|From the Editor
Rachel Smolker, Co-Managing Editor
past few weeks have seen massive upheavals across North Africa, the
Middle East, and even Wisconsin. The common theme? Ordinary citizens
fighting for the right to decide their own futures.
Congress pushes to cut funding for social services, public health, and
the EPA, many cash-strapped communities around the U.S. must also
shoulder the psychological and financial burdens that come from
challenging biomass incinerators (funded, ironically, by their own tax
The powers that be might out-muscle and out-spend us, but never forget: we've got the numbers!
Green Groups File Lawsuit Against Lake Tahoe, CA Biomass Logging
February 14, 2011 John Muir Project of the Earth Island Institute and Center for Biological Diversity
filed a lawsuit in Sacramento federal court to prevent National Forest
logging in California's Lake Tahoe region. "Most" of the trees taken
from this 1,398-acre parcel of forest would be utilized for biomass
power incineration, according to the groups' press release.
power incinerators "are widely touted as a renewable form of energy,"
the groups say, "but the emissions associated with the logging,
transporting and large-scale industrial processing of trees and other
wood products for energy can in fact increase global warming pollution
and worsen climate change."
GA Biomass Power Incinerator Held Up
January 31, 2011 Oglethorpe Power Corporation,
the nation's largest power supply cooperative, has "deferred
development" of a 100-megawatt biomass power incinerator proposed for
Warren County, Georgia in order to "monitor regulatory and legislative
developments related to biomass electricity generation."
NY State Faces Biomass "Gasification"
(source: Albany Times-Union. Feb. 7, 2011)
Taylor BioMass Energy
is proposing a 24-megawatt gas-fired electricity-generating
gasification facility for Montgomery, NY that will burn 65% biomass.
don't combust, we don't burn," said company owner Jim Taylor of the
gasification process, which involves exposing trash or biomass to
extremely high temperatures to create a synthetic gas than can be used
to make electricity or fuels.
Mike Ewall of Energy Justice Network
explains that gasification is still incineration, citing concerns about
the release of dioxins and other air pollutants, as well as the
production of toxic ash.
U.S. Senators Host Biomass Boosters
February 17, 2011
U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Max Baucus (D-MT), Mike Crapo
(R-ID), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) invited members of pro-biomass groups to
a Washington, D.C. briefing to discuss the future of burning forests
for energy. Present were representatives from Biomass Energy Resource Center, Forest Guild, Plum Creek Timber, New England Wood Pellet, and other pro-biomass organizations.
Rachel Smolker of Biofuelwatch
arranged a coinciding meeting with the D.C. staff of Senator Sanders to
urge him to hold a similar briefing with biomass opponents.
|From the Forest
Climate Scientists Debunk Carbon Neutrality of Biomass Power
[Below are excerpts from a Feb. 2, 2011 letter
to the Washington State Legislature from Mark E. Harmon of Oregon State
University, Timothy D. Searchinger of Princeton University, and William
Moomaw of Tufts University.]
Burning biomass emits 150
percent the carbon dioxide of coal, and 300-400 percent the CO2 of
natural gas, per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated.
number and scale of biomass facilities proposed in Washington strongly
suggests that new trees will have to be cut to provide fuel for these
plants, because mill residues and logging residues are inadequate.
fuel is obtained by harvesting trees that would not otherwise be cut,
then the carbon "payback period" is decades to more than a century, even
if the harvested trees are replaced.
wood for power generation that would otherwise be added to forests thus
not only increases the rate of CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour but also
reduces the critical forest carbon "sink."
Simply declaring biomass power to be carbon neutral does not make it so.
Report: Forests Need Dead Wood
Feb. 15, 2011
Removing dead wood from a forest to burn for biomass could have
negative impacts on carbon sequestration, water quality, wildlife
habitat, and biodiversity, according to "Ecology of Dead Wood in the
Southeast," a report by Forest Guild and Environmental Defense Fund.
is increased interest today in dead wood for energy and fuel, and more
intensive harvesting of biomass could have long-term consequences for
Southern forests," said Will McDow, manager of the EDF Southeast Center for Conservation Incentives. "Stripping the forest floor to create energy is imprudent."
forests have less dead wood than other regions of the United States,
yet it plays a crucial role," said Zander Evans, research director of Forest Guild.
Particulate Matter Linked to Diabetes
(source: Diabetes Care, Oct. 29, 2010)
Researchers from Children's Hospital Boston
released a study covering every county in the contiguous U.S.
demonstrating a "consistent correlation between adult diabetes and
particulate air pollution," or PM 2.5, a component of haze, smoke
(including biomass incineration), and vehicle exhaust, even at levels
deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency.
"From a policy perspective," said John Brownstein of the Children's Hospital Informatics Program,
"the findings suggest that the current EPA limits on exposure may not
be adequate to prevent negative public health outcomes from particulate
counties well within EPA limits for exposure to PM 2.5, those with the
highest compared to the lowest measurements of pollution demonstrated a
greater than 20 percent increase in diabetes.
For every 10 microgram per cubic meter increase in PM 2.5 exposure, prevalence of diabetes went up by 1 percent.
findings of the report correlate with studies where mice exposed to PM
2.5 showed an increase in insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.
Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representative (www.contactingthecongress.org) and ask them to urge the EPA to enact stronger standards for biomass incineration.
EPA’s “Boiler Rule” Revision
Feb. 26, 2011 The Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) released revised “Boiler Rule” regulations establishing “Maximum
Available Control Technology” (MACT) for industrial and commercial
boilers, including those that burn biomass for electricity.
rule sets guidelines for emissions of particulates, carbon monoxide,
hydrogen chloride, mercury and dioxins/furans for “major source”
emitters and particulates, and carbon monoxide for “area source”
emitters (most biomass incinerators).
new category combines coal and biomass boilers, allowing most biomass
incinerators not to have to install scrubbers for mercury, hydrochloric
acid, and some other pollutants. Smaller units will be required only to
conduct regular “tune-ups” rather than being held to numeric emissions
industry lobbying resulted in the weakened regulations, which have
rolled back public health protections from air pollutants.
|Biomass Buster of the Month
"We should not be chopping down our public forests for inefficient power plants," says Alexandra Dawson, a "mostly retired" environmental lawyer involved in Massachusetts' anti-biomass fight for the past five years.
has been a major force in convincing the state to rethink taxpayer and
ratepayer subsidies to biomass power incineration.
But, like other biomass opponents across the state, region, and nation, Alexandra isn't resting easy until the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources gets those "blasted 'regs' enforced."
|Trashing the Climate
|Waste and Climate
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)
and landfilling waste releases greenhouse gases, including carbon
dioxide from incinerators and methane from landfills, that are
significant contributors to global climate change. These methods of
waste disposal also deprive the economy of reused, recycled and
composted materials, requiring the constant use of energy and raw
materials to fuel an unsustainable one-way production and consumption
burning materials that could be reused, recycled, or composted,
incinerators destroy the energy-saving potential of putting those
materials to better use. Recycling, for instance, saves 3 to 5 times the
energy that waste incinerator power plants generate. For these reasons,
"waste-to-energy" plants would be more aptly named "waste-of-energy"
Passive House (Passivhaus)
Passive House concept represents today's highest energy standard with
the promise of slashing the heating energy consumption of buildings by
an amazing 90%. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration
shows that buildings are responsible for 48% of greenhouse gas emissions
annually and 76% of all electricity generated by U.S. power plants goes
to supply the Building Sector.
Passive House is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building
that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains
from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. Any
remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source.
Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps
to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An energy
recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply.