Over 1,200 New Biomass Incinerators to be Constructed Within the Next 10 Years?

- December 4, 2014, AltEnergyMag

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"326","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"360","style":"width: 333px; height: 250px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;","width":"480"}}]]Electricity generation from solid biomass continues to increase throughout the world. In late 2013, around 2,800 operational power plants worldwide were incinerating biomass only or very large shares of this fuel. These plants had an electricity generation capacity of about 42 GWel. Additionally, around 350 fossil power plants were co-incinerating biomass. In 10 years, there will be approximately 4,100 active plants with a capacity of around 67 GWel. In 2014 alone, approximately 170 new power plants with electricity generation capacities of around 3.6 GWel will be constructed.

The subsidisation of renewable energies will remain the most important market factor for the development of electricity generation from biomass. Until early 2014, around 140 countries had introduced policies for such a subsidisation. Most of them also had schemes for electricity generation from solid biomass at that time. Vietnam, for instance, introduced a feed-in tariff for biomass electricity some months ago. Around 40 countries throughout the world have such compensations. Other countries have different support schemes. Columbia, for instance, has recently reduced the turnover tax on biomass electricity and Mexico has facilitated the access to the grid for this type of electricity.

Study: Logging Destabilizes Forest Soil Carbon

- by John Cramer, December 2, 2014, Dartmouth College

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"322","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 333px; height: 250px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;"}}]]Logging doesn't immediately jettison carbon stored in a forest's mineral soils into the atmosphere but triggers a gradual release that may contribute to climate change over decades, a Dartmouth College study finds.

The results are the first evidence of a regional trend of lower carbon pools in soils of harvested hardwood forests compared to mature or pristine hardwood forests. The findings appear in the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy. A PDF of the study is available on request.

Despite scientists' growing appreciation for soil's role in the global carbon cycle, mineral soil carbon pools are largely understudied and previous studies have produced differing results about logging's impact. For example, the U.S. Forest Service assumes that all soil carbon pools do not change after timber harvesting.

Fossil Fuel Divestment: How to Evolve the Campaign Beyond its Shortcomings

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

Sometimes, environmental movement campaigns that become very popular aren’t the ones that are the most strategic. Trying to divert the fossil fuel divestment bandwagon to a better path hasn’t been easy (or well-received), but some critical examination is long overdue.

As activists like to point out, we don’t have much time to address climate change. We’re already past the point where we can “stop” it, and likely past the points where we can contain it to the two degree Celsius increase that supposedly averts catastrophic levels of climate disruption. Given this urgency, we cannot afford for so much time and energy to be spent on campaigns that aren’t fitted to the scale of the problem.  It’s like scaring people about how awful global warming is, then telling them that they just need to screw in a different light bulb and drive a Prius.

In short, the fossil fuel divestment campaign is symbolic and diverts attention from going after the largest and most critical sectors driving climate change, and from actually disconnecting institutions from reliance on fossil fuels. It implicitly greenwashes other dirty energy sources (some of which are worse than coal) by framing the problem as just about fossil fuels. It similarly ignores the largest cause of global warming: animal agriculture. Unlike the anti-Apartheid campaign, it fails to target corporations in a position to actually change their behavior. Finally, investments are likely to be shifted to smaller fossil fuel corporations, corporations that support the fossil fuel economy, or other damaging investments. Efforts to drive investments to truly clean alternatives will be hampered by economic contradictions, requiring a deeper economic analysis as the campaign evolves.

Divestment is a symbolic campaign, but not a strategic one

Some of the main national organizers of this campaign – even Bill McKibben, in private – have admitted that the campaign is symbolic. Jamie Henn, a spokesperson with 350.org, said divestment alone will not succeed in reversing climate change, stating: “We have no illusion that we can bankrupt a company like ExxonMobil through divestment, but we can vilify them to the point where they begin to lose their political influence.” While campaign supporters have been building arguments for how symbolic campaigns can have tangible results, the reality remains that it’s still a stretch, and that more direct campaigns to fight fossil fuels would do far more for the climate and the communities directly impacted by the industry.

