Poll: 61% of Americans Clueless about Biomass Energy

[Take a look at the Harris Poll here. - Ed.]

- by Erin Voegele, March 28, 2014. Source: Biomass Magazine

A recently released Harris Poll addresses public perception of a variety of energy technologies, including biomass energy. The results show that many U.S. adults are unfamiliar with biomass energy and its benefits.

Within its results, the company called biomass the “biggest question mark” on the survey, as 61 percent of adults surveyed said they were not at all sure of its risks or benefits. Approximately 29 percent, however, said they feel the benefits of biomass outweigh its risks. Only 9 percent of those polled said they believe the risks of biomass outweigh its benefits.

Trees Are Not the Solution to Our Electricity Needs

- by Marvin Roberson, April 27, 2014. Source: Detroit Free Press

There is a lot of concern in Michigan, especially the Upper Peninsula, about meeting future electrical needs. Many aging, polluting coal plants are soon to go offline, as they should. New coal plants are unlikely to replace them, and would be a poor choice even if feasible.

There is, and should be, significant focus on energy efficiency and renewable sources of electricity. A portion of our future needs is likely to be met through biomass electricity generation. Biomass electricity is generated by burning plants.

Fire at Brand New Biomass Incinerator in Rothschild, Wisconsin

[Read our article "Biomass Industry Plays with Fire, Gets Burned," compiling all the biomass-related fires up until May 2013...it's getting hard to keep up - Ed.]

-April 11, 2014. Source: Wasau Daily Herald

ROTHSCHILD — Firefighters extinguished a blaze that ignited in a dust collector at the Domtar biomass power plant early Friday morning.

Rothschild Fire Department crews responded to the plant just before 4:30 a.m., said Chief Marc Hill. When crews got to the plant, a fire was burning inside the dust collector and smoke was coming out of the structure. No one was injured in the blaze, but it took fire crews about three hours to completely put out the fire.

A ladder truck from the SAFER fire station in Weston and its crew also responded to the fire, Hill said.

The fire apparently started after some wood became caught in a giant shredder called a hog, Hill said. The friction caused by the material and machinery created heat and sparks, which were pulled into the dust collector through a collection system. The fire started quickly in the dust collector, Hill said.

Aborted Fetuses Sent to Oregon, Incinerated for Energy

[No intention of getting into pro-choice vs. pro-life discussion--it's just important to know where your energy comes from. -Ed.]

- by Joe Schaeffer, April 23, 2014. Source: Newsmax

Aborted human fetuses are being shipped from British Columbia to the United States, where they are incinerated to provide electricity for Oregon residents.

The British Columbia Health Ministry has admitted the fetuses are ending up in a waste-to-power facility that provides power to Oregonians, LifeSiteNews reports.

The Health Ministry disclosed in an email to the B.C. Catholic, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, that "biomedical waste" sent to the U.S. for incineration includes "human tissue, such as surgically removed cancerous tissue, amputated limbs, and fetal tissue."

Dirty Biomass Facility Proposed for Nebraska

- by Erin Voegele, April 25, 2014. Source: Biomass Magazine

A proposed project under development by Southwest Renewable Resources aims to develop a unique biomass fuel production facility and up to 25 MW of bioenergy capacity in South Sioux City, Neb.

Earlier this year, the Nebraska cities of South Sioux City, Wakefield and Wayne, along with the Northeast Public Power District, entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with SRR. Under the MOU, the four public entities and SRR have agreed to work together to supplies electricity to the three cities and NEPP via a biomass-fired cogeneration system.

Public Lands, Dirty Energy

- by Josh Schlossberg, Energy Justice Now

Grassroots advocates have done a bang up job alerting the American public to the disturbing health and environmental impacts of the extraction, transportation, and generation of dirty energy (fossil fuels, nuclear power, and biomass/trash incineration). Greenhouse gases, air pollution, and water contamination from energy sources requiring smokestacks or cooling towers have become common knowledge to all but the willfully ignorant.

However, to achieve a critical mass of action that will influence public policy and shift private investment away from energy sources that cause more harm than good, dirty energy opponents must find common threads to weave the fabric of the movement together.

One such thread involves the harmful impacts dirty energy poses to the forests, prairies, and deserts on public lands that belong to every U.S. citizen.

