Nova Scotia Power Biomass in Cape Breton Raising Green Concerns

- by Aaron Beswick, January 9, 2015, The Chronicle Herald

About 2,790 hectares.

That’s a rough estimate of how much woodland will need to be cut annually to feed Nova Scotia Power’s biomass boiler at Point Tupper.

“It seems that more of the fears are coming true than the benefits we had envisioned from that facility,” said Kari Easthouse, manager of the Cape Breton Private Land Partnership.

Foresters in northern Nova Scotia are warning that the wood being burned at Nova Scotia Power’s new biomass boiler may be green, but the electricity coming out of it isn’t.

New Biomass Power Facility on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?

- Sam Ali, January 8, 2015, ABC 10

The Keweenaw Renewable Energy Coalition is one step closer to helping bring a solution to the energy crisis in the Copper Country.

Last night, KREC gathered experts in the logging and timber industries for a biomass working session to discuss the future of a possible 11-megawatt biomass electric plant.They were joined via Skype by Asko Ojaniemi, the head of an energy efficiency solutions company in Finland. The plan is to bring in his team to design a plant that matches the needs of the area.

KREC’s treasurer says one of the bigger decisions will be the location of the plant.

Media Helps Biomass Industry Spread Wildfire Hysteria

-  by Melissa Santos, January 4, 2015, The News Tribune

[Yet another mainstream media article mouthing biomass industry talking points and ignoring the science showing no link between logging and the prevention of large wildfires. -Josh]

Ann Stanton credits a state program with saving her home from the worst wildfire in Washington’s history.

Despite her property being in the path of the Carlton Complex fire, which scorched about 256,000 acres in Okanogan and Chelan counties last summer, Stanton’s home and the trees around it survived with minimal damage.

It wasn’t just luck. A year earlier, Stanton and her husband worked with the state Department of Natural Resources to thin the trees on their 20-acre property, reducing the wildfire’s ability to spread.

“It made all the difference in the world for us,” Stanton said last month. “The house was completely spared. If you could ignore the black trunks on some of the ponderosa pines, you could imagine the fire had never happened.”

DNR officials think thinning and restoring more forests on public and private lands throughout the state could help prevent another wildfire season like 2014, which was the most destructive in state history.

Biomass Facility Fires a Regular Occurrence

-  by Josh Schlossberg, December 29, 2014, Vail Daily

Omitted from coverage of the fire at the Gypsum biomass facility (“Fire ignites at Gypsum biomass power plant,” Dec. 18) is the fact that these blazes are regular occurrences, and the biomass industry has opposed tighter safety regulations, due to the added expense.

As of December 2014, fires and/or explosions have occurred at 25 biomass facilities, with documentation compiled at TheBiomassMonitor.org

Even when not on fire, biomass facilities emit disease-causing air pollutants, including particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and dioxin. Add to this equation the carbon dioxide emissions from cutting and burning trees for energy, and the forest and watershed impacts of logging, biomass energy takes a greater toll on public health and the environment than is typically reported.

Whether you’re a biomass booster or a biomass buster, it’s in all of our best interest to be transparent about the footprint of energy sources, so we can weigh the perceived benefits against the potential impacts.

Citizens Urge EPA and Congress to Choose Public Interest Over Politics on Energy Policy

- Mike Ewall and Samantha Chirillo

In December, 900 Americans, including 100 organizations across the U.S. collectively voiced their concerns about major parts of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, in comments submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Citizens specifically asked the EPA to:

·      set more aggressive targets and address environmental justice

·      not encourage more fracking (gas) or nuclear energy, and close the methane loophole

·      disallow a shift from coal to biomass and trash burning and close the biogenic CO2 loophole

The EPA released their revised framework in November 2014, shortly before the comment deadline on the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.  In a memo dated November 19, 2014, EPA announced its decision to virtually ignore the carbon dioxide emissions of biomass energy in its revised Framework for Assessing Biogenic CO2 Emissions from Stationary Sources. After years of urging to accurately account for these emissions, grassroots advocates across the U.S. contend that the EPA’s biogenic carbon loophole will open the door to an onslaught of incineration that will harm public health, exacerbate runaway climate change, and degrade our nation’s forests and drinking watersheds.

Ignoring its own Scientific Advisory Board, the EPA has demonstrated that politics trump science when it comes to climate change. Sound science has shown that biomass energy facilities are not “carbon neutral” and emit 50% more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than a coal-fired facility.  Trash incineration emits 2.5 times as much CO2 as coal per unit of energy produced.

