New PFPI Report: Climate of Deception exposes biomass industry greenwash

source: Biofuelwatch

McNeil Plant, Burlington, Vermont-source: Biofuelwatch

A just released report by Kelly Bitov and Dr. Mary Booth of the Partnership for Public Integrity (PFPI) persuasively argues that electricity consumers who care about the environment, global warming, and air pollution need Federal Trade Commission  (FTC) protection from biomass industry greenwashing. The report details how Biomass power companies make environmental claims that are, to say the least, misleading.

Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch, told Climate Connections that it makes sense that investors should be wary about funding biomass projects since the world is rapidly catching on to the hoax that it is “clean, green and C neutral” and policy makers are taking note.

 Read the full report, released on July 29, 2014 here.

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New World Bank ‘light touch’ rules abandon ecological protections, allow borrowers to opt out of indigenous rights


Villagers walk through recently cleared forest inside a HAGL rubber plantation in 2013. Source: Phnom Penh Post

Villagers walk through recently cleared forest inside a HAGL rubber plantation in 2013. Source: Phnom Penh Post

John Vidal of the Guardian recently reported on a leaked draft of the World Bank’s proposed new ‘light touch’ lending policies, weakening safeguards put in place after disastrous projects drew global criticism to it in the 1980s and 1990s.

According to Vidal, the new relaxed policies would allow for logging and mining in before protected areas as long as ecological “off-sets” are put in place and would not require consultation with indigenous peoples before projects like tree plantations or mega-dams begin on their land.

Moreover, Vidal writes,

Under the proposed new “light touch” rules, the result of a two year consultation within the bank, borrowers will be allowed to opt out of signing up to employment safeguards, existing protection for biodiversity will be shredded, countries will be allowed to assess themselves, and harmful projects are much more likely to occur…

Most shocking is the opt-out option on indigenous rights:

a proposed loophole for governments to opt out of applying the bank’s policy on indigenous peoples, jeopardising the rights of hunter-gatherer communities such as the pygmies of the Congo rainforest.

The Bank Information Center, a World Bank watchdog group, further explains the meaning of the proposed new policies.

On off-sets:

Meanwhile, the introduction of “biodiversity offsets” into previous “no-go” areas substantially weakens existing protections for critical natural habitats and protected areas, based on the shaky premise that destruction to these areas can be compensated or “offset” by agreements to preserve habitats elsewhere in perpetuity.

On gutted assessment:

The elimination of clear, predictable rules also appears to be a clear attempt by the Bank to avoid accountability for the negative impacts of projects that it funds.

Finally, the BIC writes:

As the World Bank asks us to trust them, the string of broken promises, the climate of secrecy in preparing the proposal, and an underfunded safeguard staffing structure in utter disarray, provide little reassurance that these policies will be implemented in an effective way to prevent negative impacts to project affected communities and the environment.

Safeguards are only as good as the institution itself: Even with these safeguards in place, the World Bank has backed projects that are ecologically and ethically unsound. The above photo, for example, comes from a story from April on an investigation of the World Bank funding illegal land grabbing. Other such stories can be easily found on Climate Connections.

Rather than ushering in a new period, these policies seem more like the real face of the Bank peeking through.





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Filed under Indigenous Peoples, World Bank

U.S Coal Exports are a significant part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan

Powder River Mining- Source Greenpeace USA

Powder River Mining- Source Greenpeace USA

A new report released by Greenpeace USA, Leasing Coal, Fueling Climate Change, reveals that the United States’ federal coal leasing program promotes more coal mining and exports, and has lead to 3.9 billion metric tons of carbon pollution since the beginning of the Obama administration and is equivalent to the 3.7 billion tons of carbon that was emitted in the entire European Union in 2012. The report questions the ability to reconcile the coal leasing and export program with the Obama Climate Action Plan.

According to the report:

Without major changes, the federal coal leasing program will continue to undermine federal, state, and international efforts to reduce carbon pollution; the BLM Wyoming office plans to lease over 10 billion tons of coal in the coming years, dwarfing the emissions reductions expected from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The report comes to several startling conclusions including:

The carbon pollution from publicly owned coal leased during the Obama administration will cause damages estimated at between $52 billion and $530 billion, using the federal government’s social cost of carbon estimates.In contrast, the total amount of revenue generated from those coal leases sales was $2.3 billion.


A ton of publicly owned coal leased during the Obama administration will, on average, cause damages estimated at between $22 and $237, using the federal government’s social cost of carbon estimates – yet the average price per ton for those coal leases was only $1.03.

A July 28, 2014 post in DESMOG Blog by Steve Horn Greenpeace Report: Obama Administration Exporting Climate Change by Exporting Coal says that the policies represented by the coal development and exports

serve as major endorsements of continued coal production and export to overseas markets

and that

the report tackles the dark underbelly of a rule that only polices coal downstream at the power plant level and largely ignores the upstream and global impacts of coal production at-large.

