Category Archives: Bioenergy / Agrofuels

The Perils of Wood-Based Bioenergy: Paraguay Blog Post #2

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project, 20 November 2014

Global Justice Ecology Project is in Paraguay for two weeks of meetings to strategize means to address the impacts of wood-based bioenergy, genetically engineered trees and livestock on deforestation levels, and the solutions to the climate change and deforestation crisis provided by local communities maintaining and caring for their traditional lands.

Ada from the Solomon Islands.  If biomass energy is not stopped, her islands will continue to drown.  Photo credit: GJEP-GFC

Aydah from the Solomon Islands speaks at the meeting. If biomass energy is not stopped, her islands will continue to drown. Photo credit: GJEP-GFC

Today’s meetings included the participation of activists from throughout Africa, Asia, the South Pacific, North and South America and Eastern and Western Europe.  The topic at hand was the problem of wood-based bioenergy–specifically electricity derived from cutting down forests, destroying biodiversity, polluting the atmosphere and displacing forest-based Indigenous and local communities.

Biomass also comes with an enormous cost in waste. In the Drax UK biomass plant, Biofuelwatch has calculated that of every three trees burned, two are wasted as heat. Half of one UK power station takes more wood than the entire UK produces every year and supplies only 4.6% of the country’s electricity demand. These power stations require co-generation with coal, so increased use of biomass = increased use of coal. Without the biomass conversion, this Drax plant would have had to close by 2016. The conversion to co-generation with biomass is allowing it to stay open, enabling continued and increased use of coal.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Pollution, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Impressions from Paraguay: Day one in the tropics

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Ayoreo family in the Gran Chaco in Paraguay.  This family and their community were forcibly relocated from their homeland by groups who want to exploit the Chaco.  Photolangelle.org

Ayoreo family in the Gran Chaco in Paraguay. This family and their community were relocated from their homeland by groups who want to exploit the Chaco. Photolangelle.org

Global Justice Ecology Project just arrived in Paraguay for two weeks of meetings on the themes of wood-based bioenergy, genetically engineered trees, the impacts of livestock and GMO soy production on global deforestation levels, and the solutions to climate change and deforestation provided by local communities maintaining and caring for their traditional lands.

Looking out of the Asunción hotel room at the wide majestic Paraguay river, and the expanse of forest on the other side, feeling the tropical humidity and listening to the rumble of distant thunder, it is hard to imagine that yesterday my GJEP colleague and I woke up in the midst of a major snowstorm in Buffalo, NY.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Indigenous Peoples, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Tree Plantations, Uncategorized

United States Forest Service wants to cut the 700,000 acre Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina

The Southern Environmental Law Center issued a press release on 12 November revealing a new U.S. Forest Service proposal introducing industrial-scale logging in the Pisgah-Natahala National Forest in western North Carolina.  The 700,000 acres targeted is an area larger than the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

Cat Gap Trail to John Rock, Pisgah National Forest photo internetbrothers.org

Cat Gap Trail to John Rock, Pisgah National Forest photo internetbrothers.org

Earth First Journal reports

Forest Service Proposes Massive Logging Project in North Carolina’s Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest
by Kathleen Sullivan / Southern Environmental Law Center

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—In what conservation groups flag as a dramatic shift, the U.S. Forest Service is proposing industrial-scale logging in the vast majority of the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest in western North Carolina – about 700,000 acres, or an area bigger than the Great Smoky Mountain National Park – instead of protecting popular backcountry recreation destinations and conserving the Blue Ridge landscapes treasured by residents and tourists from across the United States.

“Under the law and for everyone who enjoys America’s forests, the Forest Service’s first priority should be fixing the mistakes of the past – restoring the parts of the forest already damaged by prior logging,” said DJ Gerken, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “But the misguided logging plan proposed by the agency will repeat those old mistakes, causing more damage and putting the healthiest forests we have left on the chopping block. The people who use and love these forests won’t stand for cutting them down.”