Christian Parenti makes several good points in his late 2012 article in The Nation, titled "Problems With the Math: Is 350's Carbon Divestment Campaign Complete?" He points out that the most infamous climate deniers, Koch Industries, is privately held and is immune to divestment, as is 70% of world oil reserves (and even more of the ‘easy oil’) which are owned by national oil companies that are also heavily insulated from the tactic (though some are now partially traded). He points out that corporations don’t make money on investments (stock is mainly a way to get money out of these corporations), and that their bottom line isn’t impacted by investments, but by those consuming their products.

What Would be More Strategic?

The biggest contributor to climate change (as much as 51%) is animal agriculture. However, as the recent Cowspiracy documentary shows, big environmental groups are unwilling to talk about this and advice that people stop eating so much meat and dairy. The other elephant in the room is natural gas power plants. With methane being 86 to 105 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year time-frame, and serious leakage of methane gas occurring throughout the natural gas infrastructure (which cannot be brought to levels lower than coal’s impacts), the current push from coal to gas is suicidal for the climate. There is a surge of about 300 gas-fired power plant proposals in the U.S. right now, and the major environmental groups are doing an excellent job of ignoring them, if not still championing the switch from coal to gas. If the time and energy (and funding) put into divestment were put toward stopping gas-fired power plants while there’s still time to challenge most of them, it would be a dramatic and real win. Divestment campaigns and power plant battles both aren’t easy to win, but the track record of stopping power plants is arguably far better than divestment’s track record so far. About 60% of the gas-fired power plant proposals in the last wave of development (10-15 years ago) were stopped. 400 were built. Many more weren’t. Each power plant stopped does far more than all divestment campaigns can claim to – avoiding about 30 years of fracking over each power plant’s lifetime.

Divestment is a student-centered campaign. Even if we don’t leave campuses, there are several ways corporations are tied to universities, including purchasing and service contracts, research grants, recruiting, and ties to board members (often called trustees or regents).

A campus divestment campaign could just as easily include campaigns like the one run by the Ohio Student Environmental Coalition (which Energy Justice Network started in 2006 to fight proposed coal plants in Ohio) where Ohio State University students successfully pressured their campus president to step down from the board of Massey Energy, a major coal mining corporation. Could that also be seen as symbolic?  Perhaps, but corporate influence over those running universities has had effects on curriculum and other corporate-university relationships – more than stockholding has in terms of influence.

Far more relevant would be to get schools and other institutions to replace fossil fuel use with demand reduction and clean, non-burn alternatives. This would directly stop their financial support for climate change, while becoming demonstration sites for how we should all live. Ending reliance on industry-funded scientific research (and getting more public funding for it) would also go a long way to end the “science for hire” that has our universities cranking out “tobacco science” promoting dirty energy.

Bloomberg isn’t something I’d normally cite, but they hit the nail on the head with this recent opinion piece

“If divestment activists were serious about making a difference, setting an example, and drawing the full weight of America’s moral opprobrium onto the makers and consumers of fossil fuels, they’d be pushing a University Agenda that looked more like this:
 
  1. Require administrators, faculty, sports teams and other student groups to travel exclusively by boat and rail, except for “last mile” journeys.
  2. Cease construction of new buildings on campus.
  3. Stop air conditioning buildings, except for laboratories and archives that require climate control. Keep the heat no higher than 60 degrees in winter.
  4. Put strict caps on power consumption by students, keeping it to enough electricity to power one computer and one study lamp. Remove power outlets from classrooms, except for one at the front for the teacher.
  5. Ban meat from campus eateries and require full-time students to be on a meal plan.
  6. Remove all parking spots from campus.
  7. Stop operating campus shuttles, except for disabled students.
  8. Divest the endowment from fossil-fuel companies, if it makes you feel better

Why has No. 8 jumped to No. 1? Because it’s easy. Because a group of students pushing endowment divestiture can shut down a public meeting and be rewarded with the opportunity to hold a teach-in; a group of students pushing a faculty flying ban and the end of campus parking would find the powers that be considerably more unfriendly. Not to mention their fellow students. Or, for that matter, their fellow activists, few of whom are actually ready to commit to never in their lives traveling out of America’s pitiful passenger rail network. This is what I meant in an earlier post where I said that doing the easy but pointless thing is a substitute for, rather than a complement to, the hard and necessary thing.”

