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Inside North Carolina's wood pellet industry

A logging truck unloads chips made from logged trees at Enviva's wood pellet factory in Ahoskie, in Hertford County, N.C.
Dogwood Alliance
A logging truck unloads chips made from logged trees at Enviva's wood pellet factory in Ahoskie, in Hertford County, N.C.

Paper, lumber and wood products have always been a part of North Carolina's economy. In the past decade or so, another industry has joined them: wood pellets.

Four plants in eastern North Carolina convert wood harvested from North Carolina forests into pellets — about the size of a medicine capsule. They're shipped to Europe and the United Kingdom where power companies get big government subsidies to use pellets in place of coal. And they're classified as "renewable energy." That has led to big growth and more tree harvesting across the South, from Virginia to Louisiana.

But the industry is controversial. Derb Carter, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, sums it up this way: "What's happening in North Carolina is the forests are being cut and exported to Europe. None of that is used to produce anything benefiting North Carolina in any way. And you're losing that carbon storage in the forest."

On this Charlotte Talks, WFAE climate reporter David Boraks talks with journalist and Wake Forest University professor Justin Catanoso, who writes for the environmental news website Mongabay.

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Justin Catanoso, journalist for Mongabay and professor at Wake Forest University

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Charlotte Talks Executive Producer Wendy Herkey has been with WFAE since 1998, beginning in the membership department, and has been on the Charlotte Talks staff since 1999.
David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.