Category Archives: Bioenergy / Agrofuels

Colorado Biomass = Clearcut=False Solutions to Climate Change

It is difficult to imagine that in 2014 we are still facing clearcut  strategies for our rapidly disappearing forested lands. Biomass is certainly a false solution to climate change. From the Summit County Colorado Summit Daily

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Is biomass all its cut up to be? 

Howard Brown    17 October 2014    Summit Daily

One possible reason for sticking to the ill-advised Ophir Mountain and other clear-cutting plans is that the clear-cut trees would go to the biomass power plant in Gypsum. Biomass power is renewable energy. It wouldn’t justify destroying Summit County’s wonderful forests and trails, but biomass is green energy right? Maybe not.

Is biomass power a good renewable energy source that we should promote here in Colorado? To answer this, we need to back up and look at where biomass energy comes from. As with most of our energy sources, it starts with energy from the sun. In photosynthesis, plants use solar energy to convert water and carbon dioxide to carbohydrates. Energy is stored in the carbon-hydrogen bonds. (Geologic pressure over time strips the oxygen from plant material to create hydrocarbon fossil fuels.) When animals metabolize carbohydrates, or when plant or fossil fuel material combusts (burns), that energy is released as oxygen combined with the material, returning to the lower-energy carbon-oxygen and hydrogen-oxygen bonds of carbon dioxide and water.

The problem with fuels such as coal and wood is that they are solids. The combustion process requires direct contact between oxygen molecules and molecules of the fuel. For gaseous fuels such as natural gas, that is very easy, individual oxygen molecules readily mix directly with individual methane molecules. For liquid fuels such as petroleum products, vegetable oil or ethanol, that mixing is more difficult and the resulting combustion less efficient. With solid fuels, however, it is exceedingly difficult for individual oxygen molecules to contact individual fuel molecules, so the combustion process is incomplete and far less efficient.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Climate Change, Energy, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Uncategorized

Brazil to Build Huge Biomass Plant

BOLT Energias has secured the 150 MW Campo Grande biomass power plant.  The facility will be operational in 2017, and will be fueled with woody biomass. This will be Brazil’s largest biomass plant. Areva has already constructed 95 biomass plants globally with a total installed capacity of over 2,500MW.

French Energy Firm Areva will build the BOLT Energias 150MW Campo Grande biomass plant.

French Energy Firm Areva will build the BOLT Energias 150MW Campo Grande biomass plant.

 Areva secures contract to build Brazil’s largest biomass power plant

Clean Technology Business Review (CBTR)  15 October 2014

French energy firm Areva has secured a contract to build the 150MW Campo Grande biomass power plant for Brazilian utility BOLT Energias.

Planned to be built in the northeastern state of Bahia, the Campo Grande plant is claimed to be the largest biomass facility in Brazil.

The contract requires Areva to deliver engineering, procurement and construction services for the plant, which will feature three 50MW modules.

The facility, which is expected to commence operations in 2017, will be fueled with woody biomass.

Areva Renewables CEO Louis-François Durret said: “Awarded as part of the first biomass plant project undertaken in Brazil in recent years, this success illustrates BOLT Energias’ recognition of AREVA’s knowledge in construction and technological expertise.

“This contract will mark the first step of a successful collaboration with our Brazilian partner.”

Areva has already constructed 95 biomass plants globally, with a total installed capacity of over 2,500MW.

Read the whole article here

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Invasive Species and The GE/GMO Relationship

Most readers of Climate Connections know that we at the Global Justice Ecology Project, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, and Biofuelwatch, consider that GE Trees can be highly invasive species. These synthetic organisms live for a long time and introduce toxins into natural ecosystems. This profoundly and negatively impacts ecosystem services. The biotech industry wants us to believe that these products are safe. The  Convention for Biological Diversity adopted the The Precautionary Principle in 2001 because adequate GMO science is uncertain, ambiguous, has omitted research areas, and lacks the basic knowledge of crucial risk assessments.

An article published yesterday in Environmental Health News and Truthout tells the horrible story of the consequences of invasive species to birds in the Great Lakes of North America.

While the invasives in the story are not GE Trees, the lessons to be learned from this invasion are fundamental and are exactly why we have to be very careful when introducing invasive species into the wild.

 

Diane Borgreen from the Wildlife Health Office collects a Franklin's gull affected by avian botulism. Botulism toxin paralyzes the muscles and results in the death of thousands of birds every year. (Photo: Lee Jones / USFWS)

Diane Borgreen from the Wildlife Health Office collects a Franklin’s gull affected by avian botulism. Botulism toxin paralyzes the muscles and results in the death of thousands of birds every year. (Photo: Lee Jones / USFWS)

Mass Murder by Botulism: surge in Great Lakes Bird Deaths Driven by Invaders

By Brian Bienkowski, Truthout. 15 October 2014

Leland, Michigan - A midsummer overcast lifts as Lake Michigan changes from inky black to a deep blue-green. Ben Turschak bends over the rail of the boat, staring into the abyss in search of an exact spot.