Sound science has also shown that a biomass energy facility emits higher levels of dangerous pollutants, such as particulate matter, per unit of energy produced than a coal-fired facility, harming especially children and the elderly.  In the case of trash incineration, it's far more polluting than coal by every available measure.

This new EPA policy allows CO2 emissions from burning waste to be completely ignored.  This would include incineration of trash, food waste, animal waste (such as poultry litter), sewage sludge and construction/demolition waste.  This is justified on the assumption that these wastes would cause more global warming emissions if landfilled, as if conventional landfilling is the only alternative.

The new EPA policy, still largely uncertain, will at best ignore CO2 emissions from forest and agriculture-derived biomass and at worst provide political cover for the destruction of the public’s natural resources in the most vulnerable states. Each state gets to choose whether it will address these sources in its compliance plan to meet Clean Power Plan goals. The memo states that “. . . the EPA expects that states' reliance specifically on sustainably-derived agricultural- and forest-derived feedstocks may also be an approvable element of their compliance plans.” Rather than specifying the requirements to pass a sustainability test, “the agency expects to recognize the biogenic CO2 emissions and climate policy benefits of waste-derived and certain forest-derived industrial byproduct feedstocks, based on the conclusions supported by a variety of technical studies, including the revised framework” and consultations with various stakeholders. This could include industry, industry-funded scientists, and environmental groups funded to make deals with the industry.

 

“Government agencies already work with industry, biased scientists, and compromised environmental groups to label destructive public forest logging as ‘sustainable.’ What’s worse with this new EPA policy is that it falsely portrays this logging as beneficial for the climate, and now the states most politically dominated by the timber industry can get more money to log more of our forests without taxing the multinational private forest owners,” explains Roy Keene, public interest forester for 40 years and Executive Director of Our Forests, based in Oregon, the state with the largest timber harvest volume.

 

The EPA recognizes that some states, like Oregon, already have “sustainable” forest management plans without critically evaluating from even a carbon accounting standpoint what is “sustainable” or “sustained yield,” as forest management plans call it. The O&C Act of 1937 mandated that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sustain the whole forest and its multiple uses by the public -- the waterways, soils, recreation value, and timber harvest – although never implemented as such. The National Forest Management Act mandates that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) calculate non-declining yield (a.k.a. “sustained yield”) levels from the sale of timber from each forest.  However, the mandates and the reality are totally different. Already an increasing trend not only among state agencies, but also in the U.S. Forest Service, managers are hiding data on timber harvest and soil and telling nonprofits they’ll have to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get data.

 

Over time, these agencies, including the USFS, have shifted from using the board foot to the inappropriate cubic foot as a unit of measurement yet still claim a “sustainable yield” of timber. The cubic foot is adequate when measuring the entire volume of the tree. However, the board foot, used to measure just the wood that can be made into lumber, is generally considered the more honest unit of measure of harvest volume from a forest when comparing among trees of different sizes or stands of different ages. A larger tree without defect has more board feet per cubic foot that can be made into lumber than a smaller tree. The larger tree historically has had a higher price per cubic foot than a smaller tree, although biomass energy market is now increasing the value of that smaller tree that is meanwhile less suitable for use in construction. Agencies using cubic feet overinflate the harvest volume of younger trees to justify replacing one slower-growing older tree with six faster-growing seedlings. Even if the cubic feet in a logged stand increases, the quantity of wood in that stand that can be made into a board foot of dimensional lumber declines.

 

The total carbon stored also declines then, especially considering that half of the carbon in Pacific Northwest forests is stored in the soil and largely lost upon logging. In his book Reforming the Forest Service, Randal O’Toole predicted that board foot sales from national forests would decline 30% as long as the USFS reports cubic feet while making the bogus sustainable yield justification. Of course, the market for chips has increased all the while. Drawing a flawed comparison using cubic feet ignores both the longer-term economic and ecosystem benefits of an older, biodiverse stand over a young plantation. When an agency changes the unit of measurement it uses, one can no longer validly compare its harvest data before and after the change.