 

Dirty Energy is NOT just Fossil Fuels

 

 

Especially since the campaign is a symbolic one, it’s important that we educate people properly and stop feeding the perception that fossil fuels are the only dirty energy source, or the only fuels cooking the climate. This focus on fossil fuels has major blind spots, both for the climate and environmental justice.

Trash incineration, biomass incineration, landfill gas burning and biofuels are all promoted as renewable and carbon neutral, even though they’re worse than their worst fossil fuel counterparts. Nuclear power is also a serious problem, with its own climate impacts, which sucks up the money needed to transition away from fossil fuels.

Trash incineration is 2.5 times as bad for the climate as coal, and is far worse by every other measure of pollutants as well.  New EPA loopholes, as well as Obama’s Clean Power Plan, are poised to have coal plants and all sorts of boilers start burning trash without regulation or community notification. Divestment, like other climate policies, ignores incinerator emissions, even though over half of the CO2 emissions from trash incineration are from the burning of plastics and other fossil-fuel-derived products.

Biomass incineration is 50% worse than coal for the climate, and claims of carbon neutrality have been repeatedly debunked. “Save the climate, burn a tree” doesn’t make for a catchy cause, but forests in the U.S. are being logged for this “renewable” power, and are even being chipped and shipped (with fossil fuels) to Europe to be burned in converted giant coal plants. Ignoring “biogenic” CO2 emissions is just another form a climate denial.

Landfill gas burning for energy is even worse than trash incineration, as organic wastes are continually fed to landfills to become CO2 and methane. Burning the gas for energy, ironically, causes more gas to escape the already pitiful gas capture systems, making it worse to use for energy than to just waste and flare the gas (even if coal were displaced by the small amount of power generated). True zero waste solutions are needed, including keeping organics out of landfills, to tackle this major methane source.

Biofuels are worse than petroleum  for the climate, necessitating that we stop trying to grow fuels (using natural gas-based nitrogen fertilizers and other fossil inputs), and move away from burnable fuels altogether.

Nuclear power is the most expensive (and subsidized) form of power and one of the most destructive and racist. It is a false solution that sucks up all of the economic resources needed to transition away from fossil fuels. It also uses a significant amount of fossil fuels to chew up large amounts of land and bring uranium through four energy-intensive steps of processing before it can be used in a reactor.

By making these dirty energy climate impacts invisible, divestment campaigns feed the perception that these energy sources are valid alternatives to fossil fuels. A campaign that is more symbolic than strategic should at least ensure that its campaigners “get it” about these false solutions, and not pretend that their impacts are zero. More troubling is the fact that nuclear power and incineration disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. Keeping their struggles invisible perpetuates the injustices.

Even natural gas is partially greenwashed by divestment, since it only measures the top corporate divestment targets in terms of CO2 emissions – without including the substantial leaks of gas throughout the system that cause fracked gas to be worse than coal for the climate. If leaked methane was properly accounted for, far more fracking companies would be campaign targets. Since the campaign only targets extraction-sector corporations, the energy utilities and power plant developers driving the market for the gas are left untouched, even though demand-side campaigning would be far more effective.

Fossil Fuel Divestment is NOT based on the Anti-Apartheid Divestment Campaign

 

Fossil fuel divestment is not like divestment from South African apartheid. The Free Burma movement of the 1990s was. In both cases, multinational corporations were pressured to divest from specific countries.  In the mid-1990s, after the Free Burma movement pressured Pepsico to leave Burma, where the company had sponsored trade shows for the military junta, Texaco was the next major campaign target. Texaco was working to build a gas pipeline through the rainforest using slave labor. Soon after the University of Wisconsin system divested over $230,000 in Texaco stock, specifically over this issue, Texaco pulled out of the pipeline project, just before they were about to be the target of a new national student campaign. These victories in Burma and South Africa were possible because corporations were pressured to cut their losses by dropping one small part of their overall operation.

