Note: future plans for the forests of the Southeast are to replace them with fast growing freeze tolerant GE eucalyptus trees for biomass production, pulp and whatever else they can think of.
–The GJEP Team
Category Archives: Bioenergy / Agrofuels
Note: Rachel Smolker is the co-Director of Biofuelwatch and a member of the Steering Committee of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees.
By Rachel Smolker, December 9, 2013. Source: Huffington Post
In the wake of the climate negotiations in Warsaw, the consensus appears near universal: the international process is not going to deliver, and it is up to countries and communities to go it on their own. For some, that means taking serious and dramatic steps to reduce emissions. For others, like Bangladesh or the island nations, it means finding a way to survive the consequences of climate change with little help from the international community. For all of us, it means facing a future of weather extremes, crop failures and potential disruption of virtually everything on an unprecedented scale. For advocates of climate geoengineering, the failure of global agreement is wind in their sails: “More reasons” why drastic measures such as spewing sulphate particles into the stratosphere, or “fertilizing” the ocean with iron filings, or burning and burying billions of tons biomass (as biochar or “bioenergy with carbon capture and storage”) should be seriously considered and research should be gloriously funded.
Of course the converse argument is that if global agreement on addressing climate change cannot be achieved, how can we possibly expect any global consensus on, or governance of “technomanagement” of the atmosphere where the risks of serious negative consequences, for some people in some places, at least, are so grave?
This worries me profoundly, and apparently others as well. It is why faculty from Johns Hopkins University and American University recently launched a new, Washington DC based “Climate Geoengineering Consortium”.The stated goal of the consortium, perhaps laudable, is “to generate space for perspectives from civil society actors and the wider public, to produce a heightened level of engagement around issues of justice, agency, and inclusion.” Perhaps I am too skeptical, but “generating space” for a debate seems a bit vague. This new consortium recently organized a meeting, slated as a “closed door” meeting of civil society representatives. Closed meetings for civil society always make me a little nervous. Especially when the topic is planetary scale interference with the global commons — the life support systems of our planet!
I’m not sure really how I ended up on the list of invitees, but I decided to attend. The meeting was held in a stark space at Johns Hopkins, with the requisite sleek furnishings and snack plates wrapped securely in sparkling plastic. Nobody in attendance was a shade darker than a bowl of oatmeal, all were dressed in drab, illuminated by glowing computers, tablets and smartphones. Represented were staff from Johns Hopkins and American University, as well as the conservative American Enterprise Institute (Lee Lane), Bipartisan Policy Center, NASA (Mike McCracken), the renowned blogger, Joe Romm, and long time (but now retired) Friends of the Earth director, Brent Blackwelder. There were representatives from U.S. Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, Food and Water Watch and various others. Certainly more diverse than some meetings, but even I could not avoid the sensation of being sort of a token.
By Jocelyn C. Zuckerman, December 4, 2013. Source: OnEarth
You see that coconut tree?” said Daniel Krakue, gesturing out beyond the windshield. “That used to be a village.”
It wasn’t hard to see the tree. Apart from a skinny papaya trunk, it was the only thing rising from the surrounding sea of green. We were in Sinoe County, in southwestern Liberia, on a plantation run by a company called Golden Veroleum (GVL), and for miles around there was nothing growing but baby palms, whose lime-colored fronds stretched out about as wide, some three feet or so, as they did high. Earlier we’d driven through large expanses freshly cleared of their native vegetation, weird deserts of orange mud interrupted only by the corrugated wakes of the ubiquitous giant yellow earthmovers. The company has been in operation in Liberia only since 2009. And the 543,000-acre lease it signed with the government runs for 65 years, with an option for a 33-year extension, so GVL is just getting started.
Krakue is an environmental advocate who has worked with the Sustainable Development Initiative (SDI), a local partner of Friends of the Earth, and he had accompanied me here from Monrovia, the nation’s capital, on a road so riven with ditches, potholes, and impromptu lakes that it took us eight hours to go 150 miles. Sinoe County is home to some 104,000 people, but its isolation and its history as a center of the civil wars that wracked this tiny West African nation from 1989 to 2003 have left it with the ambience of a place that’s been forgotten.
We pulled over in a village called Pluoh, a scattering of mud-and-thatch houses, where a sign staked in the ground read Malaria Spoils Belly. Aside from a few chickens scratching around and a preschooler in a raggedy party dress vigorously cranking a water pump, there wasn’t a whole lot going on. Little clusters of people sat on crude wooden benches propped beneath the thatch eaves of their huts, and the cries of babies floated on the still morning air. Krakue introduced me to Benedict Menewah, a scrawny 45-year-old father of seven, who filled me in on the story of the lone coconut tree.
Note: There are very clear links between the coup in Honduras and the overthrow of Zelaya with the emergence of Honduras as a major center for palm oil production for biofuels–largely for import into the US. To read more about this and the resistance of Honduras peasant communities against the oil palm industry, visit our coverage of the issue here.
November 28, 2013, By Elena Zeledon. Source: GreenLeft.org
Large-scale electoral fraud affected every aspect of the November 24 general elections in the Central American country of Honduras. This has sparked a huge political crisis, which matches and possibly surpasses the crises produced by the coup d’etat that overthrew president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. The fraud has denied victory to Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) party presidential candidate Xiomara Castro, the wife of Zelaya. LIBRE was formed National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP), which united many sectors that took part in the resistance to the coup.
In Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere and occupying an area about the size of Queensland, two decades of struggle has helped develop one of the most social and class conscious movements in the world.
It has been governed for decades by a series of revolving door governments headed by either the National or Liberal parties. When the level of social struggles or political impasses reached a crises point, the army stepped in. Military dictatorships would end these “democratic interludes”, and then step back into the shadows allowing the two parties to play out its game of charades.
This “two-party” cycle was ended on November 24 with the result for LIBRE. Castro is the legitimate president. There is no doubt in the minds of any independent observer that LIBRE won the vote. There is also no doubt that the ruling National Party and its presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez, the self-proclaimed winner, engaged in huge electoral fraud. This took place on in the run-up to the vote, as well as on election day.
Note: Members of Global Justice Ecology Project and Everglades Earth First! maintain that UF officials cancelled a presentation on the risks of genetically engineered trees to protect their government and corporate relationships with the Department of Energy and GE tree company ArborGen.
Click here to sign the petition calling on the USDA to say NO WAY to ArborGen’s request to sell highly flammable, invasive, GE cold-tolerant eucalyptus by the millions for plantations from South Carolina to Texas.
-The GJEP Team
By Maureen Nandini Mitra, December 2, 2013. Source: Earth Island Journal
A few months ago, while reporting an article about genetically engineered trees for Earth Island Journal’s Autumn issue (read the story here), I had a mighty hard time locating plant biologists or genetic engineers at academic institutions who were willing to talk about the possible risks of growing GE trees in massive plantations. It seemed there was little debate over this controversial issue within the biotech community on college campuses — the very places where most of the research into GE trees is carried out.
So it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when I heard that a group of environmental activists who were scheduled to make a presentation on GE trees at the University of Florida in Gainesville last month were booted off the campus, charged with trespassing, and banned from the university grounds for three years. What did come as a bit of a surprise was news that the FBI, too, was keeping tabs on the activists.
November 26, 2013
Mr. Joe Goffman Senior Counsel, Office of Air and Radiation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Mail Code: 6101A Washington, DC 20460
Dear Mr. Goffman:
We, the undersigned scientists, believe regulations governing how stationary sources account for biogenic carbon emissions must be based on sound science and ensure adequate protections for forests and the climate. We applaud the EPA for setting a high standard in making policy on this important issue by seeking expert scientific input from the Science Advisory Board (SAB). We now urge the agency to follow through on that process and embrace the central scientific principles underscored by the SAB as you finalize these accounting rules. Doing otherwise at this juncture will fail the test of rigorous, science- based policymaking and could result in regulations that distort the marketplace towards greater use of unsustainable sources of biomass, with significant risks to our climate, forests and the valuable ecosystem services they provide and we rely on.
In 2011, EPA initiated a science-driven process to develop a methodology for properly quantifying biogenic carbon emissions from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. As part of this process, the agency rightly solicited scientific input by submitting a draft “Accounting Framework for Biogenic CO2 Emissions from Stationary Sources” to the SAB for review by an assembled Biogenic Carbon Emissions Panel. As now EPA finalizes its biogenic carbon accounting rules, it must follow through on that process and adopt the science panel’s key recommendations: 1) moving beyond the flawed assumption that bioenergy is inherently carbon neutral; 2) rejecting the regional accounting method originally proposed in the draft Accounting Framework; and 3) ensuring a scientifically-sound methodology for determining the carbon emissions impact to the atmosphere from burning long-recovery biomass feedstocks—most notably, whole trees.
From Main Street to Wall Street, U.S. banks and brands support illegal forest destruction for palm oil
21 November, 2013. Source: Friends of the Earth
WASHINGTON, D.C./JAKARTA – Illegal and destructive production of palm oil in Indonesia is continuing, with a chain of culpability that spreads worldwide, from Southeast Asian rain forests to supermarket shelves and Wall Street board rooms, reveals a new report released today by Friends of the Earth1, Forest Heroes and SumOfUs.
In recent years, consumers have been shocked to learn that many household food brands use palm oil from sources engaged in widespread destruction of tropical forests. The new report, Commodity Crimes: Illicit Land Grabs, Illegal Palm Oil and Endangered Orangutans shows how this forest destruction not only harms forest peoples, endangered species and the Earth’s climate, but is often illegal. The report names the major U.S. and European banks that are financing these unlawful land grabs and the investors who are profiting.
Commodity Crimes: Illicit Land Grabs, Illegal Palm Oil and Endangered Orangutans documents how one Indonesian company, Bumitama Agri Ltd, engaged in systematic forest destruction in and around forest reserves and in 2012 sold itself in a public offering that admitted to including illegally cleared tracts of forest. The financial maneuvers of Bumitama Agri – a leading supplier to the global market, including to Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader – also raise questions about compliance with Indonesia’s tax laws and law against money laundering. Continue reading
By Silvia Giannelli, 15 November, 2013. Source: Inter Press Service
JAKARTA – Indonesia’s rainforests are facing “legal land grabs”, allege NGOs. Its ancient communities are finding that their ancestral lands are slipping into the hands of foreign companies for oil palm cultivation, as demand for the product grows in Europe, India and China.
“There are 33,000 villages in Indonesia’s forest zone, and many thousand more in areas marked for agriculture,” said Marcus Colchester, senior policy advisor at Forest Peoples Programme, an international NGO.
“The government allocates these areas to companies without even consulting the communities. So concessions have been handed out over lands where these communities have lived for hundreds or even thousands of years,” he told IPS.
Last Friday, Colchester flew to Medan to present the findings of his research, carried out in conjunction with two local organisations, on the impact oil palm cultivation has on the lives of Indonesian communities. Continue reading
Sustainability fear over new power stations’ demand for wood pellets after report says their use has implications globally
By Jamie Doward, 9 November 2013. Source: The Observer
A new report says the demand for wood pellets has implications for global land use. Photograph: Alamy
Britain’s new generation of biomass power stations will have to source millions of tonnes of wood from thousands of miles away if they are to operate near to their full capacity, raising questions about the claims made for the sustainability of the new technology.
Ministers believe biomass technology could provide as much as 11% of the UK’s energy by 2020, something that would help it meet its carbon commitments. The Environment Agency estimates that biomass-fired electricity generation, most of which involves burning wood pellets, can cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% compared with coal-fired power stations. Eight biomass power stations, including one in a unit in the giant Drax power station, are operating in the UK and a further seven are in the pipeline. None operates near capacity.
Note: As the proposed deregulation of genetically engineered trees edges closer with no independent assessment of their risks, the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees grows stronger. Please sign the petition demanding a ban on the release of socially and ecologically destructive GE trees, and help us prevent this disaster before it starts.
–The GJEP Team
By Heather Hartmann, Nov 7 2013. Source: Great Lakes Echo
Grasshopper on hybrid poplar leaf. Photo: Christine Buhl
Insects could help decide what fuel goes in your vehicle’s tank.
A recent University of Wisconsin studylooked at whether genetically modifying poplar trees to more easily produce ethanol could also make them vulnerable to insect pests. The findings, published on ProQuest.com, may bring genetically engineered poplar trees one step closer to commercial use for a biofuel made from the cellulose in plant cell walls.
The genetic modifications had little to no effect on the trees’ susceptibility to insects, said Christine Buhl, who did the research.
The insect defenses of the genetically modified trees are no different than their wild counterparts, said Rick Meilan, associate professor at the University of Purdue. Meilan is involved in a five-year study looking at genetic modifications of poplar trees to more easily produce cellulosic ethanol. Continue reading