Estonia is beginning to see the cost of wood pellets. Is North Carolina next?

Trucks line up at one of Graanul Invest's four pellet mills in Estonia.

By / Elizabeth Ouzts

Trees loom large in North Carolina lore. “Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,” begins the state toast, a tribute to the vast savannas that once covered the eastern coastal plain.

But since British colonial ships were first bound with tar, North Carolina forests have been as much a source of commerce as of custom. Now, the state is set to become the world’s largest single source of wood pellets, capsules of dried wood that have become a controversial substitute for coal in power plants in Europe and Asia. 

As scientists say more natural, diverse woodlands are needed to suck carbon out of the atmosphere, North Carolina climate advocates have been pleading with state officials to rein in the industrial biomass industry. Across the Atlantic, the country of Estonia offers a cautionary tale for what could happen if they don’t.