FutureMetrics responds to report criticizing wood pellets

By Erin Voegele | December 08, 2015

A new white paper published by FutureMetrics offers a critique of Climate Central’s recent story “Pulp Fiction,” a three-part special report by John Upton that criticizes the use of wood pellets.

In the paper, William Strauss, president of FutureMetrics, notes that a few non-governmental organizations have used flawed analysis regarding the carbon benefits associated with the use of wood pellets for power generation. He says the claims fall into two basic categories. First, that forests are being decimated to produce wood pellets, and second, that the combustion of wood pellets creates pollution that is worse than coal.

According to Strauss, Upton often references so-called scientific consensus in his report, but is actually relying on deeply flawed logic. “The report may satisfy those with an aversion to ever cutting a tree for any reason,” Strauss wrote. “There are certainly many trees that should not ever be cut. But the U.S. and Canada contain vast ‘working forests’ whose purpose is to grow the wood fiber that becomes lumber, paper, packaging, and many other engineered products, including wood pellets.”

FutureMetrics indicates it knows Upton’s report is biased because he interviewed Strauss a number of times and exchanged a number of emails with him. “In those interviews and emails Dr. Strauss provided Mr. Upton with detailed analysis of the logic and the forestry management constraints that leads to the conclusion that using sustainably harvested wood for energy as a substitute for coal in power plants lowers GHG emissions. ‘Pulp Fiction’ however never balances its narrative with those facts. None of the information provided by Dr. Strauss is in the Climate Central report,” said Strauss in the future metrics report.

Within the white paper, Strauss responds to several specific claims made by Upton in his report, and concludes that” Climate Central is right to express concern about climate change and about activities that are destructive to our ecosystems. But ‘Pulp Fiction’ assumes that the vast working forests of North America are in a steady state of decline and that the decline is driven by demand for wood pellets.

“The North American continental forests have been providing wood for generations; and over the last 100 years, right up to the present, the quantity of working forested land in the North America has increased not decreased,” wrote Strauss. “Those continuously replenishing forests supply the raw materials for the continuous demand for everything from toilet paper and paper towels, to the boxes that deliver items from online shopping, to books and magazines, to lumber, and more recently as paper demand has declined, to wood pellets. A rational and environmentally beneficial approach to decarbonizing the energy grid includes using carbon neutral solid fuel as a substitute for coal. Climate Central should recognize that fact rather than promote pellet fiction.”

A full copy of the white paper can be downloaded from the FutureMetrics website