“There it is, there it is,” Turschak says. He points to an underwater buoy used to mark a stash of underwater cameras and monitoring equipment 60 feet below the surface.

Turschak, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate student, and his colleague Emily Tyner climb into bulky dry suits and strap on air tanks, masks and flippers, preparing for a plunge into the 60-degree water.

“I’m a little nervous, I haven’t dived here in two years. I’ve dived in the Caribbean and it’s just much harder here,” Tyner says. “This lake might as well be an ocean.”

Turschak leads Tyner down to the bottom. Ten minutes later they splash up, then climb back onto the boat and start unloading their bounty of water samples and a big bag of smelly green algae. “That’s the most gobies we’ve seen,” Tyner says. The aggressive bottom-feeding fish with a voracious appetite, accidentally imported from Eurasia, has taken over the nearshore waters here.

Read the full article here.

 

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Great Lakes, Human made disasters, Monsanto, Pollution

Biomass-the Wrong Solution to Climate Change

Today’s post comes from our friends at the Energy Justice Network and the Biomass Monitor.

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Biomass Energy: Another Kind of Climate Change Denial

By Josh Schlossberg, Biomass Monitor. October 12, 2014

We’re all familiar with climate change deniers, cheerfully and/or willfully ignorant folk who refuse to accept that human-caused carbon emissions are responsible for the climate crisis — or that there even is a climate crisis. Those of us who value science and common sense typically have as much patience for these twenty-three percent of Americans as we do for anyone who believes that maggots arise spontaneously from rotting meat, witches cause disease, or the Earth is the center of the universe.

Recently, a subtler breed of climate change denier has emerged, spreading their propaganda and even infiltrating aspects of the environmental movement: biomass boosters. These advocates for the biomass energy industry often avoid detection by professing concern with carbon emissions. Yet, while cursing fossil fuels out of one side of their mouths, out of the other they bless the burning of one of the world’s greatest buffers against runaway climate chaos — our forests — for energy.

If the climate movement wants to win over the American people and influence policy, it needs to have credibility, which only comes through consistency, and that means distancing itself from the climate change deniers in our midst.

Read the whole article here.

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Rachel Smolker on IEN’s Indigenous Peoples’ Action Camp to Stop GE Trees

Frank Billie of the Seminole Tribe from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

Frank Billie of the Seminole Tribe from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

As we reported yesterday, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US last week for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees).

Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest.

Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch, participated in the action camp as a member of the steering committee of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees.

In her blog for the Huffington Post, Smolker provides a compelling account of the purpose for the action camp and the ideas coming out of it.

Rachel SmolkerColumbus Day and the Colonization of Land, Trees and Genes

By Rachel Smolker, Huffington Post Tech Blog, October 13, 2014.

I spent the past several days participating in the Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to Stop GE Trees Action Camp in the Qualla Boundary, homelands of the Eastern Band Cherokee in North Carolina. Participants included members of tribes across the Southeast, who came to learn about plans for growing genetically engineered trees on and/or adjacent to their territories.

On Columbus Day we can sadly reflect on the brutal history of colonization that American Indians faced when Europeans “discovered” and then claimed their lands. Now, centuries later, the ongoing colonization process threatens to colonize not only their lands, but even the genetics of the trees in their forests that are central to their history and livelihoods.

Read the whole essay here.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Events, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples

Big Biomass expands throughout US, making specious arguments all the way

BIomass plant.

BIomass plant.

When will people realize that Big Oil and Big Ag have a third partner in crime — Big Biomass? Some studies even show that biomass facilities produce more pollutants than burning oil, emitting large quantities of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and sulphur dioxide.

A new wood-burning biomass factory opens soon in Iowa, according to an article on Forbes. Reporter Ken Silverstein then goes on to explain the uses of cellulosic ethanol. Ultimately, lessening the U.S. dependance on foreign oil is NOT the same as promoting renewable energy.

Advanced Ethanol Makers Are Trying To Give Big Oil A Run For Its Money

By Ken Silverstein, Forbes. October 8, 2014.

Big Oil can’t put the brakes on a new renewable fuels factory in Iowa — one that will seek to supplement petroleum with next-generation cellulosic ethanol. The “Project Liberty” facility will consume 285,000 tons of biomass a year to produce up to 25 million gallons annually of bio-ethanol.

