East Europe and the US Southeast still have significant areas with forests. Starting about 2005, major parts of these forests have been harvested by means of clear-cutting. In 2016, about 6.5 million metric ton of wood pellets will be shipped from the US Southeast to Europe for co-firing in coal-fired power plants.


The EU has declared these coal plants in compliance with EU CO2/kWh standards, because biomass is renewable and the CO2 of wood burning is not to be counted., and “Burning wood is CO2-neutral”.


Manufacturing pellets requires input energy of about 115 units, and shipping pellets to European coal plants requires about 10 units, for a total of 125 units to have 100 units of pellet energy fed to a coal plant; the CO2 emissions of pellet burning is declared CO2-neutral, and the other 25% of CO2 emissions is not mentioned.


Most US states have significant areas covered with forests. As part of renewable energy programs, these forests are seen as useful for producing thermal and electrical energy. By using the mantra “Burning wood is CO2-neutral”, the CO2 from wood burning, and associated activities, is ignored, and thus not included in a state’s overall CO2 emissions. One of such states is Vermont.




Clear-cutting is extremely damaging to soils, because of leaching out of nutrients released by dead underground biomass. When most of the US northeast was clear-cut in the 1800s (Vermont lost 75% of its forests in a few decades), nutrients leached out and soils eroded into streams killing fish spawning habitats.


That environmental destruction was followed by acid rain starting around the 1950s, which had a similar effect as clear-cutting regarding nutrients leaching out, such as calcium, a vital nutrient for biomass growth. The regrown forest, with a significant percentage of spindly, sickly trees that have short lives, can be only a pale copy of what was before.


With continued logging, it is likely the forests will never be as robust as before, unless forest soils are continuously fertilized by cutting dead/misshapen trees, chipping them and spreading the chips on the forest floor for fertilizer, i.e., remediation.


Vermont state government allows clear-cutting “events” of up to 40 acres "without a permit"; there is no statewide annual limit of such events. Considering the various known historical damages of clear-cutting, one would think Vermont would not allow it at all. 


NOTE: In the 1600s - 1700s, Vermont’s lakes and rivers were teeming with fish, according to settlers’ accounts. Eroded soils damaged/buried most of fish spawning grounds, due to the clear-cutting in the 1800s. A mere semblance of former fish populations is maintained by annual stocking of rivers by state fish hatcheries.


NOTE: Traditional biomass includeswood, agricultural by-products and dung. They usually are inefficiently burned for cooking and heating purposes. In developing countries, such as India, traditional biomass is harvested in an unsustainable manner and burned in a highly polluting way. It is mostly traded informally and non-commercially. It was about 8.9% of the world’s total energy consumption in 2014.


Here is some information for those who have been led to believe, or persuaded themselves to believe, wood burning is environmentally friendly.


Forests have aboveground and belowground new growth, which absorbs CO2 from the air and carbon, C, from the soil. Removing live trees, low-grade and high-grade, reduces CO2 absorption. In Vermont, about 50% of tree removals is used for high-grade purposes (the C stays sequestered, until some of it is burned); and about 50% is used mostly for burning (the C becomes CO2 and is released to the atmosphere), and a small quantity is used for pulp/paper mills (the C stays sequestered, unless some of it is burned).


Wood burning power plants (McNeil, Ryegate in Vermont) emit about 4 times the combustion CO2/kWh of high-efficiency gas turbine power plants.


The combustion CO2 of the first year of heating plant or power plant operation would be sequestered by re-growing trees according to an S-curve over a long period (See notes); slowly increasing during the first 1/3, rapidly increasing during the second 1/3, and slowly increasing during the last 1/3 of the period. That would be not much help to prevent the world’s climate from falling off the cliff during the next 20 to 30 years.


NOTE: The combustion CO2 of wood burning would be reabsorbed by new tree growth, if:


1) Logged forests would have the same acreage (they likely would not)

2) Forests would not further fragmented by roads or developed (they likely would be)

3) Forest CO2 sequestering capability, Mt/acre/y, remains the same (it could be less). See note


NOTE: Regarding the time period for sequestering the combustion CO2:


- 40 years is a US average. See Note.

- 80 to 100 years in northern climates with short growing seasons, such as northern Vermont and Maine. 

- 40 to 50 years in moderate climates with longer growing seasons, such as New Jersey and North Carolina

- 25 years between harvests of planted, fertilized, and culled forests of fast-growing pines in Georgia.


NOTE: On an A to Z basis, there would be about 15% of additional CO2 that has nothing to do with combustion, in case of wood chips, or about 20%, in case of wood pellets. This includes non-wood-burning CO2, such as from:


- Fuel used for managing wood lots, logging, chipping/pelletizing and transport,

- Energy to run the plant,

- Energy for decommissioning and reuse/landfill of the plant,

- Embodied energy in the A to Z infrastructures



- The EPA assumes sequestering of CO2 by undisturbed, healthy forests at about 1.0 metric ton per acre per year, as a US average.

