E.ON and RWE are on a global shopping spree for timber. The energy giants are planning to extend the life of their coal-fired power stations by feeding them with wood biomass. This means clearcutting forests in Northern America; it is also threatening valuable eco systems in Southern France.
In July/August 2015 denkhausbremen conducted some research on this topic in the southern states of the U.S.A. as well as in France. Together with the environmental organisations Dogwood Alliance and Biofuelwatch, denkhausbremen opposes the German power companies’ clearcutting politics.
“Along with others, E.ON and RWE are directly responsible for the destruction of forests here in the southern states of the U.S.A.,” explained Adam Macon from Dogwood Alliance in a conversation with denkhausbremen held in Asheville, North Carolina. “The power companies’ appetite for wood is destroying our forests. In the long term, the local population will be robbed of an important basis of their lifestyle and economic activities.” The industrial loggers haven’t even shied away from unique moist forest areas. They have converted ecologically significant indigenous forests into monoculture pine forests. The European climate politics and their misdirecting subsidies have seriously aggravated the situation in the last five years: “The southern states of the U.S.A are the largest exporters of wood pellets, and Europe is the principal customer,” states Adam Macon.
“Two and a half years ago Enviva came to North Carolina,” adds Derb S. Carter from the renown Southern Environmental Law Center in Chapel Hill during an on-site interview. “Enviva produces wood pallets here. They are one of the main suppliers for E.ON and RWE.” Enviva sources its raw material especially from private forests, he explains. They are taking advantage of the fact that these forest areas are governed by hardly any environmental regulations. “86 % of forested area in North Carolina is private property, which means that even valuable forest areas are hardly protected.”
In Europe, too, forests are falling victim to the energy giant’s hunger for wood. In Gardanne, in southern France, environmental activists are protesting against E.ONs biomass plans. The E.ON Group is converting one unit of its Provence coal-fired power station so that it can burn biomass. In a conversation with denkhausbremen in Forcalquier, southern France, Nicholas Bell from the Network SOS Foret du Sud explained the local population’s resistance as follows: “E.ON would like to operate France’s largest biomass power station here in Gardanne. It will need to be fed with two million tonnes of wood per year. Some of this wood is planned to be logged within a radius of 400 km around the power station; the rest will be importiert.”
Locals fear that fine dust emissions will be detrimental to their health and that forests will be destroyed on a large scale, possibly even in the Cevennen national park, Nicholas Bell continues. For these reasons, citizens, municipalities and regions have positioned themselves against the E.ON project with public petitions. In addition, legal proceedings are underway to prevent the implementation of the biomass power station.
denkhausbremen and its partner organisations are committed to making the power companies revise their biomass politics.