Is Cellulosic Ethanol All it’s Cracked Up to Be?

[Though this article advocates for natural gas, it's a good summary of the shortcomings of cellulosic ethanol, or trees and plants converted into liquid fuels. - Josh]

- by Edward Dodge, December 10, 2014, Breaking Energy

The EPA has long promoted cellulosic ethanol as the future of biofuels, but technical challenges have kept production far below targets. A recent rule change allows RNG, renewable natural gas, to qualify as cellulosic biofuel even though RNG is not cellulosic, but this helps EPA appear to be meeting their goals.

RNG growth has been dramatic and is the lowest carbon vehicle fuel available today. Perhaps the EPA should be promoting a Renewable Gas Standard instead of a Renewable Fuel Standard.

In 2013, production of cellulosic ethanol was effectively zero, even though the legislated target volume for for 2013 was 1 billion gallons. In August 2013, EPA reduced the target to 6 million gallons, and again reduced the target retroactively to 810,185 gallons, less than 1 million. By all accounts this represents a complete failure of the cellulosic ethanol program. In July 2014 the EPA revised the cellulosic biofuel rules to allow RNG to be categorized as cellulosic.

Florida Waste Company Seeks to Close Incinerator, Transfer Trash

- by Brittany Wallman, December 9, 2014, Sun Sentinel

Neighbors of the "Mount Trashmore'' landfill in northern Broward descended on County Hall Tuesday, worried about plans to close a trash-burning incinerator in the region.

Hundreds piled into County Commission chambers, some having arrived on a bus from the Wynmoor Village senior condo coummunity in Coconut Creek. City officials and residents there fear the displaced trash could end up heaped upon the landfill, officially named Monarch Hill but long dubbed Mount Trashmore by locals.

Waste Management's Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. wants Broward County Commission approval to stop using the northern trash-to-energy plant. Under the proposal, the garbage would rumble south in trucks through the heart of the county to an incinerator on U.S. 441, north of Griffin Road.

Biomass Incinerator a Threat to Children

- by Norma Kreilein, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics

[The biomass facility proposed for Jasper, Indiana referred to in this letter was canceled this year thanks to the hard work of Dr. Kreilein and Healthy Dubois County –Ed.]

I am writing as a concerned pediatrician in Southern Indiana. We live in the heart of the power plant belt of the Midwest. For many years I have suspected that our local pollution is greatly responsible for our high rage of inflammatory processes, malignancies, and increasing rates of autism.

I have been trying to fight the addition of a biomass plant to our city. The city has long been an industrial base with many wood factories, so there has apparently been a high VOC load. In addition, we live near many power plants. There was a coal fired municipal power plant within the city limits and very near a residential neighborhod since 1968. The city has said that the plant has been shuttled for approximately the past 3 years because it isn't "profitable."

They have been planning a biomass refit for the past 3 years, although the plan became more public only less than a year ago.

Strong opposition was voiced from the time it was publicly mentioned, but the city has pushed the plant through, anyway. Much manipulation of emission data has occurred (averaging emissions out over the whole county to make them appear insignificant), but ironically one of the more interesting arguments is that the plant, though polluting and within 1/2 mile of a residential neighborhood, should nonetheless be built because the plant will decrease our dependence on coal fired plants.

Essentially the argument is to build more so we are not as dependent on the ones we can't seem to shut down. Many of the arguments against coal-fired plants are used by manipulative entities to justify continuing to poison the population. In our particular city, the greed for development appears to take precedence over the consideration of air quality.

Until the EPA begins to mandate states to use more accurate exposure models (better than averaging concentrated pollution over a county), states like Indiana and cities like Jasper will continue to actually increase pollution.

Biomass combustion is being sold to communities around the country by high pressure, ambiguous, unscrupulous carpetbaggers who promise "jobs" and "green energy" but are vacuuming precious federal funds to produce expensive energy that will never solve our dependence on foreign oil nor make our air any cleaner. Worse yet, they use existing knowledge about coal-fired plants and aggressive manipulative mathemathics to convince communities that the particulate/dioxin emissions will be nonexistent or "minimal."