The DESMOG article is full of jaw dropping statistics gleaned from the Greenpeace USA report and is an important read.

Other recent stories linked in the DESMOG report echo this theme. Read them here:

AP-July 28, 2014  Not in my backyard: US sending dirty coal abroad by Dina Cappiello

Rolling Stone-February 3, 2014  How the US Exports Global Warming by Tim Dickinson

Maclean’s June 10, 2014 America’s dirty secret  by Luiza Ch. Savage





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Filed under Climate Change, Coal

Orin Langelle responds to Rolling Stone article, “Green Going Gone: The Tragic Deforestation of the Chaco”

Orin Langelle, Board Chair, Global Justice Ecology Project

I am impressed to see attention being given to the Chaco region by Christine MacDonald’s Rolling Stone article.  I also witnessed some of the tragedy of the Chaco and Paraguay itself.

In 2009 I traveled to the Chaco with Dr. Miguel Lovera, my friend and the chairperson of Global Forest Coalition and part of the Ayoreo support group, Iniciativa Amotocodie.

Dr. Lovera became National Secretary for Plant Safety for Paraguay during Fernado Lugo’s presidency. In her article, MacDonald writes that “Lugo was swept from office in 2012 [by] an impeachment carried out by the Paraguayan Congress.” My colleagues in Paraguay would disagree with the term “impeachment.” To them it was a coup that forced Lugo out of office in 2012.

Because of the coup, Dr. Lovera lost his job as National Secretary for Plant Safety for Paraguay.  While National Secretary, Lovera was in constant battle with the soy mafia and tried to stop the introduction of GMO cotton. Lovera had armed guards in his home due to his ongoing campaign to stop GMOs. No doubt Paraguay’s agribusiness leaders and their friends at Monsanto celebrated the fact that Lovera was removed from office.

 When I was in the Chaco in 2009 it was evident that things were bad and were going to get worse.  One of the tragic realities is the ongoing hostilities against the indigenous Ayoreo People of the Chaco. I was invited by the Ayoreo community to photograph Campo Lorro, where some of the first Ayoreo People captured were sent when Mennonite farmers established settlements on their land.

Below is one of photos I shot in Campo Lorro for the photo essay “Sharing the Eye.”


There are still uncontacted Ayoreo living in the Gran Chaco. They do not want contact with “civilization” and wish to remain in their forest home. Today, however, cattle ranches, expansion of genetically modified soybean plantations for biofuels, hydroelectric dams and mineral exploitation threaten the forests of the Chaco.

The Rolling Stone article by Christine MacDonald definitely documents the ongoing tragedy of the Chaco. A subtitle in her article, “Animal Cruelty is the Price We Pay for Cheap Meat,” highlights the policies of US-based agribusiness giants Cargill Inc., Bunge Ltd., and Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Besides reading the Rolling Stone article, you can also see more from Global Forest Coalition on the negative impact of unsustainable livestock production in South America, the continent with the highest deforestation rates on earth: Redirecting Government Support for Unsustainable Livestock Production key to Biodiversity Conservation, Claim New Report and Briefing Paper.

Read the Rolling Stone Article:  Green Going Gone: the Tragic Deforestation of the Chaco, by Christine MacDonald

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Land Grabs, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, South America, Uncategorized

GMO corn fails in Brazil; farmers blame Monsanto, Syngenta, etc.


corn-nightA long-time friend in Vermont, Chris Hendel, sent us this story from Reuters: BT corn seeds, hyped as being resistant to pests, have largely failed to do that in Brazil, and have led to bug resistant crops and greater farmer dependence on toxic chemicals.

This maps onto resistance identified in Iowa.

The Brazilian farmers, though, are going after the pesticide corporations.

According to Caroline Stauffer:

Producers want four major manufacturers of so-called BT corn seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three coats of pesticides this year, said Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Aprosoja farm lobby in Mato Grosso state.

The companies involved are Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta.

At the same time that farmers are fighting GMO corn in Brazil, timber corporation Suzano and their subsidiary Futuragene are seeking permission for the first ever GMO trees in Brazil–genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

There is also an application pending here in the US to legalize highly toxic, flammable and water greedy GE eucalyptus trees for industrial plantations.

To support the effort to stop GE trees, sign our petition calling for a ban.

By Caroline Stauffer,  Jul 28, 2014.

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Genetically modified corn seeds are no longer protecting Brazilian farmers from voracious tropical bugs, increasing costs as producers turn to pesticides, a farm group said on Monday.

Producers want four major manufacturers of so-called BT corn seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three coats of pesticides this year, said Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Aprosoja farm lobby in Mato Grosso state.

“The caterpillars should die if they eat the corn, but since they didn’t die this year producers had to spend on average 120 reais ($54) per hectare … at a time that corn prices are terrible,” he said.

Large-scale farming in the bug-ridden tropics has always been a challenge, and now Brazil’s government is concerned that planting the same crops repeatedly with the same seed technologies has left the agricultural superpower vulnerable to pest outbreaks and dependent on toxic chemicals.