 

Targeting the Wrong Corporations

 

Unlike those earlier divestment campaigns, the Fossil Fuel Divestment strategy is asking Exxon to stop being Exxon. If the campaign wanted to directly change corporate behavior through divestment, it needs to go after the corporations that can afford to make these changes, such as targeting the banks that finance dirty energy, or the cement companies that provide cement casings for fracking wells, or the power plant developers and utilities driving the demand for coal and gas. Such a campaign needs to target the corporations that enable the Exxon’s of the world, not expect Exxon itself to respond to minor fluctuations in stock price.

 

Reinvesting in What?

 

Unless reinvested wisely, money will just shift to other bad corporations, like the banks that finance fossil fuels, or companies that supply them, or other types of dirty energy. Shifting investments away from the top 200 corporations targeted by the campaign could likely mean shifting to smaller fossil fuel corporations, as Haverford College points out:

 

The campaign focuses on 200 companies identified as having the largest proven reserves of fossil fuel resources, but does not address investments in other companies with marginally smaller fossil fuel reserves, or in companies with closely related activities, such as drilling and exploration services. When the College investigated a claim that a portfolio can be ‘optimized’ to exclude the 200 named companies while closely tracking the performance of a broad index fund, we learned that this was accomplished by replacing the excluded fossil fuel companies with other, smaller fossil fuel companies and associated service companies. We question the symbolic power of a strategy that would merely replace certain fossil fuel companies with other players in the same or related industry.”

 

Shifting from the targeted 200 corporations to smaller or ancillary fossil fuel companies or their funders is the opposite of strategic. These other corporations are the ones who could more easily be moved by a divestment campaign.

 

As the divestment campaign evolves, the need for reinvesting in clean solutions has become more of a priority.  However, there are inherent contradictions in trying to play within the confines of institutions that insist on getting high returns on their “investments.” Even the term “investment” is misleading, as putting money into stock markets is more akin to gambling than investing, and is more often about getting money out of corporations (by doing nothing to earn it), than about stock being used to build the company.

 

Marjorie Kelly, co-founder (and for 20 years, president) of Business Ethics magazine, points this out in her book, The Divine Right of Capital: Dethroning the Corporate Aristocracy. After touting socially-responsible business for decades, she came to the conclusion that corporations are inherently incapable of being socially responsible, and wrote that book to outline how corporations should be radically redesigned. The intro of her book explains: 

 

Stockholders fund major public corporations -- True or false?

 

False.  Or, actually, a tiny bit true — but for the most part, massively false.  In fact, “investing” dollars don't go to AT&T but to other speculators.  Equity investments reach a public corporation only when new common stock is sold — which for major corporations is a rare event.  Among the Dow Jones industrials, only a handful has sold any new common stock in thirty years.  Many have sold none in fifty years.”

 

The capitol flow for these large corporations is in the opposite direction, forcing the corporation to internalize profits, externalize costs and constantly grow as fast as possible. The very nature of investing supports an economic growth model that is killing the planet.  Infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. As Edward Abbey once said, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”  As a friend put it to me, “first we knew that the earth was flat, then we knew the earth was round… now we know that the earth is constantly growing.”

 

Clearly, we need to move beyond this understanding of the world, as if we can expect corporations to constantly grow the economy, returning profits to shareholders as if resources are endless. If we don’t challenge this premise and these economic models, we’re just reinforcing this market-based capitalist framework that brought us these problems in the first place. We need a steady state economy, but such an economic model isn’t something that an institution can invest in, expecting a return.

 

Are we smashing capitalism yet?

