Debunking two so-called “facts” about wood pellets

There are two highly inaccurate statements that are often made about the use of wood pellets as a substitute for coal in power generation. (1) The CO2 released from the combustion of wood pellets is greater than the CO2 released from the combustion of coal; (2) Using wood pellets for heat or power creates a carbon debt that takes decades to repay.

The Manomet study released in June, 2010 codified both of those so-called facts about using wood for fuel. Since then both the “pellets are worse than coal” and the “carbon debt” arguments have become ingrained in the anti-biomass literature.

In this white paper we will show why those statements, often presented as facts, are inaccurate.



  1. Mark Knaebe says

    I used to think they were just idiots, but their agenda has to be based on profits from fossil fuel use. Maybe if the fossil fuel promoters looked at the options from the perspective of a tree when it dies (no matter how) they might realize they have no leg to stand on. If a tree is turned into lumber it continues to be carbon negative until it burns or it rots. If it is burned for fuel it’s a wash since the carbon came from the air as CO2 and is then returned to it as CO2. If it is left to rot, much of the carbon is converted to methane which is 15-60 times worse greenhouse gas than CO2. So if you cannot store it out of the weather or convert it to char (both carbon negative at least for a while), burning (especially if done well = complete) is the best option. No matter how little fossil fuel you burn, atmospheric CO2 is increased

  2. Ted Johnson says


    In order to make pellets, using wood as an example residue, the material used needs to have the moisture content reduced to about 12% moisture content so the pellet making machine will work correctly.
    Ok, lets reduce the moisture. This is done with hot air, usually produced from Fossil fuels.
    Then lets make the pellet. The machine uses electricity, another fossil fueled device.
    There is no technology that will increase the potential BTU rating of most residues without inputting more energy in than is gained.
    So, when you add up all the costs for dying and making the pellet, you end up having to increase its price so much you price yourself right out of the market and you are using the very same fossil fuels you are suppose to circumvent, or at least abate.
    Then you have to use electricity to force air into the pellets to make them burn well. Tell me how great the efficiency of combustion really is when using pellets. If I was a homeowner considering pellets, I would just continue using natural gas or conventional wood particles. It is simply a matter of $/million BTUs and the ease of use. There are other types of wood fuels/particles that can produce an equivalent amount of energy at 25% or less cost to harvest to begin with and at least 25 50 80 % less energy to dry,depending on what species and moisture content you want to use or further configure. Furthermore, you have to contend with explosive dust, loading and unloading the pellets, and worrying about the pellet burner running correctly while unattended. Let us compare pellet combustion efficiency with any other fuel, especially Forest and other Agricultural residues. After that,y pellets should be considered is if they are combusted in a highly efficient combustion unit, at least 90% efficient. Even then, it is questionable on the emissions and actual BTUs produced vs all the BTUs input into the whole process and all the final ingredients of the pellet. Sure, it is OK to sell pellets to any entity that has no other source of energy or just wants to circumvent some costs, as in Europe. But, why use on of our most important resources and send to other countries when we need it much more right here.