Fact Check: Dogwood Alliance Ignores Mounting Evidence Of Wood Bioenergy’s Vital Role In Climate Change Mitigation

Over the past several years, the Asheville, North Carolina-based Dogwood Alliance has repeatedly made clear that it opposes not just wood bioenergy, but the entire forest products industry. Time and again, Dogwood has stated that “keeping forest carbon in the ground” is their main objective, opposing the harvesting of wood even as an alternative to single-use plastics, or for replacing carbon-intensive building materials like steel and concrete.

Dogwood continues to lobby Congress in opposition to forest products and forestry jobs. Earlier this year, for example, Dogwood’s executive director visited Washington to criticize the United States for being “the world’s largest consumer and producer of wood products.” She incorrectly claimed that, “Decades of widespread, indiscriminate industrial logging has left our forests and communities in a degraded condition.”

Now, Dogwood is misleading about the role that wood bioenergy is playing in the Netherlands’ efforts to mitigate climate change. In a new blog post, Dogwood attacks a US-based bioenergy company for providing sustainable wood bioenergy to the Netherlands. Dogwood’s claims are not only factually incorrect – they also ignore a new study published this month by the Netherlands’ own national institute for environmental policy analysis that reaffirms the sustainability credentials of wood bioenergy and its central role in carbon mitigation.

1. US Forests Are Not Undergoing “Destruction” Due To Bioenergy – Forests Are Growing

The Dogwood Alliance’s premise is incorrect. “Forest destruction” is not “on the rise” in the US,” as Dogwood claims.

According the experts, forest land in the US has increased since 1953, even as the forest products economy has expanded. To see this in action, look to the US Southeast, where much of the supply for sustainable wood pellets is concentrated, and where 56 percent of forest acreage is held by private landowners. According to data from the US Forest Service, forest acreage in the South has grown by 10 million acres since the 1970s.

2. Wood Bioenergy Demand Helps Expand Forest Area

Wood bioenergy demand grows forests, it does not shrink them.

A new study featured in Bloomberg last month from leading researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Maine, and The Ohio State University found that increased bioenergy demand increases net forest stocks and could grow forest cover by 30% by 2100 thanks to increased demand for forestry. This paper is the latest in a series of academic research that shows the forest growth and carbon mitigation benefits of wood bioenergy. The findings of leading researchers from around the world are clear and consistent: the markets supported by wood bioenergy protect and grow forests. You can read more about the science and other recent studies here.

3. Wood Bioenergy Reduces Carbon Emissions Compared To Fossil Fuels

The Dogwood Alliance claims that that replacing dirty fossil fuels like coal with wood bioenergy “is worsening the climate crisis.” Leading experts and international climate science authorities such as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) disagree with this claim. They recommend wood bioenergy as an effective tool to phase out fossil fuels like coal with a low-carbon alternative, and studies show that wood bioenergy can reduce carbon emissions by between 74 and 85 percent compared to coal. You can read more about the carbon reduction benefits of wood bioenergy here.

A new study from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) further indicates how far Dogwood is from the scientific consensus on these issues. CRS is the US Congress’ nonpartisan think-tank and research body operated by the Library of Congress. A new report published this month by CRS included wood bioenergy as a tool to mitigate carbon emissions. The report notes that US forest stocks have grown by 10% since 1990, and the CRS specifically highlights the use of wood bioenergy in place of fossil fuels as one of three “primary strategic approaches for optimizing forest carbon sequestration and storage.

4. New Report From The Netherlands Affirms The Importance of Wood Bioenergy

A new report published earlier this month from PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the Dutch national institute for strategic policy analysis in the fields of the environment, nature, and spatial planning, found that the use of sustainable wood bioenergy is central to the Netherlands’ effort to mitigate climate change. The comprehensive report, based on a study of 400 papers and 150 interviews, found that “the Netherlands may be unable to meet climate change targets without using biomass.” The report stated explicitly that “biomass appears to play a significant role in a climate-neutral, circular economy.”

5. Dogwood’s Reflexive Anti-Forestry Position Is Not New

Dogwood’s opposition to bioenergy and forestry is not new. In an op-ed last year, Dogwood’s executive director argued against using renewable wood products to replace single-use plastics, against replacing fossil fuels in aviation with biofuel alternatives, against replacing steel in skyscrapers with wood products, and against using alternatives to fossil-fuel based fibers in clothing. Dogwood stated that “keeping forest carbon in the ground is as important as keeping fossil fuel carbon in the ground.”

These points are made repeatedly on Dogwood’s website, where Dogwood states that the forests products industry has a “destructive climate legacy” and attacks landowners who engage in sustainable forestry because they “cut down their forests as soon as money can be made from them.”

It is clear that the Dogwood Alliance is not concerned with the science or growing evidence from the very countries they are commenting on, and instead base their opposition to bioenergy on reflexive ideological beliefs, not facts.