 

After the huge People’s Climate March, I participated in “Flood Wall Street” – a sit-in a few blocks from Wall Street, which stopped traffic (but not Wall Street) for several hours. Many were eager to “smash capitalism” – which I support – but I find it amusing how it’s framed as a one-step act, perhaps to be done on the way home from work. The idea is usually offered up by those who can’t articulate what the first steps might be to smash capitalism. I think it’s safe to say that shifting investments from a set of 200 large corporations to other corporations (large or small) is not a step toward smashing the capitalist growth-based economic model that is cooking our planet.

 

Worker-owned cooperatives and publicly-owned energy systems are one good step away from corporate control. However, they generally aren’t the sorts of systems that return profits to absentee shareholders.  Using investments as the primary tactic limits the campaign to alternatives that are still growth-based and expectant on making money by doing nothing. The best alternative I’ve heard, which is a wonderful idea, is to reinvest endowments in the creation of new cooperatives to reduce energy demand locally and return some of the savings to the investors. We need to hit a point where all home and building owners are approached with offers to fund their maximizing use of conservation, efficiency and non-burn heating and electricity alternatives. This approach couples the investment alternatives with a real way to reduce use of fossil (and bio-) fuels.

 

Evolving the Campaign & "Divesting" in the Broad Sense

 

The two main national U.S. student socially responsible investment (SRI) movements in the 1990s rapidly evolved and radicalized once they saw the need to have a deeper anti-corporate analysis.  That analysis was informed, in large part, by the "Taking Care of Business" booklet that launched the modern anti-corporate personhood movement, and related materials. The 2003 documentary, The Corporationwhich exposes how modern corporations meet the government’s definition of a psychopath, is also an eye-opener calling us to a deeper analysis and more meaningful tactics.  

 

We need to “divest” in a much broader sense. Let’s stop the 300-some proposed gas-fired power plants while there’s still time. Let’s also stop the rest of the dirty energy infrastructure, whether it be the popular pipeline to protest, the not-so-known pipelines, the Bakken crude oil “bomb trains,” the coal and nuclear facilities, or the biomass and waste incinerators. Let’s attack the demand by making campuses and communities into models of how to get away from burning anything to meet our energy needs. Let’s look honestly at the need to end animal agriculture and be willing to talk to people about what they eat, and change institutional choices in the matter. Let’s challenge one another’s environmental organizations to admit that deeper changes are needed, to focus on some of the immediate threats they’re ignoring, and to stop promoting bad policies, like Obama’s Clean Power Plan, carbon tax or trading schemes, and “renewable” energy policies that include biomass or other combustion sources.

 

Plugging in: Students seeking out a more radical (getting to the root of a problem), justice-oriented way to plug in are encouraged to check out the Student Environmental Action Coalition and to explore our campus organizing resources, including our Energy Justice Shale Initiative (formerly Energy Justice Summer) and Frack U. programs, supporting grassroots resistance to fracking. Anyone seeking to work with front-line impacted communities, or wanting to explore how reinvestment can benefit some of the environmental justice communities we work with (like Chester, PA) should get in touch with us at Energy Justice Network and check out our map of communities impacted by dirty energy and waste facilities.

 

Mike Ewall is founder and director of Energy Justice Network, a national support network for grassroots activists fighting dirty energy and waste facilities. 

Biomass Energy: Another Kind of Climate Change Denial

 (Graphic: Indiana Joel)

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We’re all familiar with climate change deniers, cheerfully and/or willfully ignorant folk who refuse to accept that human-caused carbon emissions are responsible for the climate crisis — or that there even is a climate crisis. Those of us who value science and common sense typically have as much patience for these twenty-three percent of Americans as we do for anyone who believes that maggots arise spontaneously from rotting meat, witches cause disease, or the Earth is the center of the universe.  

Recently, a subtler breed of climate change denier has emerged, spreading their propaganda and even infiltrating aspects of the environmental movement: biomass boosters. These advocates for the biomass energy industry often avoid detection by professing concern with carbon emissions. Yet, while cursing fossil fuels out of one side of their mouths, out of the other they bless the burning of one of the world’s greatest buffers against runaway climate chaos — our forests — for energy.

