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Think tank: Japan’s Green Energy Dreams Leave BC Forests in Ruin


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Exploring the environmental repercussions of Japan’s increasing reliance on wood pellets from British Columbia, this article delves into the disturbing aftermath of clearcutting in the region. Despite Japan’s claim that wood pellets are “carbon neutral,” experts argue that the carbon accounting behind this assertion is dangerously flawed.


BC’s Clearcut Devastation

BC’s conventional forestry practices have left a stark imprint on the landscape. The aftermath of clearcutting is vividly described as a “one-dimensional, dead landscape” by Michelle Connolly of Conservation North. The soft forest floor, vibrant birdcalls, and cool moisture are replaced by debris, occasional garbage, and the smell of burned wood piles.


Japan’s “Green” Energy Dilemma

Japan’s pursuit of “green” energy involves importing wood pellets from razed BC forests, under the premise that burning these pellets is environmentally friendly. The Japanese government aims for biomass to contribute 5% of the country’s power needs by 2030. However, critics argue that the carbon emissions from burning wood pellets, coupled with the environmental toll of clearcutting, present a significant challenge to this green energy narrative.


Carbon Accounting Missteps

Research from British think tank Chatham House challenges the notion of wood pellets being “carbon neutral.” The lower energy density of woody biomass compared to coal leads to higher carbon dioxide emissions during combustion. Importantly, the immediate increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide contradicts the urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


BC’s Unsustainable Forestry

BC’s forestry system is criticized as fundamentally unsustainable. Over a century of aggressive logging, especially in the last 60 years, has led to concerns about the dwindling primary forests. The economic dependence on logging from primary forests exacerbates the problem, preventing meaningful transformation in the forestry sector.


The Role of Wood Pellets

Wood pellets, deeply intertwined with BC’s forestry industry, are considered by proponents as a means to utilize waste from lumber production. However, this reliance on wood pellets is raising environmental and sustainability concerns, with questions about the long-term viability of BC’s forestry sector.


Drax’s Dominance and Controversies

Drax, a major player in the wood pellet industry, controls a significant portion of BC’s pellet mills. Investigations reveal that Drax, despite previous claims, sources wood pellets not only from sawmill residues but also directly from primary forests. This raises ethical and environmental questions about the practices of major players in the wood pellet industry.


The Environmental Impact on BC

Environmentalists, including Connolly, argue that BC’s primary forests are crucial for wildlife habitat, watershed health, and carbon sequestration. The push for more extensive clearcutting to meet the demand for wood pellets could have long-lasting and detrimental effects on the region’s ecosystems.



The growing reliance on wood pellets from clearcut BC forests raises serious environmental concerns, challenging the narrative of Japan’s “green” energy. The long-term sustainability of BC’s forestry sector, coupled with the ethical considerations of sourcing wood pellets, demands a comprehensive reevaluation of the environmental impact of this energy source.

News Desk, where most of the News Item edit for THE THINK TANK JOURNAL

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