 

Moreover, existing state plans are complex, involving multiple levels of government and stakeholders and took years to create. Will the EPA force any state to revise its forest management plan when it was partly written and claimed to be “sustainable” by scientists at the state’s leading agriculture university (e.g. Oregon State University)? States without existing plans can simply “encourage participation in sustainable forest management programs developed by third-party forestry and/or environmental entities,” the EPA recognizes. However, the way the system works currently, forest certifiers have a financial incentive to certify, and certified forests are not independently and credibly monitored, according to Keene. There are no common minimum sustainability standards among certifying bodies, which focus on process, not on outcomes. Consumers do not have adequate information. University of Alberta policy analysts have recognized such market failures of certification and that, “given the drawbacks associated with certification, there may be more appropriate alternatives” for “the elusive goal of sustainable forest management.”

 

The “environmental entities” may be logging selectively instead of clearcutting but are logging a much larger area and destroying the soil using a mechanized approach rather than creating jobs and are not independently monitored. There is little to no citizen involvement or oversight of either forest certification schemes or logging operations contracted by or consented to by environmental groups.  If “sustainable forest management” is so “sustainable,” why the lack of transparency and accountability?

 

The timber and bioenergy industries and their politicians, leading proponents of the EPA’s biogenic carbon loophole, also promise that more logging and burning will yield more jobs and revenue. However, based on Oregon State Employment Department and U.S. Forest Service data, dramatic increases in the timber harvest volume from the end of the 2009 recession and 2013 are not accompanied by proportional increases in jobs or revenue. Keene argues that cutting and burning more of the public’s carbon-storing forested watersheds at a time when chip and pellet exports to fuel facilities in Europe and Asia are at an all time high is making the U.S. a resource colony. If Obama and Congress want to increase jobs and bolster rural economies, why don’t they stop the rising export of raw logs and chips from public forests and tax private exports?

 

At least half of the harvest volume from privately owned forests in Oregon is already exported to Asia in one form or another, untaxed. The southeastern U.S. has been the leading export region of forest biomass to European countries that similarly do not count carbon dioxide emitted from biomass energy facilities. In early November, citizens in Chesapeake, VA, protested the climate impact and degradation to their own environment from biomass export.

 

“We’re alarmed that the Obama Administration’s climate action in the form of this EPA decision will actually worsen climate change, further drain local economies and disproportionately impact the poorest Americans,” said Chirillo, M.S., M.P.A., Steering Committee member of the Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign.

 

Chirillo explains that the timing of the EPA’s decision is not surprising, as the Subcommittee on International Trade, chaired by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, and others in Congress put the finishing touches on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the newest NAFTA-derived trade deal. “This trade deal, combined with the EPA’s legitimizing burning forests for energy essentially greases the skids for more of the public’s forest resources and jobs to be shipped overseas, contributing to climate change while degrading public health and food security at home. Hardly sustainable.”

Although U.S. Senator Wyden’s O&C bill to increase logging on public forests in Oregon ultimately stalled, the EPA decision gives similar or even more destructive logging legislation by Republican majorities in both houses new political cover.

“This kind of legislation is de facto privatization. It allows more industry manipulation with even less public involvement, basic accounting, or scrutiny of forest practices that contribute to climate change. The water that flows out of the forest irrigates farms. More logging and biomass extraction will exacerbate the drying effects of climate change,” forester Keene warns.

 

Forest legislation in Congress generally does not consider already degraded watersheds and does not account for the economic effects on agricultural irrigation or domestic water supply. In 2014, the National Weather Service rated drought in Oregon as “severe” and neighboring California, a top food-producing state, as “extreme.” Currently, most states do not require that new bioenergy facility owners show they can continuously source enough biomass to keep producing energy, let alone leave water supplies intact, before state agencies under the authority of the EPA hand out pollution permits. How can states or the EPA claim "sustainable forest management" without supply assessment?

Dirty Energy Ash Blamed for Toxic Soil in Greenwich, CT

- by Bill Cummings, December 28, 2014, CT Post

The discovery of PCBs and other contaminants at Greenwich High School two years ago is only part of a mosaic of cancer-causing toxics that have cropped up at various sites around one of the nation's wealthiest, most exclusive communities.

Pollutants have now been confirmed at three other locations in Greenwich, providing new and expanding evidence of a decades-old trail of ash stretching from the high school to the west, down along both sides of the Interstate 95 corridor and directly into Long Island Sound.

Recent soil tests near an old pool at waterfront Byram Park that the town wants to replace revealed arsenic concentrations at 11 times the acceptable residential standard and the presence of an "ash type material."

Southwest Airlines to Use Forest Biofuels

- by Terry Maxon, December 31, 2014, Dallas Morning News

Southwest Airlines announced Wednesday that it plans to buy some biofuels made from waste wood, for use in its San Francisco Bay airports beginning in two years.

