Europe and right here at home.
Currently, there are over 75 operating, proposed or under construction biomass incinerators and wood pellet facilities across the Southern U.S. It’s time that we stand together forming a citizens “water brigade” into the offices of our local, state and national elected officials, letting them know that this is not the type of industry or economic development that our communities and forests need.
This year hundreds of individuals from across seven southern states came together, spoke up and garnered support from more than 30 local elected officials who penned a letter to the European Commission demanding that this industry be put in check and that the massive subsidies that they were doling out stop. Let’s build upon that momentum. You can get involved today by sending a message to your Governor or working to pass a resolution in your community to keep industrial biomass out. Click here to find out how.
Let’s put this biomass fire out. For our forests, for our communities, for our future.
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