Disturbed, fragmented, less than healthy forests, as in most of New England, sequester much less than 1.0 metric ton of CO2 per acre per year, due to:


1) Acid rain and pollution from Midwest power plants, etc.,

2) Various encroachments, and

3) Colder climate and short growing season.


Yet the Vermont and Maine Environmental Departments claim 1.0 metric ton per acre per year!


Piling up the CO2 Year After Year


Re-growing trees would sequester the combustion CO2 of Year 1 of plant operation over about 80 to 100 years, in New England.


The CO2 of Years 2, 3, 4 to Year 40 would be added to the CO2 of Year 1, and be sequestered in a similar manner, except shifted forward by a year.


In Year 40, there would be 40 layers of CO2 and 40 forest areas in various stages of regrowth, as a result of cutting trees for burning.


Year 40 is assumed to be the last year of plant operation. It is likely that plant would be replaced to repeat the cycle.


During Year 41 through 80, there would be 41 to 80 layers of CO2 and 41 to 80 forest areas in various stages of regrowth, as a result of cutting trees for burning.


The Vermont McNeal and Ryegate wood-chip power plants have CO2 emissions/MWh 4 times greater than a gas-fired combined-cycle gas turbine, CCGT, plant.


Example: 3412000 Btu/MWh/0.55 x 117/1000000 = 727 lb CO2/MWh.


The other pollutants of wood per MWh, including particulates, are about 4/2.4 = 1.67 greater than of coal.


Table 3/Fuel

 lb/million Btu

 Plant efficiency, %

 lb CO2/MWh

CO2 Ratio

Wood chip; McNeal/Ryegate*





Wood chip; Denmark





Hard coal





No. 2 fuel oil





Natural gas, CCGT*






Plus upstream CO2 (logging, chipping, transport, etc.) of about 5 to 10 %, if burning wood chips

Plus upstream CO2 (logging, chipping/pelletizing, transport, etc.) of about 10 to 15 %, if burning wood pellets

CCGT = Combined-cycle, gas turbine plant


Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, VEIC, a non-profit, assumed control of Efficiency Vermont in 2008 (financed by a state-mandated surcharge on electric bills, about $60 million in 2016, which will be annually increasing), and of Biomass Energy Research Center, BERC, a non-profit, in 2012.


BERC, an in-house captive entity, performs biomass studies for VEIC, and Vermont Energy Action Network, and EAN, and others. EAN provides major inputs to updates of the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, which has a goal (not legally required) of “90% RE of All Primary Energy by 2050”, not just electrical energy, which is about 35% of all energy at present). BERC estimates, based on its criteria, about 46.8% of Vermont’s forests inventory of live trees is low-grade, i.e., suitable for wood burning. The reason for so much low grade is damaged soils and air pollution.




A wood chip power plant or heating plant adds CO2 through:


1) Logging soil disturbance, vehicle transport, equipment use, refurbishments and replacements, diesel fuel burning

2) Plant construction

3) Plant O & M, refurbishments and replacements

4) Plant decommissioning.


Those CO2 emissions would require a forest area up to 15% greater than the wood burning CO2, to be reabsorbed over up to 100 years.


Vermont CO2 emissions were about 10 million Mt/y in 2015 (latest numbers), of which Vermont forests sequester about 4,390,000 Mt/y*, or 0.973 Mt/acre/y. The remaining 5,610,000 Mt/y becomes an annual addition to the atmosphere. Vermont forests sequester less than 50% of Vermont CO2, i.e., there is no spare forest area in Vermont, or elsewhere, to sequester any CO2 from wood burning.


*The 1,618,565 Mt of CO2 from wood burning in Vermont is improperly excluded, due to the historical myth, “Burning Wood is CO2-neutral".



Per EPA: 1 acre of average U.S. Forest = 0.29 Mt C/acre/y x (44 CO2/12 C) = 1.06 Mt CO2/acre/y

Vermont claims 4,390,000 Mt CO2/y/4,483,886 forest acres = 0.979 Mt CO2/acre/y in 2015

Maine claims 0.3 MT C/acre/y x 44/12 = 1.1 Mt CO2/acre/y


NOTE: Vermont forests store about 480 million Mt of carbon, or 480 million/4,483,886 acre = 107.05 Mt C/acre, per VT Forest Carbon Assessment report of 2017. See last URL


According to USFS standards regarding nutrition, habitat, etc., Vermont harvest removals should be limited to 980,410 dry ton/y. However, Vermont’s 2014 harvest was 1,330,674 dry ton, an excess removal of 350,265 dry ton, per USFS.


The CEP projects Vermont wood burning biomass, including pellets, to increase from 10.730 TBtu in 2010 to 14.533 TBtu in 2050, about a 35% increase; these are end units, i.e., after burning. See pages 126 and 127 of CEP.