If the climate movement wants to win over the American people and influence policy, it needs to have credibility, which only comes through consistency, and that means distancing itself from the climate change deniers in our midst.

Forests = Carbon

Forests store and sequester mind-boggling amounts of carbon and are one of our last best hopes in fighting climate change. Cutting forests and burning them for energy in polluting biomass incinerators is perhaps the worst thing we can do when it comes to the climate threat.

Biomass incinerators emit higher levels of carbon dioxide per unit of energy than most coal-fired plants, the dirtiest fossil fuel, with some studies demonstrating up to a centuries-long time frame for the reabsorption of this carbon by future forests, and others showing a permanent increase in atmospheric CO2. Some of the more optimistic (and flawed) studies show it will still take decades for the carbon to be reabsorbed by forests cut for biomass energy. Yet, this assumes a forest cut for biomass will be protected and not logged again (a highly unlikely scenario), and will maintain the same rate of growth despite soil compaction, nutrient depletion, and erosion from past logging and impacts from climate change, including drought.

Even if that best case scenario were true, it’s irrelevant. Climate scientists insist the only way to reverse runaway climate change is to drastically cut our emissions now, not at some undetermined point in the future after emitting a massive pulse of carbon out the smokestacks of biomass incinerators.

Only when you bring up this point to biomass boosters do they reveal their true colors, proving that, despite pretensions, they really aren’t taking climate change that seriously at all.

Magic Tree Carbon

When pressed on the reality of curbing emissions today rather than in the year 2114, biomass advocates typically admit that carbon emissions from biomass incineration don’t count because they don’t come from the bad kind of fossil fuel carbon, but the good kind of “biogenic” carbon. In other words, you can cut and burn all the trees you want for energy, because the carbon they emit is harmless, basically a kind of magic tree carbon.

Of course, an eighth grade grasp of Earth science proves that the atmosphere doesn’t give a fig whether the carbon comes from trees, fossil fuels, or unicorn poop, because carbon is carbon is carbon.  

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been spending the last few years deciding how to measure carbon emissions from biomass energy (even though the only honest way to account for it is to tabulate what comes out of the smokestack), with vague plans to come out with its accounting framework for “biogenic” carbon by the end of 2014. The agency’s willingness to even entertain industry’s notion of magic tree carbon exposes the EPA for what it truly is: a political, rather than scientific body. The Obama administration has come out in support of biomass energy, chopping down the low-hanging fruit of “green” energy to make it seem like it’s actually doing something about the climate crisis.

One final point to bring up if you’re ever in a conversation with a biomass booster and really want to watch them squirm. Remind them that the supposedly “biogenic” carbon stored in any given tree actually includes some carbon sequestered from hundreds of years of burning fossil fuels, and when that tree is burned for energy, that carbon too is released back into the atmosphere. If they have a response to this, please contact me and let me know what it is, because I’ve yet to hear one.

Of course, chances are, no matter how much you question biomass boosters on carbon emissions, you won’t get any good answers out of them. Maybe that’s because most of them secretly believe — though they’ll never admit it, perhaps not even to themselves — that climate change simply isn’t that big of a deal.   

 

Why We Must Fight Gas-fired Power Plants

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

The Ban Ki Moon U.N. Climate Summit is shortly coming to New York City. As we march and teach workshops at climate convergences, the media is likely to focus on the story of the Obama administration’s “Clean Power Plan” moving us away from coal in order to mitigate climate change. The story won’t be told that this plan will do more harm than good, mainly by ignoring methane and enabling a huge move from coal to gas-fired power plants.

The plan also does more harm than good by not regulating CO2 from trash incineration (2.5 times as bad as coal for the climate) and biomass incineration (50% worse), thus encouraging a large-scale conversion to burning everything from trash to trees. Other EPA deregulation efforts allowing waste burning to escape regulation by calling waste a “fuel” are also clearing the way for this toxic, climate-cooking disaster.