The ultimate problem is that the same monitors and regulators that fail to close down coal plants will do no better with biomass. We will just spend more and think we feel better about it. 

I Can’t Breathe: Air Pollution Worse for Communities of Color

- by Brentin Mock, Grist

In North Carolina, scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency have found a “stable and negative association” between poor birth outcomes among women and their exposure to air pollution. That’s pretty much common knowledge, if not common sense, no matter what state or country you look at. But the EPA scientists also noted that “more socially disadvantaged populations are at a greater risk,” even when subjected to the same levels of air pollutants.

Translation: If you have the misfortune of being born poor and black in North Carolina, you’re more likely to arrive in this world underweight and undernourished, on top of being underprivileged. Polluted air only makes your situation worse.

The study, published in the January 2014 Journal of Environmental Health, covered women who gave birth between 2002 and 2006 across the entire state. It was built upon a catalog of previous surveys that have found “significant and persistent racial and socioeconomic” disparities for poor birth outcomes like infant mortality, low birth weight, and premature births. Throw air pollution into the mix — particulate matter and ozone, which the EPA researchers measured in the study — and the disparities deepen.

Windfarms More Efficient than Biofuels?

- by Aidan Harrison, December 5, 2014, Northumberland Gazette

Its obsession with ‘markets’ has already placed our railways and utilities in the hands of big foreign state and corporate-owned monopolies.

The first thing to make clear is that the technology of wind power is nothing like as inefficient as its fanatical detractors claim.

In terms of energy returned on energy invested (EROEI), it is better than nuclear and shale gas, yet safe and clean.

It is infinitely more energy-efficient than utilising good farmland for biofuel production. Ninety-seven per cent of the dash for turbines is outside the UK, with such politically diverse places as China, Chile and Texas piling into wind power. Can the rest of the world really be so wrong?

The latest figures show that in October, Scotland’s wind turbines produced more Kw/hrs than the country consumed.

Yes, they receive taxpayer support, but only a tiny fraction of the money which our Government has promised to France and Communist China for building two nuclear power stations in Somerset.

December issue of Energy Justice Now | Celebrating 16 Victories for Clean Air in 2014!

Never fear, the December issue of Energy Justice Now — the national forum for the Dirty Energy Resistance — is here!

Inside this issue: Celebrating 16 Victories for Clean Air in 2014!

- 16 Victories for Clean Air

From Shock to Victory: The Planet’s “Immune System” at Work

Incinerator in Frederick, MD Canceled After Decade-Long Fight

...and more!

Please share the December 2014 issue of Energy Justice Now with your friends, colleagues, neighbors, media, and elected officials! 

Subscribe to monthly email issues of Energy Justice Now!

 

 

Incinerator in Frederick, MD Canceled After Decade-Long Fight

- by Patrice Gallagher, No Incinerator Alliance

On November 20, 2014, Frederick County, Maryland's Board of County Commissioners cancelled plans to build a 1500 ton-per-day waste-to-energy incinerator, ending a 10 year citizens' effort to kill the project and put better alternatives for community waste management in place.

The vote was 3 to 2, and all three who voted to cancel had previously supported the project.

As a citizen activist who has fought this project since 2006, it feels great to finally be able to put this terrible idea to rest, and begin to help our county focus on more recycling, repurposing and composting — perhaps in the form of a Resource Recovery Park, as many other communities around the nation are doing successfully.

How did we do it? I suppose the best answer I can give for this is: persistence. The organized opposition got its start with one woman who decided to educate herself and any other interested citizens by inviting to our community a national expert on sustainable waste management. He made a lot of sense to us... much more sense than those advocating for a large incinerator project — the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority.

