Tag Archives: biomass

Biomass plans scrapped in Scotland, good news for forests and communities

March 27, 2014. Source: Biofuelwatch

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

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

Forth Energy, formerly a joint venture between Forth Ports and SSE, have confirmed that they are dropping plans to build their consented 100 MWe biomass power stations in Grangemouth and Rosyth, as well as withdrawing plans for a similar plant in Dundee.  Campaigners and community members have expressed their joy at hearing the announcement. Whilst Forth Energy will now be looking to sell their consents at Grangemouth and Rosyth on to other developers, campaigners are warning that any new attempts to revive the plans will be fiercely opposed.

Walter Inglis, formerly Chairperson of Grangemouth Community Council said: “This is certainly good news for us in Grangemouth, as it casts even more doubt on these plans. After having opposed Forth Energy’s plans for so long it’s great to see them walking away. However, the consent remains in place so we’ll be watching closely to make sure no other developers try to take it on.”

Andrew Llanwarne, Co-ordinator of Friends of the Earth Tayside, welcomed the announcement. “This removes a dark shadow which has been hanging over Dundee for the past four years and it’s great news for all who campaigned against the project. It would have been highly inefficient as a means of producing electricity and required enormous Government subsidies of about £1m each year for every job – there must be better ways to create much-needed employment in Dundee.

It would have added to Dundee’s existing problems of air pollution and had a negative visual impact on the waterfront, as Dundee Councillors decided last June. But it would also have made a major contribution to carbon emissions which are disrupting our climate, and had devastating effects on communities and biodiversity in other countries.”
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Where’s the Lorax When We Need Him?

Note: Rachel Smolker is a member of the Steering Committee of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees.

by Rachel Smolker, Co-director, Biofuelwatch, 12/19/2013.  Huffington Post

It’s a shame that the Lorax and his message “Who Will Speak For The Trees” has been relegated to the realm of children’s cartoons and fantasy. Especially as trees, forests and ecosystems appear to be right smack in the epicenter of swirling debates about climate change. What those debates seem to boil down to (as the world burns around us) is whether it makes more sense to 1) cut down remaining forests and burn them for “renewable energy”, 2) put a fence around them, measure their carbon content and sell them to polluters as “offsets”, or 3) install vast plantations of trees — (perhaps genetically engineered to grow faster), to suck up atmospheric carbon in hopes this will counter the ongoing gush of carbon into the atmosphere (geoengineering via “afforestation”) or this recent proposal which suggests that cutting down high latitude temperate and boreal forests — or replacing them with short rotation tree plantations, might help “fix” the climate.

Decisions, decisions! So many options. What shall we do with all the trees?

Here in the U.S, a debate is brewing out west in light of recent legislation proposals from Oregon representatives Wyden and Defazio (among others) that would provide supports for “thinning and restoration” (climatespeak for logging) on public lands. The underlying motive is to get access to timber currently off limits to supply expanding demand for biomass to burn as “renewable energy.

Meanwhile, one of the few proclaimed “successes” coming out of Warsaw climate negotiations was towards an agreement on REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). Yet this is hardly a success given mounting evidence that, among other concerns, REDD fails to address the underlying drivers of deforestation. What it has achieved is to create bitter divisions among indigenous communities faced with proposals that would commodify their lands and utterly distracted forest policymakers who are now so caught up in endless debates over REDD that they seem barely to notice that their forests are meanwhile being liquidated.

As if we were not confused enough already, brilliant scientists at Dartmouth have now determined that the value of high latitude temperate and boreal forests (let’s call them “Truffula” trees) — should not be measured solely in terms of their carbon content, nor the value of their timber, but also with respect to the “ecosystem service” they provide (to us that is) of absorbing or reflecting sunlight: their impact on albedo. The basic idea is that at higher latitudes, dark colored tree cover absorbs light and has net warming impact, whereas removing trees or keeping them small and immature allows light to penetrate, increasing the reflectivity of the white ground surface, and contributing to a net cooling effect.

The Dartmouth scientists say: “Our results suggest that valuing albedo can shorten optimal rotation periods significantly compared to scenarios where only timber and carbon are considered… we expect that in high latitude sites, where snowfall is common and forest productivity is low, valuing albedo may lead optimal rotation periods that approach zero.”

In other words those forests will be “more valuable” cut down or replaced with short rotation stunted tree plantations.

In their conclusions the Dartmouth authors state: “In particular, documenting relationships between forest biomass growth, the frequency of snowfall, latitude, and regional stumpage prices may help elucidate locations wherein different forest project strategies provide the maximum climatic benefits.”

Oh really? That sounds easy! Just plug those numbers into an equation and voila we can discover that “optimal climate benefits” indicate we should cut the forests down?