A leading researcher for a major fracking corporation recently confided in me that this move from coal to gas will spell disaster for climate change, confirming that if only about 3% of the gas escapes, it’s as bad as burning coal. Actual leakage rates are far higher (4-9% just at the fracking fields and more in pipelines and distribution systems), but it was most interesting to hear this person admit that the industry will never get below that level of leakage to become less harmful than coal.

We now know that methane is 86 to 105 times as potent as CO2 over a 20-year time-frame -- we’re in real trouble if we keep using the outdated “20 times over 100 years” figure EPA maintains, and permit this new generation of gas-burning to be built.

Why is it strategic to focus on the power plants?  Read on…

1) Gas burned for electricity is the largest source of gas demand since 2007. From 1997 to 2013, it more than doubled and is poised to keep growing.

2) Stopping power plants is more winnable than fighting fracking, liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, pipelines or compressor stations. Stopping fracking one community at a time isn't a winning strategy when the industry has thousands of communities targeted, and rural neighbors pit against neighboring landowners desperate for lease money. State and regional bans and moratoria have been effective so far, but LNG terminals, pipelines and compressor stations have federal preemption aspects that make them hard to fight through local or state government.

Fighting proposed LNG export terminals also has the "weak link" problem.  Ten years ago, when we were fighting LNG import terminals, there were 40 proposals throughout the U.S., but the industry and government officials admitted they only needed six – two each on the east, west and gulf coasts. Now that they're planning export terminals, there are nearly 30 proposals, and the same dynamic is at play, where the industry has stated in their conferences that they only need two on each coast, after which they'll toss out the rest of their proposals and "let environmentalists take the credit." Cynical as that is, it's not a strategy we can defeat if we're trying to attack gas demand, since it's unlikely we can beat enough to prevent the planned export volumes -- especially due to federal preemption and the clustering of most proposals on the oil- and gas-dominated Gulf Coast, where it's far harder to stop them.

Each gas-fired power plant blocked is a certain amount of gas burning and fracking prevented, while we can stop over 20 LNG terminals without putting a dent in planned export volumes. While work against the LNG export terminals is commendable, it should not be prioritized over stopping the rush to build hundreds of gas-burning power plants.

3) Attacking proposals can only be done in a certain time window, or we're doomed to roughly 30 years of power plant operation and gas demand. Although coal power plants are dirtier to live near, all of the funding and resources being put into closing coal plants while ignoring (or endorsing) new gas power plants, is misguided. Existing power plants can be tackled at any time, but proposals have to be fought when they're proposed, or it's too late. Also, coal production has peaked in the U.S., prices are going up, and gas is undercutting coal. It's effectively illegal to build new coal power plants and the industry is already moving quickly to shut and replace coal. The question is:  will we allow a switch from coal to gas, or force a change to conservation, efficiency, wind and solar?

So, if there are plans for gas-burning power plants in your area, whether it’s a new plant, an expansion or conversion of an existing plant, or reopening of a closed plant, please be in touch so we can plug you in with others who are fighting these. There is strength in numbers!

Biomass Incinerators Sue Feds for $22 Million

- by Maeusz Perkoswki, September 16, 2014, Capital Press

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The plaintiffs — Ampersand Chowchilla Biomass and Merced Power — claim the U.S. Treasury Department is wrongly withholding funds from an economic stimulus program that helps pay for renewable energy projects.

Each company invested more than $40 million to build facilities in Chowchilla and Merced that rely on boilers and turbines to produce energy from agricultural byproducts, such as orchard trimmings and nut shells, as well as other sources of waste.

The facilities became operational in 2011 and applied to the Treasury Department for reimbursements of 30 percent of the project costs, which were available through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Instead of providing each company with the full amount, roughly $12 million apiece, the government only reimbursed each of them for about $1 million, the complaint said.

Biomass Causes Problematic Emissions Too

- by Richard Ball, August 31, 2014, The Washington Post

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"139","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"346","style":"line-height: 20.6719989776611px; width: 244px; height: 243px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;","width":"347"}}]]The Post’s Aug. 28 editorial “An answer to global warming” made good points about a carbon tax. However, a serious problem that was not mentioned is how to deal with adverse impacts from biomass energy sources, such as burning wood in power plants. Most proposed carbon control schemes do not control emissions from biomass energy, erroneously assuming they are carbon neutral.