If the end units are green ton, and if burning is at the same average efficiency, the increase would be about 0.35 x 1,233,497, green ton (2014 Vermont wood burning harvest) = 431,724 green ton/y. This increase would feasible:


- If all of the increase were imported from NH, MA and NY. Vermont already imported about 371,691 green ton for wood burning in 2015.

- If McNeil and Ryegate were shutdown to make available about 347,342 (in-state) + 371,691 (out-of-state) = 719,033 green ton/y for distributed wood burning, instead of old-fashioned centralized power plant wood burning.


NOTE: If NH, MA, and NY also increase wood burning, the wood available to Vermont likely would become less.


The below tables are based on data from: The 2016 USFS report (based on 2015 surveys); the 2010 BERC update report (mostly based on pre-2010 data); the 2015 VT-FPR report of the 2014 VT harvest; the 2015 wood burning by McNeil and Ryegate. 


2016 USFS Report, based on 2015 survey data


dry ton/acre

Forest area, per USFS



Aboveground biomass, dry ton, per USFS



Timberland area, per USFS



Aboveground biomass, dry ton, per USFS



Harvested area, 41% of forest area, per BERC



Aboveground biomass, dry ton, per USFS




dry ton/y

dry ton/acre/y

Net growth of growing stock trees, per USFS



Mortality of growing stock trees, per USFS



Removals of growing stock trees, per USFS*



Net growth/Removals ratio



2014 Vermont Harvest, per VT-FPR



Harvest for all uses, cords, as harvested



Harvest, dry, live and dead trees, dry ton



Harvest, dry, live and dead trees, per USFS*, dry ton



Harvest, dry, live and dead trees, difference*, dry ton




*Removals” are estimated by measuring stumps in surveyed plots every 5 - 7 years; the stumps could be of live and dead trees.

* The “350,265 dry ton difference” is due to USFS sampling being based on 1 plot per 6,000 acres, whereas VT-FPR harvest reports are based on mill surveys, and other, more detailed, information gathering.


Local loggers report taking a lot of dead, dying and other low-value trees, which appears to be true, based on my observations of watching chipping operations in my neighborhood. Nutrition and habitat benefits to a forest are reduced, if dead wood (mostly cull tops and limbs, and cull boles) is removed.


- Harvest for wood burning = mostly low-grade biomass + some dead biomass.

- Dead trees typically are left in the forest for habitat and nutrition. In case of clear-cutting (up to 40 acres is allowed without a permit), near zero is left for habitat and nutrition.

- Net growth = gross growth - mortality


BERC 2010 Report, based on pre-2010 data


green ton

green ton/acre

Forest area, per BERC




Accessible, Appropriate, Managed area, per BERC




Low-grade inventory of live trees, page 23






green ton/y

green ton/acre/y

Net Available Low-grade Growth, page 24




NALG rate (USFS used 1.871 in 2015), %/y




VT 2014 wood burning harvest; see below table




Remaining NALG for burning and pulp





- NALG for burning and pulp is 894,893 green ton/y, per BERC report, mostly based on pre-2010 data.

- BERC uses a slightly lesser forest acreage than USFS.

- NALG wood is 1,466,982 green ton/y, per 2005 snapshot.

- NALG wood inventory is 51.03/109 = 46.8% of aboveground low-grade inventory, per BERC criteria.

- Low-grade wood consists of cull tops and limbs; cull boles; growing stock tops and limbs; growing stock boles.

- Vermont wood burning was 1,233,497 green ton (in-state harvest, 2014) + 371,691 green ton (out-of-state harvest, 2015).

- Pulp log uses are for firewood; pulp/paper mills; wood chip power plants; commercial & institutional heating plants.

- VT pulp tonnage to pulp/paper mills has been decreasing in recent years.


Vermont’s wood burning harvest was 354,462 cords, or 886,155 green ton for firewood + 347,342 green ton for electrical generation = 1,233,497 green ton in 2014. See URL.


About 347,342/719,033 = 48% of total electrical tonnage was harvested in Vermont. See below table and URLs.


NOTE: A standard ton of green wood is 45% H2O, and dry wood is 50% carbon. Burning one ton of green wood creates 2000 x (1- 0.45) x 0.5 x (44/12)/2000 = 1.00833 ton of CO2 emissions.



VT Harvest

 Space heating



 Total Electrical

Total burning 







In Vermont























Below are listed the wood tonnage and combustion CO2 tonnage of Vermont’s wood chip burning power plants in 2015.

A standard ton of green wood is 45% H2O, and dry wood is 50% carbon. Burning one ton of green wood creates 2000 x (1- 0.45) x 0.5 x (44/12)/2000 = 1.00833 ton of CO2 emissions.


Vermont Wood Power Plants










Electrical, wood

2015, McNeil




Electrical, wood CO2

EPA, McNeil



725,025 Emissions 2015.pdf TECHNICAL.pdf


Here are some URLs regarding wood burning.


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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.”

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