What would the Lorax say, I wonder? Probably that the “value” of forests should not be confined in so reductionist a manner where consideration is granted solely to carbon content, albedo, or timber harvest pricing. What about, just for example, the role of forests in regulating temperature and rainfall patterns over large areas of the earth? Or the role of compounds released into the atmosphere by trees in stimulating cloud formation (and hence influencing albedo)? What about the role of forest in creating fertile soils? Or the production of hydroxyl radicals by forests which are thought to play a key role in the breakdown of atmospheric pollutants? And what about the many many life forms that depend on healthy forest ecosystems?

The authors seem to have had some inkling that there might be other views of the “value” of forests, and offer lip service, recommending that “forest management should include biodiversity considerations when managing the flow of timber, carbon, and albedo services in mid and high latitude temperate and boreal forests.”

Managing the flow of services? If we cut them down then it seems most of the “flow” of “services” will likely come to a screeching halt!

The paper closes with a plug for funding: “Thus, as in all modeling work, we must take caution to consider that optimal forest management may vary quite drastically as the planet responds to climate change. Consequently, detailed and refined projections of these changes are critical for future work in this arena.”

Well, it is good that the authors realize that things will drastically change as climate change progresses. Like, for example, we might find that there is a lot less snow or it melts much faster. Which begs the question: After we have cut down the high latitude temperate and boreal forests to increase the reflective potential of snow cover, what happens when there is no more snow? Now we have no albedo and… no trees, no timber, no carbon, no biodiversity. This must be the Once-ler’s idea!

Perhaps they are taking their lead from another Once-ler, the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. Recently when questioned about the horrendous doubling in Indonesia’s deforestation rate over the year following announcement of a moratorium on new concessions, responded that this was not “deforestation”, only “temporary deforestation”, (euphemism of the year).

The paleoclimate record suggests that in previous cases where earth’s climate has heated up or cooled down, stability was regained in large part by the sequestering of carbon in plants — forests and ecosystems. For example, Southeast Asian tropical peat forests (now being destroyed for oil palm and pulp and paper plantations and “temporary deforestation”) are thought to have played a key role in stabilizing climate between glacial and interglacial periods over the course of the last few million years of earth history.

The survival of many species faced with warming depends upon a steady northward and uphill climb towards cooler and more favorable conditions. So let’s see… now we are going to cut those forests down, further diminishing the remaining pool of ecosystem diversity in order to gain some supposed cooling due to albedo enhancement over the coming season, or two?

I am certain that the Lorax, and the children to whom that story so appeals, have far more common sense.

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Groups expose UK for subsidizing biomass and ‘clean coal’ as renewable energy

December 17, 2013. Source: EcoWatch

Large scale biomass facilities can qualify for government subsidies as renewable energy providers. Photo: Biomass Greenwash Facebook page

Large scale biomass facilities can qualify for government subsidies as renewable energy providers. Photo: Biomass Greenwash Facebook page

Campaigners representing groups working on issues of opencast coal and biomass have jointly called on Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) yesterday to end to subsidies and industry support for Drax Power Station. The statement follows an announcement by DECC and Drax claiming that “Britain’s largest coal-fired power station is set to become one of Europe’s biggest renewable electricity generators, with the potential for new future generation on the site to be based on truly clean coal.”

The impacts of large-scale biomass for electricity are being felt in North and South America where most wood imports to the UK originate. In the southern U.S. for example, ancient wetland forests are being destroyed by Drax pellet supplier Enviva. Similarly, most coal burned in the UK is imported from abroad. In Colombia, the British-owned Cerrejón mine has caused long-lasting conflicts with local communities and resulted in unprecedented environmental destruction.

The DECC announcement has been described as “misleading greenwash” by groups working on issues of opencast coal mining and bioenergy.

“What DECC aren’t telling the public is that Drax’s half conversion to biomass, as well as being responsible for trashing ancient forests in the southern U.S., will extend the life of the other half of the power station which will continue to be fed on coal mined in Colombia, Russia and the UK,” said Oliver Munnion from Biofuelwatch. “If Ed Davey thinks that a combination of deforestation and continued coal use qualifies as renewable energy then he is badly mistaken.”
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West coast wood exports undercut economy and environment

By Samantha Chirillo, December 11, 2013. Source: Energy Justice Network

samarticleSince the European Union (EU) countries set high carbon reduction standards and counted biomass energy as carbon neutral and renewable, biomass exports from the southeastern U.S. have skyrocketed.

Now, as Japan looks for an alternative to nuclear energy, as U.S. corporations get tax breaks to relocate facilities to the countries of least regulation, as trans-Pacific trade agreements give these corporations power over governments, and as Oregon’s Congressional delegation plans to log more public forest, west coast ports are preparing for log and biomass export expansion. In 2013 alone, log and chip exports from the northwestern U.S. already doubled, according to Public Interest Forester Roy Keene. Exports are the surest path to forest decline, as history has shown, says Keene.