If we tax carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and ignore the emissions and side effects from production of biomass energy, we will hasten the demise of most forests and worsen the availability and cost of food, perhaps increasing carbon dioxide emissions as well.

To avoid those problems, any carbon control scheme needs to close the “biomass loophole.” For example, we could tax emissions from burning biomass like any other source of carbon dioxide emissions, at least by default, and put the burden of proving otherwise on large biomass producers or users through an appropriate system of certification of emission reductions and sustainability of production methods.

Richard Ball of Annandale, Viriginia is Energy Issues Chair at Virginia Chapter Sierra Club and was lead author for Working Group II (Impacts and Adaptation) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from 1989-1995.  

Albany, Georgia Biomass Project Takes Step Toward Reality

- by Dave Miller, September 4, 2014, WALB News

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"255","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"220","style":"line-height: 20.6719989776611px; width: 200px; height: 220px; float: left; margin: 3px 10px;","width":"200"}}]]The Albany-­Dougherty Payroll Development Authority has given the go-ahead for its part in the proposed new biomass generator in conjunction with Procter&Gamble in Albany.

We reported Tuesday that the PDA Ok'ed a new lease for Procter and Gamble that could help them cut waste, and allowing the company to have another tenant.

The combined heat and power biomass facility at the Albany Procter & Gamble Paper Products Co. was touted as a boon for the local economy by strengthening existing industries, protecting jobs and positioning Albany as a premier location for renewable energy projects.

The utility scale biomass plant would be one of the largest in Georgia and represents up to $230 million of investment by Albany Green Energy, LLC. The potential project, which is being driven by Procter & Gamble, Constellation New Energy and Sterling Energy Assets, would create 25 to 35 full-­-time jobs and an average of 190 construction jobs across 21 months with a peak of 575 jobs, and create nearly $8 million in tax revenue over the two-decade deal.

Public Opposition Spurs County to Delay New Biomass Facility

[Interesting piece by industry PR person in regards to dealing with public opposition to dirty energy projects. -Ed.]

- by Al Maiorino, September 2, 2014, Renewable Energy Magazine

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"138","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"line-height: 20.6719989776611px; width: 180px; height: 134px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;"}}]]Transylvania County in North Carolina is currently engaged in intensive internal debate about the role of biomass in their future. The current state of affairs began last year when Renewable Developers, a New York based LLC, proposed the construction of a biomass waste to energy conversion plant in the town of Penrose.

The new facility would utilize the pyrolysis method of conversion to turn wood chips and municipal solid waste into approximately four megawatts of renewably sourced electricity. Unfortunately, staunch public opposition lead by the NIMBY group People for Clean Mountains (PCM) immediately began to oppose the facility after it was announced.

Hawaii's Only Coal-fired Power Plant May Switch to Biomass

- by Duane Shimgawa, August  28, 2014,  Pacific Business News

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"254","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"line-height: 20.6719989776611px; width: 211px; height: 142px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;","title":"Photo: Cleanislands.com"}}]]The only coal-fired power plant in Hawaii, which is the single largest generating plant on Oahu, is under financial stress because there is no financial reserve, according to the Hawaiian Electric Co.'s new energy plan released this week.

Hawaiian Electric is also asking AES Hawaiito convert some of the energy being produced at the plant in Campbell Industrial Park to biomass from coal

Given the potential financial impact of an interruption of service associated with a financial default of AES Hawaii, HECO said it has been negotiating in good faith with the company to explore the possibility of an amendment to the power purchase agreement that would make financial sense to AES Hawaii and ratepayers.

As part of the ongoing negotiations for the change in the power purchase agreement, the state’s largest electric utility has asked AES Hawaii to convert some or all of the energy produced at the facility from coal to biomass, possibly from black pellets made from wood.