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Climate Central’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ Wins National Award

By Staff Report

Climate Central’s groundbreaking series Pulp Fiction was honored by the Online News Association with its annual award for explanatory journalism at its national convention on Saturday.

Pulp Fiction, a three-part series, explained how the harvesting of trees in the U.S. to be burned in power plants and considered renewable energy in Europe is threatening to warm the planet faster than burning coal.

The series was also named a finalist for the John B. Oakes Award, given by the Columbia School of Journalism for excellence in environmental journalism.

The ONA’s annual awards are the sole set of journalism prizes dedicated to honoring excellence in digital journalism, from major media and international news sites to smaller independent and non-profit media like Climate Central.

Credit: By Ted Blanco/Climate Central

The awards are divided into small, medium and large media categories. Pulp Fiction won in the small media category, being selected over three other finalists: Grist, Retro Report and The Center for Public Integrity.

Pulp Fiction’s success stemmed from comprehensive reporting by Climate Central’s John Upton, who reported the issue from both sides of the Atlantic. The climate-threatening nature of wood energy stems from a flaw in Europe’s carbon regulations, which considers burning wood to be carbon-neutral, and the plentiful forests of the southeast U.S., where trees are being harvested to be shipped overseas.

“The issue is complicated because both sides of it have to be taken into account,” said Geoff Grant, director of digital media and editorial for Climate Central. “John and our team of researchers, photographers and videographers did an amazing job of telling the whole story comprehensively and spelling out the worldwide impacts.

“In a year when the Paris climate accord gave the world real momentum to act on climate change, the reporting -- and the conclusions -- turned out to be an important story."

Since the series was published last fall, the European Commission has launched an investigation into the impacts of British wood energy subsidies for the power plant that was the focus of the series, and its officials have separately begun working to overhaul the rules that promote those subsidies.

Even as Europe tries to wind back its support for the harmful energy source, Congress has been trying to pass laws that would prevent the federal government from regulating climate pollution from wood energy — similar to the destructive policies in place on the other side of the Atlantic.

Read the full Pulp Fiction series here:
Part 1 (Oct. 20, 2015) The European Accounting Error That's Warming the Planet 
Part 2 (Oct. 21, 2015) The American Trees That Are Electrifying Europe  
Part 3 (Oct. 22, 2015) Wood Burning May Play Big Role In EPA’s New Rules