Experts in the United States have also warned about corn production prospects because of a growing bug resistance to genetically modified corn. Researchers in Iowa found significant damage from rootworms in corn fields last year.

Read more here.

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Filed under Industrial agriculture, Uncategorized

Three arrested blockading train tracks in Pacific Northwest, protesting oil-by-rail expansion

Three Seattle area resident blockade train tracks at the Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery. Photo credit: @SeattleActivist

Three Seattle area resident blockade train tracks at the Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery. Photo credit: @SeattleActivist

On Monday, July 28th, three locals locked themselves onto train tracks in Anacortes, Washington to protest oil-by-rail shipments.

The protesters blocked the tracks at an oil refinery owned by Tesoro, which is planning to expand.

They were particularly inspired to act after an train full of Bakken field crude oil headed to the Anacortes refinery derailed in Seattle last week, another in a series of such accidents that have been devastating throughout the US and Canada.

According to EcoWatch:

The protestors were demanding an immediate end to the shipment of Bakken oil through Northwest communities, all new oil-by-rail terminals proposed for the Northwest and Clean Air Act violations by oil refineries.

The protest lasted four hours and stopped one train. They were later arrested.

Two of the protesters are part of Rising Tide Seattle, including Ahmed Gaya. At a recent protest, Gaya described the current expansion of fossil fuels and coastal refineries in the Pacific Northwest: “Our region is under attack from thousands of tank cars carrying bombs rolling through our communities.”




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Filed under Actions / Protest, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Oil, Tar Sands

Isolated Amazon Tribe endures acts of violence by non indigenous attackers.


Source: FUNAI-Brazil National Indian Foundation -2008- Isolated indigenous people near Envira River in Brazil, near the border with Peru.

Source: FUNAI-Brazil National Indian Foundation -2008- Isolated indigenous people near Envira River in Brazil, near the border with Peru.

Source: Vincent Bevins, July 25, 2014. Los Angeles Times

The Brazil National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) recently announced that it had made contact with an isolated indigenous tribe in the Amazon region bordering Brazil and Peru. The tribe reportedly initiated the contact after disease and violent attacks by non-indigenous people at the head of the Envira River in Peru. FUNAI said that this was the first significant contact with an isolated tribe since 1996

FUNAI has a policy of avoiding unwanted contact and preserving the land rights of indigenous groups. The suggestion that violence and disease in these fragile communities recently forced them off of their land and into contact with authorities, is troubling, indigenous rights groups say.

It’s extremely rare for the tribes to move into other groups’ land unless there is serious trouble, said Fiona Watson, research director at Survival International, an indigenous rights organization.

“This is extremely worrying,” said Watson, who added that her group had found evidence of logging, coca cultivation and drug trafficking near the indigenous-occupied region on the Peruvian side of the border.

“The most immediate question is of the flu. People who have had no contact for so long have no immunity to things like the flu or the common cold, and we know from past experience that it wasn’t uncommon after forced contact for half of the tribe to die,” she said.

For more on this subject see Orin Langelle’s The Unconquered, in search of the Amazon’s last uncontacted tribes-A Review  from Climate Connections, October 24, 2011

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A question of local bans: Two accounts of the South Portland, Maine block on tar sands


Citizens in favor of the ban during the South Portland City Council meeting. Logan Werlinger/Portland Press Herald

Last week, there was quite a bit of coverage on the ordinance passed by the South Portland, Maine city council, blocking Canadian tar sands oil from its port.

The measure would prevent ExxonMobil from reversing the flow of its current pipeline, which now brings oil into Canada, so that it could bring Alberta tar-sands oil to the port for export on a global market.

The block is called the ‘Clear Skies’ ordinance, as a response to the local environmental damage that would be caused by processing the tar sands to be ready for export. As Katherine Bagley reports in Inside Climate News:

The council and allies fought the pipeline plan because of the risk of toxic spills and air pollution [...]. Dozens of heavy chemicals are added to bitumen extracted from tar sands to help the peanut butter-like substance flow through pipes. Before the mixture can be loaded onto tankers, these chemicals must be burned off, releasing toxins including benzene, a human carcinogen, into the air. The export hub in South Portland would be located just steps from an elementary school, a popular waterfront park and residential neighborhoods.

While many see this as a successful local response, others take up the broader context: In particular, Katherine Bagley quotes financial and oil industry insiders who point out that the oil corporations can simply find other ports.

But these insiders have a real vested interest in downplaying the effectiveness of local resistance. Bagley’s article also indirectly shows how resistance starts stacking up:

With access to the Gulf of Mexico and the West Coast limited because of delays with the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, the East Coast is largely seen as the remaining option to export Alberta’s oil sands via pipeline—and the Portland-Montreal line is the only existing route connecting Alberta to Maine.

While Bagley’s article includes important questions about efficacy, having so many industry insiders declaring the South Portland victory “hollow” might just be a sign of their own fears, which is good.

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