We began as a loose coalition of activists from many walks of life, most of whom had no knowledge or experience in waste management, but who educated ourselves along the way and were fortunate to eventually attract national experts and environmental organizations (including Energy Justice Network), engineers, lawyers and accountants to our ranks, who shared their expertise with us and helped us make the case against incineration, and in favor of other more economically and environmentally sound ways to think about our waste as a resource to be reused, not burned.

From Shock to Victory: The Planet’s “Immune System” at Work

- by Jan Baty, Newark Residents Against the Power Plant

As I saw Alex Lotorto (campus and community organizer for Energy Justice Network) step out of his car, unloading materials for the meeting he was to lead at my house, I had a flash back to how I had discovered the Energy Justice Network. In Newark Delaware, residents had taken on the enormous task of stopping a project the University of Delaware was considering, a data center power plant, proposed by The Data Centers, LLC (TDC), to be built in the heart of this college town and the university, at a former Chrysler plant site. The plans for the power plant had now grown to 279 megawatts —at least two times larger than any other on-site power generation facility at data centers in the US.

News of this proposal had been kept tightly under wraps for over a year by City of Newark staff, TDC, the State of DE and the University of DE until June 2013, when the CEO of TDC approached the local Sierra Club chapter seeking an endorsement for this project as being “green.” The alarm was raised by the directors, Stephanie Herron and Amy Rowe.

An official resident’s group was formed, Newark Residents Against the Power Plant (NRAPP), which by now had hundreds of members and dozens of working groups and neighborhood groups across Newark. Much effort was going into persuading city council to withdraw their support of this proposal. City council meetings were filled with passionate statements by citizens, including revelations of results from FOIA requests, and uncovered information about TDC’s plans. There was a continuous stream of letters to the editor of the Wilmington News Journal.  Knowing how long it often takes for governments to respond, some of us were eager to pour our energy into educating university faculty, and students about this —since most knew nothing about it!  We realized that if given enough pressure the University could certainly stop this project.

We formed a group of residents, faculty, and students, which became a resource for motivating the university community. Faculty (mostly in environmental studies) began reaching out to colleagues—students were quick to connect with environmental and other student organizations. 

I remembered an environmental lawyer I had met in Washington, DC. Perhaps he would know of a regional organization that could help us learn about how to make a difference on campus, that was also documenting evidence about the dangers of ‘natural’gas. We had a brief conversation. “Here’s Ralph Nader’s phone number. Call him.”I did. After leaving a message about our needs, I received a short message back. I could hear a humming sound of other people talking in the background, and a man’s voice in a hoarse whisper said “Energy justice.net …Mike Ewall”, and gave me his phone number. Feeling somewhat like a character in a detective novel, I phoned Mike.  What a relief to connect with this organization and to find out what a resource they are.  A later conversation with Alex revealed that he was traveling to DC and could stop on the way to give us a presentation.  Support was showing up.

Alex is a person of considerable warmth, intelligence, humor, courage and dedication. I cannot imagine surviving with what he takes in stride day after day. His presentation was organized around how to take an increasing complexity of information and possibilities and organize that into a more usable context. One chart, “The Midwest Academy Strategy Chart”, had five headings: GOALS, RESOURCES, PEOPLE, TARGETS, and TACTICS. 

As we organized our conversations around these, we began to realize how much we were already doing, and how to strengthen the contacts we were making. For all of us, this meeting gave us courage. There was a larger supportive world out there.

A series of actions and events evolved. 

•    We set up a Google group for sharing information, and a local Episcopal church offered us meeting space near campus for our increasing number of meetings with students.

•    We started planning a Teach-In on campus for the spring semester, which would present spokespeople from the residents, the TDC, and environmental faculty from the university.  This eventually happened and was a great success. 

•    A few people designed a White Board video presentation, (with hand drawings and a voice - over explaining the dangers of this project), that went viral.  

•    A number of concerned faculty wrote dynamic letters explaining their opposition to the project for the student newspaper. 