Read the whole article here

 

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

Think again on renewables: Truthout article by Almuth Ernsting

Almuth Ernsting and Rachel Smolker are co-directors of Biofuelwatch, and partners  with the Global Justice Ecology Project. You will find their work frequently on Climate Connections.

(Photo: Truthout/Richard Brand / Flickr)

(Photo: Truthout/Richard Brand / Flickr)

Their considerable contributions to characterizing and defining large-scale biofuels as false solutions to climate change are very important and influential.

This work is based on both carbon footprint and deforestation issues and is leading the global fight to promote the understanding of many complex, corporatized strategies that are being employed to promote oxymoronic development schemes. These industry based schemes continue to lead to catastrophic human rights, climate, and ecological collapses. The schemes are a disaster for humanity.

This article, written by Almuth Ernsting, takes a critical look of renewable energy strategies overall and suggests we are far from solving energy problems as long as we continue to be focused on corporate energy intensive strategies rather than low-energy strategies that are more human-needs based.

Ernsting’s most recent piece, linked below, was published in Truthout this past Sunday.

Abundant Clean Renewables? Think Again!
By Almuth Ernsting, Truthout. 16 November 2014

Although “renewable” energy is growing faster than ever before, it is neither carbon neutral, “clean” nor sustainable. We need to transform into low-energy societies that meet human – not corporate – needs.

Read the whole article here.

 

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Carbon Capture and Storage–A Bioenergy Myth!

Biofuelwatch co-director and GJEP partner Rachel Smolker has posted an important article on Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) at the Washington Geoengineering Constortium website.

Smolker’s piece continues to build on and share her extensive knowledge and critique of bionenergy strategies touted by industry as “climate solutions.” Smolker makes a clear case that these strategies are false solutions to climate change and that environmental thinkers should not naively buy into these strategies.

The Washington Geoengineering Consortium is an initiative of the Global Environmental Politics program in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC. They are concerned with the social, political, and legal implications of geoengineering technologies.

Activists drop a banner and lockdown at Forth Energy's offices in 2012. Photo: bioenergyaction.com

Photo: bioenergyaction.com

‘UNCERTAINTIES’ IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT, WHEN IT COMES TO BECCS

By Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch, 10 November 2014.

In 2012, Biofuelwatch published a report titled “Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage: Climate savior or dangerous hype?” We had long been working to reveal and oppose large scale industrial and commercial scale bioenergy in various forms ranging from ethanol refineries to soy and palm oil biodiesel to coal plants converting over to burn wood. We had argued that corn ethanol would drive biodiversity loss, cause food prices to rise and contribute to chronic hunger, while failing to reduce emissions, as it has in fact done. We argued that burning wood as a substitute for coal would create a new driver of deforestation, even as protecting forests and ecosystems was recognized as a “best line of defense” against climate change. We pointed out that large scale bioenergy was incompatible with the simultaneous push to quantify, commodify and protect land based carbon sinks and their “services” (often for the dubious purpose of providing offsets to polluters…). We highlighted the human rights impacts, as land grabs for bioenergy escalated in Africa and elsewhere. And we argued over and over that the carbon consequences of bioenergy were far from “climate friendly” or “carbon neutral,” a myth that has been perpetuated by industry proponents and even parroted by many naive environmentalists.

 

Washington Geoengineering Consortium definitions of geoengineering here.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Carbon Trading, Confronting Government Agencies, Corporate Globalization, Dr. Rachel Smolker, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Geoengineering, Land Grabs

Mangrove forests in rapid decline

A UN Report The Importance of Mangroves to People: A Call to Actionreleased in late September, details how the global loss of Mangrove forests is accelerating and far outpaces other deforestation sectors.

Loss is due to climate change and economic factors including development, wood harvest, and agricultural practices. This ecosystem is a bridge linking terrestrial and marine ecosystems in tropical and subtropical coastal areas around the world. Loss of these forests is causing up to $42 billion annually of economic damages while exposing fragile coastal areas to increased risk of climate change.