To use Southwest's phrasing, it is purchasing “low carbon renewable jet fuel, made using forest residues that will help reduce the risk of destructive wildfires in the Western United States.”

It has agreed to buy about 3 million gallons a year from Red Rocks Biofuels, a Fort Collins, Colorado, that focused on recycling that foresty stuff.

Ohio Bioenergy Corporation Owes Over $50K in Taxes, Fees

- by David E. Malloy, December 29, 2014, Herald Dispatch

Biomass, a Kentucky-based company that owns the former South Point Ethanol property adjacent to The Point industrial park, will have to pay more than $53,000 in back taxes, penalties and costs by Jan. 27 to maintain the 78-acre parcel.

Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson filed suit earlier this year at the request of County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham for back taxes.

The company owns six parcels valued at $827,880 in Perry Township. The back taxes, interest and fees due on the property now is more than $53,000, according to court records.

Biomass announced plans more than a decade ago to use the property to set up a biomass generating plant and produce electricity as part of a multi-million dollar project. No such project has been started. The firm has been delinquent on its taxes on several occasions over the years, only to pay before a lien is filed.

Rim Fire Forests Fuel Biomass Energy

- December 29, 2014, The Recorder

Nearly 40,000 tons of forest residue from the Rim Fire area in Tuolumne County has been removed for use to generate biomass energy, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Meanwhile, the USDA said it has made funds available to help California landowners conserve natural resources damaged or threatened as a result of wildfires during the past 18 months.

 

 

Biofuel Hell

- by Richard Adrian Reese, February 17, 2013, Wild Ancestors

I keep having nightmares about one possible future: biofuel hell.  Clearly, they are visions sent by ancestral spirits, and they are meant to be shared.  Perhaps they will inspire writers, movie makers, and other creative people to produce healing, mind-altering work.  Perhaps they will inspire contemplation and sincere conversations.  At this point, I’m just going to dump a bag of jigsaw puzzle pieces on the table.  See what you can do with them.

During World War II, when gasoline was rationed, or unavailable to civilians, hundreds of thousands of vehicles in dozens of nations were converted to run on wood gas.  Car owners installed equipment that weighed 400 to 500 pounds (180 to 225 kg), plus another 50 to 100 pounds (22 to 45 kg) of fuel — wood chips or charcoal. 

In the firebox, fuel was ignited to release the gasses, primarily nitrogen and carbon monoxide.  Carbon monoxide was the flammable and explosive energy source.  It was also extremely poisonous, much to the delight of morticians.  Many folks drove with their windows rolled down.  The gas contained twice as much non-flammable nitrogen as carbon monoxide, which meant that it was not a high-powered fuel. 

In wartime Germany, 500,000 wood gas vehicles were in use, including cars, buses, tractors, motorcycles, ships, and trains.  These vehicles were also used in Denmark, Sweden, France, Finland, Switzerland, Russia, Japan, Korea, and Australia.

Charcoal-powered cars were developed in China in 1931, and they remained popular into the 1950s.  Before World War II, the French were consuming 50,000 tons of wood for vehicle fuel.  This increased to 500,000 tons by 1943. 

Readers who want to get a better feel for what life was like in an era of wood-fuelled transport should read Producer Gas & the Australian Motorist by Don Bartlett.  It’s a 26 page discussion of what Australian drivers experienced during World War II, when little gasoline was available. 

Today, rising gasoline prices are renewing interest in wood-power.  Modern technology allows wood-powered cars to cruise at 68 mph (110 km/h), with a driving range of 62 miles (100 km), consuming 66 pounds (30 kg) of wood.  There’s just one little drawback with biofuels.  “If we were to convert every vehicle, or even just a significant number, to wood gas, all the trees in the world would be gone and we would die of hunger because all agricultural land would be sacrificed for energy crops.  Indeed, the woodmobile caused severe deforestation in France during the Second World War.”  France was not alone.  Remember that there were far, far fewer cars in the world 70 years ago.

Americans are fiercely defensive about their sacred guns, but this passion is trivial in comparison to our God-given right to drive energy-guzzling motorized wheelchairs.  Most of us would rather be stoned to death by an angry crowd of Taliban than switch to bikes or buses.  Have no doubt that when gas rises above $20 or $30 a gallon, or when filling stations are out of gas for days or weeks at a time, countless hucksters will fall out of the sky, selling wood gas conversion units — and every one of them will be bought.

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