What makes this deal noteworthy is that, if successful, it would help move the nation away from the controversial corn-based ethanol era and into the cellulosic ethanol period, or one that relies on wood, grasses and inedible plants. The benefits are that cellulosic ethanol is abundant in nature, however, the cost of converting such biomass to a transportation fuel is prohibitively expensive.

 

Read the full article here.

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Corporate evasion of deforestation rules in Indonesia makes local communities responsible

As a follow-up to Wednesday’s Climate Connections story on protecting peat forests in Indonesia, we bring this story: Palm oil companies in Indonesia are contracting with local communities to purchase harvested fruits. This results in smallholders and local communities engaging in clearing protected forests and planting palms in the protected areas. This shifts the responsibilities and the legal consequences of breaking the laws to individuals, many of which are going to jail.

"Smallholder" clearing in Central Kalimantan in 2013. Photos by Rhett Butler  Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/1004-lbell-small-palm-oil.html#8ouL8R4r3OrMtAX3.99

“Smallholder” clearing in Central Kalimantan in 2013. Photos by Rhett Butler
Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/1004-lbell-small-palm-oil.html#8ouL8R4r3OrMtAX3.99

Companies hire local communities to evade palm oil restrictions in Indonesia
Loren Bell, Mongabay. October 4, 2014

As more palm oil companies are held accountable for deforestation in Indonesia, a growing number are hiring local communities to do their dirty work. According to the Oil Palm Farmers Union (SPKS), companies promise to buy mature fruits at attractive rates from smallholders and local villages who agree to clear and plant in protected forest areas. Through these agreements, companies distance themselves from the process, leaving the locals to bear responsibility for the destruction.

Mansuetus Darto, National Coordinator of SPKS, says the deals often involve local officials, who encourage law enforcement to look the other way.

“However, if law enforcement is not complicit,” Darto said, when action is taken, “the palm oil companies are able to ‘dump the body,’ while the community members who entered the agreement are the ones who go to jail. This is happening throughout Indonesia.”

Read the Full Article Here.

 

 

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Commodification of Life, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Land Grabs, Uncategorized

Indonesia peatland protection a huge climate change issue

Tropical peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia “have been systematically cleared, drained, and burned away” to make room for eucalyptus tree and palm oil plantations. These peatlands have taken thousands of years to evolve, and are critical natural resources that store enormous amounts of carbon and promote the earth’s ability to resist atmospheric instability. Read more here in this July 2014 article by Loren Bell from Mongabay, “What is peat swamp, and why should I care?”

This is another informative piece posted at GreenPeace Blog in June of this year: “10 Reasons to Save the Indonesian Peat”

The Indonesian government has responded to the crisis by enacting legislation protecting the peat forests.

Recently the Indonesian High Court of Banda Aceh upheld a ruling against PT. Alam, a Palm Oil company found guilty of destroying over 1000 hectares of protected peat forest.

Indonesia’s peat stores a significant amount of carbon – up to 60 billion metric tons, which makes it a virtual carbon bomb when released through deforestation and burning. Photo: Kerumutan Peat Swamp Forest, important habitat for the critically-endangered Sumatran tiger, by Kemal Jufri – Greenpeace.

Indonesia’s peat stores a significant amount of carbon – up to 60 billion metric tons, which makes it a virtual carbon bomb when released through deforestation and burning. Photo: Kerumutan Peat Swamp Forest, important habitat for the critically-endangered Sumatran tiger, by Kemal Jufri – Greenpeace.

Last week at a business roundtable in Jakarta, the Indonesian Palm Oil Producer Association, and the Pulp and Paper Producers Association criticized the Peat Forest Protection Legislation and called for its annulment. We will follow this story.

Read the story from the Jakarta Post below.

Peatland rule sparks protests

By Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post. October 6, 2014

Palm oil and forestry-based industries strongly protested the newly issued government regulation on peatland protection and management, saying that it would hurt investment in oil palm plantations totaling Rp 136 trillion (US$11.17 billion) and 340,000 workers in the plantation sector.

Indonesian Palm Oil Producer Association (Gapki) and Pulp and Paper Producers Association said during a roundtable discussion organized by Indonesian Journalists Association (PJI) in Jakarta on Friday that the government regulation should be annulled or revised.

Water levels in the country’s 1.7 million peatlands are mostly below the required level to grow oil palm and eucalyptus trees. Therefore, most peatland areas accommodating oil palm plantations will have to be rehabilitated. According to the association, if water levels surpass 40 cm, oil palm and eucalyptus trees will be unable to grow due as their roots will be submerged in water.

Read the full story here.

 

 

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees