Category Archives: Bioenergy / Agrofuels

SUNY Syracuse College of Environmental Science and Forestry Receives $3 Million DOE Grant to Promote Ecologically Dangerous Biofuels

In case any are wondering why a State University of New York “environmental” college would be working on a major project to develop genetically modified chestnuts to introduce a population of GE Chestnuts to native and fragile forest ecosystems, an announcement last week by the college provides a valuable clue.

The college announced on 15 December that they have received a $3 million grant to support bioenergy development.

Harvesting Shrub Willow- Photo SUNY ESF

Harvesting Shrub Willow- Photo SUNY ESF


The release by ESF states:

“The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded up to $3 million to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) to develop and demonstrate ways to reduce the cost of delivering woody bioenergy feedstocks to biorefineries.

Specifically, the grant will be used to lower the delivered cost of short-rotation woody crops; rapidly, accurately, and reliably assess feedstock quality; and improve harvest and preprocessing operations to produce feedstocks that meet key biorefinery partner specifications. ESF will work with partners including Case New Holland Industrial (CNHi), GreenWood Resources, University of West Virginia, Applied Biorefinery Sciences, Idaho National Lab and others to complete the project.

Dr. Timothy Volk, a research scientist who leads the willow project for ESF, said the ultimate goal is to make renewable biomass feedstocks more affordable.”

Read the whole ESF release here

Climate Connections and our partners at Biofuelwatch, GJEP, and The Campaign to STOP GE Trees do not hesitate to make the connection between the trojan horse of GE chestnut research and funding (which includes ArborGen, Monsanto, and a variety of bioenergy related grants by New York State and federal agencies) and the development of bioenergy products which are proven as false solutions to climate change and drivers of social disparity, land grabs, and a general decline of the human capacity to survive on planet earth.

We think that you should be aware of how many state educational systems including New York’s, are driven by private profit, private investment, and an industry agenda that is clearly not as green as some would like us to believe.

 Additional Links:


Institute’s Gas Drilling Report Leads to Claims of Bias and Concern for University’s Image

public accountability initiative (PAI)

public accountability initiative on the closing of the SUNY Buffalo Shale Institute





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Filed under Biiotechnology, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, GE Trees, Uncategorized

GMO Chestnuts Draw Scrutiny this Holiday


During the holidays, a time of the iconic roasting of chestnuts, scientists and activists are raising alarms about these efforts to genetically engineer and widely release GE American chestnuts into U.S. forests. recently reported in “Breakthrough at SUNY-ESF” that researchers at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry are growing 10,000 genetically engineered (GE) American chestnut trees to be distributed widely when approved. The GMO chestnuts produced by these trees would be a new GMO food when concerns about GMOs and labeling are mounting.

BJ McManama is the GE trees campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network. She is based in the mountains of North Carolina, a central location for potential release of GE American chestnuts. In October she organized an Indigenous Peoples’ Action Camp against GE trees in Cherokee, NC.

She said, “As Indigenous Peoples we know that GE trees will threaten our cultural heritage, tradition, sovereignty and health. Even today, many of our people survive through subsistence methods — hunting, gathering, fishing and even our shelters are obtained from our forests. Trees are sacred. They are the children of our mother and our nurturer. We cannot stand idly by as the American chestnut, on which our people depend, is engineered into something that could wind up poisoning the land, air, water and the people. Forests are the source of our spiritual life and knowledge, and we wholly reject any attempts to change the sacred ancient blueprint of these trees — to destroy their spirit.”

Anne Petermann is the executive director of Buffalo, NY-based Global Justice Ecology Project and the coordinator of the International Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees, which includes organizations, scientists, Indigenous Peoples and activists from around the world and is dedicated to preventing the commercial release of all genetically engineered trees. The majority of the research into GE American chestnuts and most of the outdoor test plots are located in New York State.

Petermann said, “GE trees pose unique and potentially disastrous risks to forests due to their longevity, the vast distances over which they spread pollen and seeds and their intricate relationship with complex forest ecosystems, but these GE American chestnut trees are even more dangerous. They are also completely unnecessary. They will supposedly be resistant to the blight that wiped out American chestnut trees in the last century, but the truth is blight resistant chestnuts are being developed through non-GE traditional breeding. But if fertile GE chestnuts are released into Eastern U.S. forests, which is the plan, they will contaminate both wild chestnuts and hybrid chestnuts. The impacts are unknown, but it will certainly ruin decades of work done by American chestnut breeding programs. This GE American chestnut tree is a Pandora’s box of potential disasters best left closed.”

Smolker is an evolutionary biologist and a steering committee member of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees. She is based in Vermont, one of the first states to mandate the labeling of GMO food.

She said, “These GE American chestnut trees are nothing more than a Trojan horse intended to smooth the way for commercial release of a host of other dangerous engineered trees, including GE eucalyptus and GE poplars. The tree biotechnology industry­ — companies like ArborGen — are faced with severe public opposition, so now they are trying to use chestnut tree ‘restoration’ as a cover to gain broader public acceptance of GE trees. GE chestnuts and other trees are an unnecessary, undesirable, and hazardous product of the techno-obsessed mindset that assumes genetic codes are like Lego sets that can be engineered to our specifications. But nature just doesn’t work that way. The impacts of these engineered chestnuts will be completely unpredictable. I certainly do not want to be roasting GE chestnuts over an open fire this holiday season.”


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Filed under Biiotechnology, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Greenwashing, Uncategorized

Global report busts myth of wood-based bioenergy

A new report by the Global Forest Coalition closely examines the real climate impact of replacing fossil fuels with bioenergy resources. The study pulled together various case studies from around the world, picking apart the environmental, ecological and social impacts of large-scale wood based bioenergy.

Photo: Orin Langelle

Photo: Orin Langelle

Ultimately, the study concluded that wood-based bioenergy is a misguided industry, distracting the public and detracting from real, sustainable solutions to climate change. Some of the findings and conclusions include:

  • Wood burning is an unsustainable model that perpetuates the overconsumption of energy.
  • The increase in demand for wood in larger, industrialized nations like the U.S. and U.K. strongly impact forests and communities all over the world.
  • The majority of the issues are the result of bioenergy subsidies offered to global bioenergy and biotechnology corporations.

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Indonesia’s deadly price of palm oil

Palm oil plantations in Indonesia, one of the world’s leading producers of the product, can be highly lucrative for their economy. The oil is used in everything from cosmetics to biofuels and major countries, from China to the U.S., have a high, daily demand for consumption.

The problem is, they aren’t just consuming palm oil, they’re consuming Indonesia.

A budding Indonesian palm oil plantation.

A budding Indonesian palm oil plantation.

According to the first feature in a three part series on palm oil brought to us by World Watch, Indonesia is now leading in pollution and deforestation, as palm oil producers plow through tropical rainforests and indigenous communities, trying to meet the soaring demand for this highly versatile plant. Clearly, we cannot rely on these corporations to place environmental impact over profits. Even the palm oil harvested in the name of biofuel and biomass, a supposed solution to climate change, is completely counteracting any good this industry could have done.

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Indonesia’s new president makes promising steps to curb plantations

Joko Widodo (right) in the Sungai Tohor village. Credit: Walhi/Friends of the Earth Indonesia

Joko Widodo (right) in the Sungai Tohor village. Credit: Walhi/Friends of the Earth Indonesia

Jeff Conant is International Forests Campaigner for Friends of the Earth-U.S. He is also a good friend and former Communications Director for Global Justice Ecology Project.

Indonesia’s New President Promises to Put Peat Before Palm Oil

Analysis by Jeff Conant, IPS, 5 December 2014

JAKARTA – Last week, Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, ordered the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry to review the licenses of all companies that have converted peatlands to oil palm plantations.

If the ministry follows through, this will be one of the most important actions the Indonesian government can take to begin truly reining in the destruction reaped by the palm oil industry there – and to address the severe climate impacts of peatland destruction.

The best thing to do is to give the land to people,” the president told the Jakarta Globe. “What’s made by people is usually environmentally friendly. They won’t do any harm to nature. However, if we give the land to corporations, they will only switch it to monoculture plantations.”

Read the whole article at the Inter Press Service website!

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Palm Oil

Earth Minute: Anne Petermann Reports from Paraguay

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

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

In this week’s Earth Minute, Anne Petermann reports from Asunción, Paraguay, where she participated in a series of meetings put together by Global Forest Coalition to discuss deforestation and its underlying drivers, including biofuels and wood-based bioenergy (which will some day include genetically engineered trees, if Brazil has its way), and all over the continent, but especially here in Paraguay, cattle ranching and the livestock industry.

GJEP partners with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Los Angeles for weekly Earth Minutes on Tuesday and Earth Watch interviews on Thursday.


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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Forests, GE Trees, Posts from Anne Petermann

Biomass Monitor: What you need to know if you burn wood

If you own a wood stove and use it to heat your home, you need to read this important piece by The Energy Justice Network’s Biomass Monitor editor Josh Schlossberg.



Ten Things You Need to Know if You Burn Wood

By Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor. 1 December 2014

Wood heating is on the rise. 2.7 million U.S. households, making up roughly 2% of the population, are projected to burn wood as a primary heating source over the winter of 2014-2015, a 3.9% increase from the previous year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Approximately 7.7% of households use a wood or pellet stove as a secondary heating source, based on 2012 census data.

In every state except for the balmy locales of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Hawaii, wood heating has increased over the last decade, largely due to lower costs in comparison to oil and local sourcing opportunities.

Despite some recent advances in stove technology, wood heating still involves combustion, a process that emits air pollutants that have been linked to various health concerns. With the recent uptick in residential and industrial wood burning, it’s in the public’s best interest to be mindful of the risks that come from stoking up the stove.


Read the whole article here 


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

Plan for bioenergy plant in Mississippi backfires

Just a year ago billionaire Vinod Khosla was raving to magazines, newspapers and, most importantly, investors, about his plans to build a bioenergy plant in the U.S. southern state of Mississippi that he claims would generate energy better than Mother Nature herself.

Vinod Khosla speaks about fuels of the future at a biotech conference in this 2007 photo. Khosla’s ambitious plan to convert wood chips into hydrocarbons crashes into the stubborn economics of the industry. Photo: John Raoux/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Vinod Khosla speaks about fuels of the future at a biotech conference in this 2007 photo. Khosla’s ambitious plan to convert wood chips into hydrocarbons crashes into the stubborn economics of the industry. Photo: John Raoux/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Khosla has since filed for bankruptcy and left the project empty and abandoned, along with his hundreds of investors facing serious debt. A recent article in the Washington Post shows how the plant continuously lost money and how Khosla repeatedly backed bad agriculture ideas that failed to produce profits or improve the climate situation.

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