Mangroves are cut down in Hera, Timor-Leste, 16 km from capital Dili, where frequent trash dumping threatens the area's natural plant and wildlife. UN Photo/Martine Perret

Mangroves are cut down in Hera, Timor-Leste, 16 km from capital Dili, where frequent trash dumping threatens the area’s natural plant and wildlife. UN Photo/Martine Perret

An article in Huff Post Blog posted by Forest Trends late last week helps to bring the context of this vanishing ecosystem.

The Ecosystem That Is Disappearing Faster Than Any Other on Earth

Forest Trends Huff Post Blog, 7 November 2014

Mangroves–the uniquely salt-adapted trees and shrubs that line our tropical and subtropical coasts, the critical membrane between land and sea–are disappearing at faster rates than virtually any other ecosystem on Earth.

Mangroves are some of the most productive, complex, and beneficial natural wonders of our planet. They act as filters for our water supply, reduce erosion, serve as nurseries for commercial fisheries, provide opportunities for recreation, nurture vital marine biodiversity, and can act as “carbon sinks,” which reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The destruction and degradation of these natural systems–because of factors such as climate change, development, tourism, wood extraction, and non-sustainable farming–bring about tremendous ecological, social, and economic losses, the extent of which we are only now just realizing.

Read more about Mangroves:

Blueplanetbiomes/Mangrove forests

Smithsonian Ocean Portal/Mangrove

Wetlands International/Mangrove forests

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Forests, Human made disasters, Oceans

Beyond Extreme Energy Protests End in Over 100 Arrests

Protestors gathered in DC outside FERC headquarters for the final day of protests this week via Ecowatch article below.

Protestors gathered in DC outside FERC headquarters for the final day of protests this week via Ecowatch article below.

Perhaps with the new “red” Congress coming into power, people will cease to think that politicians will fix the climate mess for us. They may be responsible, but that doesn’t mean they will clean up their mess. Time for communities to come together and create new and innovative–not to mention good old fashioned–ways to tackle the climate crisis that are socially just and ecologically responsible.

100+ Arrested at Beyond Extreme Energy’s Week-Long Protests at FERC

By Anastasia Pantsios | November 7, 2014  Source: EcoWatch

As the participants in the Great March for Climate Action ended up in Washington, DC, on Nov. 1 after a six-month trek across the country, they joined with other environmental groups to launch a week of action under the banner Beyond Extreme Energy. The actions revolved around a series of blockades at the DC headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with more than 100 people arrested.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Coal, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, Fracking, Hydrofracking, Oil, Politics, Pollution, Victory!

Worker killed in biomass plant accident

A biomass power plant in Louisiana, still under construction, became the tragic backdrop of an on-site death, according to Energy Justice‘s website. The death is related to testing being conducted in the building, but authorities are extremely tight-lipped about specifics.

Drexel Biomass Plant. Photo: Earth Justice

Drexel Biomass Plant. Photo: Earth Justice

Even though details are being withheld, we do know that the individual was airlifted to a local hospital, where he later died. Many environmental activists proclaim that the EPA often gives biomass corporations big breaks, even bigger than fossil fuel plants. Without knowing the full details, we cannot be sure that the error is on the worker or the corporation.

 

Man Killed in Accident at Drax Biomass Plant in Louisiana

Earth Justice, Oct. 22, 2014

The worker who died after an accident at a Drax Biomass plant in Morehouse Parish has been identified as 32-year old Christopher Erving of West, Mississippi. Erving was a contracted employee of the Jacksonville, Florida based Haskell Corporation. Drax Biomass has released a statement on the incident:

“It is with deep regret that we confirm the death of a contractor involved in an incident at the Morehouse Pellet Plant construction site near Bastrop Louisiana in the early evening of Tuesday, October 21st. Site emergency plans were enacted immediately and the injured person was air-lifted to hospital by the emergency services where he later died. The incident is now the subject of a full and thorough investigation by ourselves, the contractor’s firm, and the authorities. We are unable to give any details of that investigation until it has been concluded. Our thoughts and sympathy are with his family”

Read the full article here.

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