Category Archives: Bioenergy / Agrofuels

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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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.”

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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

Land taken over by foreign investors could feed 550m people, study finds

By Damian Carrington, June 27, 2014. Source: The Guardian 

A worker at Saudi Star Rice Farm in Gambella, Ethiopia. Rights groups accuse the government of forcing people off their land to make way for foreign investors. Photograph by  Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images

A worker at Saudi Star Rice Farm in Gambella, Ethiopia. Rights groups accuse the government of forcing people off their land to make way for foreign investors. Photograph by Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images

 

The land grabbed in some of the world’s hungriest countries by foreign goverments and corporations could feed up to 550m people, according to new research. The crops grown on grabbed land are frequently exported, or used to produce biofuel, but the new work shows it could end malnourishment in those countries if used to feed local people.

Since 2000, at least 31m hectares (77m acres) of land has been acquired by overseas investors seeking to secure food supplies or increase production, a process dubbed land grabbing. Almost half has been in Africa, particularly Sudan. But Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have been targets too. Proponents argue the foreign investment can increase yields and provide development and employment, but critics say the grabs often occur without the consent of those on the land and lead to food being exported. Continue reading

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Take Action: Help stop logging of critical forest in MA (video)

The Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation & Recreation is reopening the critical Quabbin forest ecosystem and other public lands in Massachusetts to commercial logging. Trees are our climate saviors, we need to preserve the forests.

Watch the video for more details, then call the Massachusetts Governor to protest at 888-870-7770 or 617-725-4005

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Videos

Synthetic biology products found in “green” laundry detergent

Note: You can check out this letter from our friends with ETC Group asking Ecover to reconsider their use of synbio and genetic engineering in their “green” products.

-The GJEP Team

By Stephanie Strom, May 30, 2014. Source: NY Times

Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

Consumer products containing ingredients made using an advanced form of engineering known as synthetic biology are beginning to show up more often on grocery and department store shelves.

A liquid laundry detergent made by Ecover, a Belgian company that makes “green” household products including the Method line, contains an oil produced by algae whose genetic code was altered using synthetic biology. The algae’s DNA sequence was changed in a lab, according to Tom Domen, the company’s manager for long-term innovation.

Ecover calls the algae-produced oil a “natural” replacement for palm kernel oil, which is in such high demand that environmentalists are concerned that tropical rain forests are being felled to grow palm trees, disturbing ecosystems and threatening endangered animals.

“Finding a sustainable source of palm oil is, of course, difficult,” Mr. Domen said. “This new oil is a more sustainable alternative from a new technology.”

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, False Solutions to Climate Change, Genetic Engineering, Synthetic Biology

Genetically engineered tree industry halted in Oregon, New Zealand

Note: This decision in New Zealand, pulling the reigns on commercial release of genetically engineered (GE) trees, comes on the heels of a major victory against GE crops in Oregon’s Rogue Valley.  Global Justice Ecology Project has learned from county commissioners in Oregon that the recently approved ban does, in fact, cover GE trees (although specific enforcement regulations are yet to be written).

However small, these victories are important in stopping an industry hellbent on turning forests into factories of “designer” trees to fuel the industrial machine.

-The GJEP Team

May 22, 2014. Source: Voxy

Photo: New Zealand Forest Managers

Photo: New Zealand Forest Managers

The High Court decision to uphold the Sustainability Council’s appeal on genetic engineering (GE) is a win for New Zealand’s primary sector, the Green Party said today.

The High Court has upheld the Sustainability Council’s appeal against the Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision, which allowed organism’s resulting from new novel GE techniques to be signed off without public consultation. Scion (Forest Research Institute) had asked for a determination which may have allowed them to grow GE trees without public notification or process. This would have also allowed food crops using the same GE techniques to be commercialised without any requirement for public consultation.

“The Court has ruled that the EPA didn’t have the ability to allow these GE organisms to be signed off via a loop hole,” said Green Party GE spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“The original decision would have allowed a free for all using this new GE techniques before the European Union (EU) has even set rules about them. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

Scientists create bionic particles ‘inspired by Terminator’

Note: As if biofuels from genetically engineered trees and other crops weren’t bad enough…

-The GJEP Team

May 23, 2014. Source: The Guardian

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – a vision surely now only decades away. Photo: Observer

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – a vision surely now only decades away. Photo: Observer

In what might come to be seen as a moment of apocalyptic hubris, scientists at universities in Michigan and Pittsburgh in the US have pioneered bionic particles – a blend of organic matter with semiconductors – that they describe as being “inspired by fictional cyborgs like Terminator”.

The particles, currently microscopic but perhaps with the potential to scale up to nightmarish Austrian-accented machines, are a blend of cadmium telluride, which is used in solar panels to absorb sunlight, and cytochrome C, a plant protein that helps transports electrons during photosynthesis. Blended together, the new particles “recreate the heart of the process that allows plants to turn sunlight into fuel”.

The hope is that the particles will aid a more efficient conversion of sunlight into biofuels, rather than setting off a chain of events that leads to Skynet being switched on. “We merged biological and inorganic in a way that leverages the attributes of both to get something better than either alone,” said Sharon Glotzer, who headed up the research, alluding to the lethal blend of malleability and strength inherent to the T-1000 model of Terminator.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Genetic Engineering, Synthetic Biology

Green groups issue warning over EU biomass plans

May 21, 2014. Source: Business Green
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Europe’s demand for biomass power is likely to exceed the amount of wood and land available to grow energy crops within its borders, researchers have warned.
study by the International Institute for Sustainability Analysis and Strategy (IINAS), the European Forest Institute, and Joanneum Research this week predicted planned demand for timber will probably surpass the amount that can be sustainably extracted from European forests unless the continent’s waste wood from industry and agriculture is fully utilised. It added that specific new incentives would be required to ensure waste materials are diverted for bio-energy use.
Meanwhile, a separate paper from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) also concluded the amount of land available for energy crops without displacing valuable habitats is only around 1.3 million hectares, while the European Commission foresees demand for energy crops that would require an area five times larger in 2030. It added that the amount of land that could be safely dedicated to provide biofuels for the transport sector alone would only meet one per cent of projected needs.
Biomass and biofuels are seen as a low emissions alternative to fossil fuels, but controversy remains over whether wood and other materials is sourced sustainably and how emissions reductions from the technology are calculated. Some studies show that certain biofuels may actually have a larger carbon footprint than the traditional fuels they are designed to replace once emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC), such as clearing forests for energy crop production are taken into account.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change