Wood is becoming a hot commodity in a new low-carbon world.
Power companies are burning more trees because the renewable fuel can be cheaper than coal and ignited without needing permits to release carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.
Vattenfall AB of Sweden, Germany’s RWE AG and American Electric Power Inc. of Ohio, the biggest coal-burner in the U.S., have switched a few plants over to wood and more are planned. So far that hasn’t driven up paper prices or strained forests, which absorb carbon dioxide in photosynthesis.
“Wood is very quickly becoming a very important part of the energy mix and in a few years will be a global commodity much like oil,” said Heinrich Unland, chief executive officer of Novus Energy GmbH. The German company runs a wood-power plant north of Hamburg that supplies heat to a Total SA refinery.
Using biomass for power and heat -- mainly from poplar, willow and pine trees -- ...