Gary Graham Hughes, THE NORTHCOAST ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER
Over the first months of 2023 Humboldt County has taken on a leadership role in a massive scheme that aims to export wood pellets from California to global bioenergy markets.
In January, Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn, who is the official delegate of Humboldt County to the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), an organization of some 40 rural counties from around the state, was appointed to the Board of Directors of Golden State Natural Resources. The five-person board also includes supervisors from Inyo, Modoc, Siskiyou and Butte Counties.
Golden State Natural Resources (GSNR), an “affiliated entity” of RCRC, is a wood pellet manufacturing and export scheme that proposes to construct two new facilities, one each in Tuolumne and Lassen Counties, to manufacture 1,000,000 tons a year of wood pellets. GSNR would then move those wood pellets by rail to ports in Stockton and Richmond for export by ship to markets in Asia, Latin America and Europe.
Increasingly, because of political convenience and carbon accounting loopholes, coal powered electricity generating facilities are converting to burning biomass. This global trend has continued despite the growing body of evidence that shows that wood pellets are a highly carbon-intensive, polluting, expensive, and inefficient energy source.
Even as the imperative to stop burning coal is becoming clearer by the day, the switch to biomass is climate suicide. Per unit of electricity produced, burning wood coughs up more carbon emissions at the smokestack than burning coal.
In fact, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution would be emitted at every step of the GSNR project, exposing this wood pellet export scheme as a losing proposition for the climate.
Cutting forests, trucking trees long distances, chipping the wood, manufacturing pellets, transporting the pellets by rail hundreds of miles to ports, and shipping the pellets to be burned overseas — every single one of these steps would be a significant source of climate pollution.