USDA Funds Genetic Engineering Research for Switchgrass Biofuels

-  July 24, 2014, Farmers’ Advance

Michigan State University (MSU) plant biologist C. Robin Buell has been awarded $1 million from a joint U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program to accelerate genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstock for the production of biofuels, bio-power and bio-based products.

Specifically, the MSU College of Natural Science researcher will work to identify the genetic factors that regulate cold hardiness in switchgrass, a plant native to North America that holds high potential as a biofuel source.

"This project will explore the genetic basis for cold tolerance that will permit the breeding of improved switchgrass cultivars that can yield higher biomass in northern climates," said Buell, also an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. "It's part of an ongoing collaboration with scientists in the USDA Agricultural Research Service to explore diversity in native switchgrass as a way to improve its yield and quality as a biofuel feedstock."

One of the proposed methods to increase the biomass of switchgrass, and therefore its utility as a biofuel, is to grow lowland varieties in northern latitudes, where they flower later in the season.

Chester, PA Residents Air Concerns over Covanta Trash Incineration Plan

UPDATE: despite strong organizing efforts, an outpouring of community opposition and strong research we've compiled to show how awful this plan is, city council voted unanimously on Aug 13th to approve Covanta's plan that allows 30 years of New York City waste to be brought by train to Chester for incineration.  In fact, it'll go through Chester to Wilmington, DE, then will be trucked back into Chester, with five more trucks than they'd normally need since rail boxes are smaller than normal trucks.  It's an insane plan and we'll continue to fight it.  See Chester Environmental Justice for details.

 

-  by Vince Sullivan, July 24, 2014, Delaware County Daily Times

Dozens of city residents attended Wednesday night’s council meeting to voice their opposition to a proposal that would allow the country’s largest trash incinerator to construct additional buildings on its property.

Covanta’s Delaware Valley Resource Recovery Facility, located in the first block of Highland Avenue, is seeking to construct a 16,000-square-foot building that would enable the facility to handle a different kind of truck traffic. The company recently entered into a 20-year contract with New York City to incinerate up to 500,000 tons of municipal waste each year. The waste would be brought from New York to Wilmington, Del., via train and then the rail boxes would be put onto tractor-trailers to be trucked to Chester.

A Covanta vice president attended two planning commission meetings where he explained that the incinerator is not seeking to increase its trash-burning capacity, which is regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, but said the trash from New York would replace other municipal waste sources. He added that because more trash wouldn’t be coming into the facility, the number of trucks driving to the incinerator would not increase. The rail box building would enable the boxes to be removed from the trucks and emptied onto the tipping floor.

The proposal also calls for a 1,000-square-foot office building. The Chester City Planning Comission recommended that city council deny the application.

Biomass Burning Kills 250,000 People a Year

-  by Jo Nova, August 5, 2014, JoanneNova.com.au

The headline at Science Daily is that wildfires and other burns lead to climate change. The paper itself asks: “As such, particle burn-off of clouds may be a major underrecognized source of global warming.” For me what matters are the deaths in the here and now:

“We calculate that 5 to 10 percent of worldwide air pollution mortalities are due to biomass burning,” Jacobson said. “That means that it causes the premature deaths of about 250,000 people each year.”

 This is similar to Indur Goklany’s conclusion in 2011:

Killing people with “concern”? Biofuels led to nearly 200,000 deaths (est) in 2010.

In a study  published in  Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Indur Goklany calculated the additional mortality burden of biofuels policies and found that nearly 200,000 people died in 2010 alone, because of efforts to use biofuels to reduce CO2 emissions.

Goklany (2011) estimated that the increase in the poverty headcount due to higher biofuel production between 2010 and 2004 implies 192,000 additional deaths and 6.7 million additional lost DALYs in 2010 alone.

Residents Voice New Concerns on Gainesville, FL Biomass Incinerator

-  by Morgan Watkins, August 5, 2014, Gainesville Sun

Local residents worried about the biomass plant showed up Tuesday evening for a public meeting on its draft Title V air operation permit, which could be approved this fall, to make their concerns known.

Folks milled around the Hall of Heroes Community Room at the Gainesville Police Department on Northwest Eighth Avenue, talking over the issues with fellow residents as well as with Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials who were on hand to answer questions.

Several people submitted written comments to the FDEP at the meeting, which was styled as an open house, although others stopped by a table in an adjacent room to give verbal comments instead.

The Gainesville Renewable Energy Center has applied to the FDEP for the five-year permit, which would be effective Jan. 1. This would be its initial Title V permit.

The biomass plant drew complaints of noise, odor and dust issues in the past from residents of the Turkey Creek Golf & Country Club, while government employees who work nearby at Alachua County's Public Works facility complained about odor and dust problems as well.

USDA Splurges Millions on Biomass Power Incinerators

[More taxpayer money funding private corporations to log National Forests under the unscientific guise of "wildfire prevention." -Ed.]

-  US Department of Agriculture, July 23, 2014, Office of Communications

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has selected 36 energy facilities in 14 states to accept biomass deliveries supported by the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Biomass owners who supply these facilities may qualify for BCAP delivery assistance starting July 28, 2014.

Of the total $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, up to 50 percent ($12.5 million) is available each year to assist biomass owners with the cost of delivery of agricultural or forest residues for energy generation. Some BCAP payments will target the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands for renewable energy, which reduces the risk of forest fire.

Behind the Colorado Fracking Betrayal

- by Joel Dyer, August 7, 2014, Boulder Weekly
 
So what went wrong with ballot measures 88 and 89? How could these popular citizen’s initiatives written to give local communities more control over drilling and fracking in their neighborhoods have failed to get on the ballot?
 
Well, the first mistake Colorado citizens made was they trusted a politician, Congressman Jared Polis, to help them with their cause. Polis formed a green-sounding organization, which wrote ballot initiatives 88 and 89 and paid the signature gatherers for their amazing efforts, which culminated in more than 260,000 signatures being gathered, more than enough to put both measures before the voters in November.
 
In fact, Polis was so effective in his efforts that his organization sucked up all the anti-fracking energy in the state, causing other local-control ballot measures which were written and put forward by actual grassroots activists to be withdrawn. They couldn’t compete with Polis’ money or his organization. And why should they compete, they all wanted the same thing, right?
 
And so began the Polis show. And what a show it turned out to be.

Forest Thinning Will Increase Wildfire Risk

- by Charles Thomas, The Oregonian
 
As fires again rage across the West, senators from John McCain, R-Ariz., to Ron Wyden, D-Ore., echo the refrain "thin the forests" to prevent wildfires. Unfortunately, most of the advocated thinning will actually stoke the wildfires of the future rather than lessen their occurrence and impacts.
 
Thinning prescriptions proposed in Wyden's O&C legislation, designed by eminent foresters Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson, will stimulate hotter, faster-growing wildfires that are more hazardous to fight. These prescriptions drastically thin forest canopies through timber sales designed primarily to generate timber volume, often leaving the slash and smaller shrubs and trees for non-commercial fire hazard reduction projects that are usually underfunded, unable to match the pace of canopy thinning projects and clear-cuts across the landscape.
 
Thinning forest canopies opens the stands to more sunlight, which encourages growth of fine fuels, including shrubs, small trees and grasses. Penetration of sunlight and dry summer winds effectively increases the active fire season by drying this new growth and leftover logging slash much faster than in adjacent unlogged forest stands, where greater canopy closure with tall shade columns retains moisture in soils and vegetation.
 
Active fire season begins weeks earlier in thinned forests and lasts weeks later, drastically increasing the time span during which dry forest conditions contribute to rapid fire spread. These dry, thinned forests often burn hotter and more erratically than unthinned stands, even causing retreat of firefighters when conditions become too dangerous to maintain fire lines.

2014: The Year of the Smokestack Smackdown [Energy Justice Now, August 2014]

Prepare yourself for the August issue of Energy Justice Network's new publication, Energy Justice Now!

- "2014 a Banner Year for Victories"

- "Derailing NYC Trash Train in Chester, PA"

- "Vermont Yankee: Out of the Fission and Into the Fire?"

...and more!!!

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

Subscribe to monthly email issues of Energy Justice Now here.

2014 a Banner Year for Victories

Bristol, PA residents protest hazardous waste incinerator This is the year for victories against biomass and waste incinerators. We've tracked 45 victories by those in our network since 2010, but this year is something special. It's only been seven months and we've already seen seven victories, plus a victory against a proposed gas-fired power plant and two state-level policy victories. We're proud to have contributed in small (and sometimes not so small) ways to the great grassroots work that resulted in each. So far this year: Later this year, we hope and expect to see victories in other communities we've been supporting, including against incinerators planned in Allentown, PA, Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Baltimore, MD, Crawford County, PA, Frederick, MD, and Logansport, IN. We also are hopeful to see victories against a New York City trash-by-train plan to feed the nation's largest incinerator, in Chester, PA, and a proposed landfill in Waller County, TX.

DC Passes Styrofoam Ban and must Plan for Zero Waste!

Since January, we've been working to help get two bills passed in DC City Council, both of which passed unanimously on July 14th, 2014!  Several aspects of the bills were made stronger through our efforts.

The most exciting parts of these bills include:

  • banning most uses of Styrofoam in food service in DC
  • requiring disposable food service ware to be compostable or recyclable
  • transportation benefits for those working for larger employers, supporting mass transit passes, bicycling and carpooling
  • requiring the city to come up with a zero waste plan, ensuring that at least 80% of our waste is diverted from incinerators and landfills (we're currently at a miserable 16%)
  • requires better recycling education and labeling of bins
  • starts curbside composting collection
  • mandates electronic waste recycling
  • requires reporting of where our waste and recycling actually goes if collected by private haulers
In more detail...

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