•    We were interested also in educating students to the Indigenous perspective. An opportunity opened up when a visiting outside environmental group traveling from campus to campus to raise level of awareness regarding environmental concerns, gave us space for a presentation at a free student dinner. We were able to invite two presenters, Dennis Coker, the Lenape Indian Chief and Amy Rowe, one of the founding members of NRAPP. Amy’s message was about the excitement of becoming an activist with heart. Dennis spoke of the importance in native tradition, of “Everything done for the community…A simple life…respect for self extending to respect for others and the planet.”

•    Out of that gathering came students’suggestion to have a rally on the main campus green (this was the first time since the 80’s when something like this had been done) where they cut out silvery grey strips of fabric donated to us —representing smoke—and waved them around as they danced in a circle, chanting enthusiastically.  Even some professors chimed in.

As NRAPP began taking a more active role on campus in addition to all of their speaking out at city council meetings, continual FOIA requests, and pointing out inaccuracies in the TDC’s continually changing proposals, they organized letter writing to the board of trustees, and alumni.  To create a strong presence at Decision Days on campus (when perspective students and parents would be visiting), the need for striking banners became clear. I went around to local hotels, asking for old sheets and then found people to make dramatic banners we could hold, one of them saying “Which Future Do We Deserve?”with smokestacks carefully painted on one side and flowers on the other.

And one more event that I found particularly moving—for the last board of trustees meeting before the summer break, students were asked to make and hold ‘Selfies’containing their picture, what they were studying and that they were in opposition to the power plant. What a feeling it was to come into the foyer from the parking garage to find a circle of young people standing quietly--their presence and statements saying it all. Certainly even a board of trustees would be moved by that!!

By May, as the momentum of concern within the town and the university continued to grow, the faculty senate voted 43-0 against the power plant, saying that the plant would be inconsistent with the university’s core values and signed commitments to environmental sustainability. Then from a July 11 News Journal article came the welcome announcement that the University of DE had terminated its lease with TDC after a year long debate over green energy and economic development in Delaware. “After more than a year fighting the project, opponents celebrated, gathering outside Old College Hall on Main St., hoisting signs thanking UD for its decision.” NRAPP co-founder Amy Rowe was quoted as saying “I think the University has learned that the University and the community are partners.”

Many yearn for community—people helping each other with shared concerns for the planet, which is our home. Sometimes this community emerges due to a shared threat, and then the ongoing challenge is to keep growing community to build the “art of the possible.” The acronym NRAAP has now changed to Newark Residents Alliance Project. The ‘immune system’ of the planet seems to be working. Organizations and resources such as The Energy Justice Network are at its core. Thank you for all you do.

Ethanol Spill in Greensboro, North Carolina

[Not only fossil fuels have toxic spills - Josh]

- December 8, 2014, Biofuels International

Firefighters in Greensboro, North Carolina, responded to a leaking tanker at a Ryder truck rental facility.

Approximately 2,000 gallons of ethanol spilled in an accident in south Greensboro North Carolina.

A tanker filled with ethanol burst after the landing gear, which is used to keep the trailer upright when not hooked to a tractor gave way.

Additional city crews with heavy equipment were called in to dig a pit to contain the fuel.

Crews placed large containers under the tanker to capture some of the fuel.

Firefighters moved the rest of the remaining fuel from the damaged tanker to a second tanker.

Census Bureau Releases Biomass Incinerator Data

- by Erin Voegele, December 3, 2014, Biomass Magazine  

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released new economic census statistics on renewable energy, reporting that revenues for electric power generation industries that use renewable energy resources increased 49 percent from 2007 to 2012, reaching $9.8 billion. In 2007, revenue was only $6.6 billion. Biomass is among the four newly delineated industries addressed by the Census Bureau.

According to information released by the Census Bureau, the 2007 Economic Census included wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar electric power under the broad “other electric power generation” industry, under NAICS code 221119. By the 2012 Economic Census, those industries had been broken out separately, with the “other electric power generation” industry limited to only tidal electric power generation and other electric power generation facilities not elsewhere classified.

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