Tag Archives: biomass

Biomass unspoken driver of Oregon logging spike



The first Elliott blockade in 2009. Photo: Earth First! Newswire

The first Elliott blockade in 2009. Photo: Earth First! Newswire

The AP recently reported that timber ‘harvest’ last year was at its highest since 2006; 4 Billion board feet. This marks a steady increase over the past 4 years. The state Department of Forestry identifies two causes for the increase: increased house construction and “the export market.”

“This [the spike] is most likely due to small forestland owners taking advantage of higher prices as a result of a still strong export market in 2013,” Kaetzel [economist in the Department] said in a statement.

The AP does not discuss biomass, which is most certainly another driver of the increased felling.

Photo Credit: Marcus Kaufmann, via Northwest Public Radio

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Anti-biomass and coal campaigners call for UK’s most polluting power station to close

April 23, 2014. Source: Biofuelwatch

Photo: Biofuelwatch

Photo: Biofuelwatch

Campaigners have disrupted Drax Plc’s AGM in London today, calling for the power station to be closed down because of the environmental and social impacts of the biomass and coal that it is burning. Three campaigners were removed from the meeting after unfurling a banner reading “No to biomass and coal – shut down Drax” and accusing company directors of misleading the public over claims that their biomass conversion is low-carbon, renewable energy. The protest happened against a backdrop of falling company share prices as the UK Government announced that it would not be awarding a lucrative new subsidy scheme, a Contract for Difference, to Drax’s second converted unit, sparking investment uncertainty.

Biofuelwatch campaigner Duncan Law was one of the campaigners removed from the AGM today. He said:

“Drax is calling itself the world’s biggest renewable energy power station, but looking past the shiny green façade you see it’s actually still a giant incinerator, only now fed on ancient wetland forests as well as opencast coal. And what’s more, it will be pumping out more CO2 than ever despite company claims that it’s doing the opposite.

It is clear that Drax and the UK government aren’t listening to evidence that big biomass power stations in the UK are fuelling forest destruction in the southern US and increasing carbon emissions. We feel we have no choice but to take this further action to highlight how, in the name of renewable energy, energy companies and their allies in government are causing yet another environmental disaster.”

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Coal, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

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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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

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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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Green Economy, Greenwashing, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Videos

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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