In the searing August heat, big yellow logging machines pile up the harvest from 153 acres of sweet gum, red oak and maple trees.Actually, it has been a cool summer.
New money, mofo!
A roaring log loader grabs the trunks to slice off 16-foot logs and stack them for one of the sawmills that provide a traditional market for Eastern North Carolina timber. These logs are worth $20 to $40 a ton and will be turned into plywood, cabinets and veneer.
In a second woodpile, there’s new money. Limbs and leafy treetops are stacked alongside trees as big as 16 inches across. They cannot be sold as saw logs because they’re forked or knotty, crooked or hollow.
Let's see: 1000 tons x 365 days x $5/ton = $1.825 million. If each job is worth $40k or so then that is 46 green jobs.
This pile will be fed into a chipper and milled at an Ahoskie factory that makes 1,000 tons, every day, of a minor American fuel product suddenly in hot demand on the other side of the Atlantic: wood pellets.
Two years ago, everything in this second pile would have been left on the ground to rot, said David Jennette, a Windsor forester who is managing this timber harvest. Now it brings $2 to $8 a ton. ...
Paradoxical? Europe's climate policy is ironic? a contradiction?
The wood pellet industry is enjoying a speedy, zero-to-60 growth surge across the southeastern United States. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in factories – some of them converted from old lumber mills – in coastal plain forests from Virginia to Louisiana.
They are serving a market created, almost overnight, by paradoxical environmental policies that are driving European electric utilities to burn imported wood in their boilers instead of coal.
Let's see: 1.8625 million tons x $5/ton = $93 million. If each job is worth $40k or so then that is 2328 green jobs.
Maryland-based Enviva LP, the nation’s biggest pellet maker, opened its Ahoskie mill in 2011 and a second one in Northampton County this year. Together, they produce 865,000 tons of pellets annually to be shipped out of the port at Chesapeake, Va.
In 2015, Enviva expects to start exporting an additional million tons from a planned $40 million terminal at the Wilmington port. The company is scouting sites for two new pellet mills in southeastern North Carolina, one of them in Sampson County. ...
Actually, timber is a renewable resource because you can cut it down, plant some more and it grows back.
The pellet industry is founded on a climate-friendly, carbon-neutral rationale. Our forests use photosynthesis to soak up carbon dioxide, enough to compensate for 14 percent of all emissions in the United States. This stored-up carbon is released into the air when wood pellets are burned, but wood is called a renewable fuel because that carbon eventually is recaptured by new trees that grow in place of the old ones.
Oops, those green jobs are rather green-ish.
Conservationists are attacking the pellet industry’s green-energy luster on two fronts.
They worry that the booming market for pellets will encourage industrial logging and sully the sensitive ecosystems of bottomland hardwood forests. And they counter European government carbon-cycle calculations with their own assessment that burning trees is, in the words of a British environmental group’s campaign, even “dirtier than coal.”