Oregon may be the biggest loser, or at least the state with the most to lose, with a third of its total annual harvest volume exported as logs and chips, as Keene states in his article “Outsourcing Forests Costs Thousands of Jobs.”Oregon does not have stringent forest practice laws or headwater protections at the state level, like Washington and California do. Current bills to log the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) checkerboard public forest lands in Oregon fail to account for the large-scale clearcutting and poisoning of near Oregon’s intermingled private forests.
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Video: Our Forests Aren’t Fuel–Wetlands up in Smoke

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

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New Report Assesses Threats to Southeast US Wildlife from Biomass Energy

Note: The proposed development of vast plantations of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees across the US South for biomass energy production poses another major threat to Southern forests and biodiversity.  To sign our petition to the USDA demanding a ban on the release of GE eucalyptus trees, click here.

Charlottesville, VA, 5 December –  A study released today by three major Southern universities, commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation and Southern Environmental Law Center, concludes that wildlife habitat and biodiversity in the Southeast are at risk due to rapidly expanding biomass energy development. The Southeast is now the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets for biomass energy, with exports from Southern ports increasing by 70% last year alone. The projected huge surge in European demand for Southeast trees for power generation is expected to have significant negative impacts on wildlife.

The report, Forestry Bioenergy in the Southeast United States: Implications for Wildlife Habitat and Biodiversity”, can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/1iCZ2p8

For the study, researchers from University of Georgia, University of Florida, and Virginia Tech analyzed land cover and determined areas of highest risk of harvesting around six facilities located in Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, with sourcing areas stretching into Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. One of the case studies focused on a facility owned by Enviva LP, one of the major wood pellet exporters in the region that is sourcing pellets from whole trees logged from wildlife-rich wetland forests in North Carolina and Virginia.

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Important letter to the EPA by 41 scientists questioning biomass

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.

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Forests could face threat from biomass power ‘gold rush’

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

Eucalyptus trees being harvested

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.

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New report highlights land-grabbing and forest destruction caused by UK biomass demand

30 October, 2013. Link: http://biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/chain-of-destruction/

Biofuelwatch has launched a new report – Biomass: the Chain of Destruction – focusing on the human and environmental costs of biomass-focused UK renewable energy policy. The report includes the first ever study of a land-grab in Brazil for eucalyptus plantations directly linked to UK demand for wood pellets. The report also documents the impacts of Drax power station’s pellet demand, sourced from the destruction of ancient forests in the southern US and Canada. The report goes on to document the impacts suffered by communities in the UK living next to biomass infrastructure.

Biofuelwatch member Oliver Munnion said: “The Chain of Destruction highlights the impacts of UK support for biomass electricity, from the clear-felled forests of the Americas to the communities in the UK living in the shadow of the industry. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, and what we’re seeing is the impacts of a rapidly growing industry and the speculative investments of irresponsible companies, spurred on by generous subsidies and non-existent sustainability standards.”

Biofuewatch launched this report at a public meeting held in London last night. Speaking at the meeting, co-author of the report into recent land-grabs in Brazil for biomass and World Rainforest Movement campaigner Winnie Overbeek said: “Planting eucalyptus in Brazil to be able to sell wood to the UK and other European countries is a substantially irrational thing to do. To fuel all of the UK’s electricity requirements through eucalyptus-based biomass would require some 55 million hectares of plantation in Brazil, an unthinkable amount of land, but an attractive prospect for companies like Suzano [plantation owners] and their shareholders.”

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Biomass energy takes share of $7 billion in U.S. Army contracts

Note: Yay!  A green military!  We can kill people responsibly now!

–The GJEP Team

By Anna Simet, September 24, 2013. Source: Biomass Magazine

Out of 52 bids submitted to acquire a share of $7 billion in energy contracts offered by the U.S. Army, 13 biomass companies have been selected.

Contract awardees include Acciona Energy North America Corp., Chicago, Ill.; ECC Renewables LLC, Burlingame, Calif.; EDF Renewable Energy, San Diego, Calif.; Emerald Infrastructure, San Antonio, Texas; Energy Answers International Inc., Albany, N.Y. ; EIF United States Power Fund IV L.P., Needham, Mass.; Energy Management Inc., Boston, Mass.;  Honeywell International Inc., Golden Valley, Minn.; MidAmerican/Clark Joint Venture, Bethesda, Md.; Pacolet Milliken Enterprises Inc., Spartanburg, S.C.; Siemens Government Technologies Inc., Arlington, Va.; Stronghold Engineering, Riverside, Calif., and Energy Systems Group LLC, Newburgh, Ind.

Contracts are indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price, non-option, non-multi-year, with a cumulative maximum value of $7 billion.  Facilities will be designed, financed, constructed, operated and maintained by private sector entities on private land or on installations under jurisdiction of the Department of Defense.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Engineer Support Center in Huntsville, Ala., is the contracting activity.

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