Musical Chairs

All too often activists fighting one sector of the dirty energy industry will ignore — and occasionally advocate for — yet another type of dirty energy, invalidating many of the very concerns they profess, confusing the public, and harming the overall movement.

For instance, when anti-coal campaigners give a pass to biomass energy, the coal industry gets away with toasting trees in their coal-fired power plants. By endorsing (or allowing) biomass incineration, anti-coal activists contradict their own talking points about air pollution from coal, since trees or other forms of “biomass” actually emit higher levels of deadly particulate matter per unit of energy than the dirtiest fossil fuel. Ironically, a coal facility that starts burning biomass may result in the facility operating longer than it would have otherwise —  continuing to burn more coal along with trees.

The same dynamic is at work when biomass energy opponents insist that natural gas would be a better fuel to burn in a power plant. How can the public, policymakers, and the media take biomass busters’ worries about climate and watersheds seriously when they are in favor of an energy source that leaks vast amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas that is eighty-six times more potent than carbon dioxide over a twenty-year period  — and can be responsible for groundwater contamination through hydraulic fracturing?

Or how about organizations that oppose fossil fuels because of threats to health and the environment while turning a blind eye — and in some ways opening the door — to the riskiest method of energy generation in the world: nuclear power?

In the long run, the lack of a unified dirty energy resistance allows industry to keep proposing facilities in towns without organized resistance to a particular fuel source — a kind of musical chairs where, when the music stops, no chairs are missing. 

Common Ground

Despite the valiant efforts of dirty energy opponents, climate change, air pollution, groundwater contamination, and forest destruction keep getting worse while the corporations who perpetrate these environmental crimes upon the American people keep getting stronger. Whatever we’re doing obviously isn’t working; it’s time to circle the wagons.

The key to movement solidarity is finding common ground between anti-fossil fuels, anti-nuclear and anti-incineration efforts. One such strategy — and by no means the only — literally involves finding “common ground”: public lands. While the extraction, transportation, and generation of dirty energy occurs mainly on “private” land, the exploitation of each energy source also impacts National Forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) tracts, and other publicly-owned lands.

The nuclear power industry mines uranium on BLM lands while pushing to dump their deadly radioactive waste in places like Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which includes public land.

An increasing percentage of fracking for natural gas takes place on BLM lands, as does some coal mining. Alaska BLM lands are routinely drilled for oil, and despite BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, offshore oil drilling continues. When the energy profiteers aren’t bleeding public lands for fossil fuels, they’re building pipelines through it. 

Meanwhile, more and more acres of National Forests and BLM lands are being logged to fuel polluting biomass incinerators, with the biomass and timber industry exploiting the fear of wildfire and insects to “get out the cut” before and after these naturally occurring events.  

And no matter the energy source, industry wants to hack transmission lines through our public treasures.

Come Together — Right Now

Each separate component of the dirty energy resistance — anti-fossil fuels, anti-nuke, anti-biomass/trash incineration — has tried going it alone with individual campaigns pointing out the ills of one dirty energy source, and pretending the others don't exist. While there’s been some positive traction over the years, the only way we’re going to get up the mountain is through mutual support.  

Extraction-free public lands solidarity is just one of many ways to link the movement together. 

Biomass Lease Terminated by Jasper Clean Energy in Indiana

- by Matthew Crane, April 21, 2014. Source: Dubois County Free Press

Dr. Norma Kreilein, her husband, Mike, Alec Kalla and Rock Emmert were all in session during the Jasper Utility Service Board (USB) meeting Monday night — the eve of Earth Day — when it was announced that Jasper Clean Energy would be terminating the lease to create a biomass power plant in Jasper.

John Rudolf, a freelance writer covering a story for Notre Dame Magazine about Dr. Kreilein — a Notre Dame alumni — and her organization’s battle against the City of Jasper for the past two-and-a-half years, sat by himself in the public seating. Rudolf’s pedigree includes the New York Times and Huffington Post, where his stories gravitated towards environmental and political issues.

Are Climate Claims for Burning Renewable Trees a Smokescreen?

- by Robert McClure, April 21, 2014. Source: The Tyee/Investigate West

Nestled into a seaside forest on the University of British Columbia's lands, amid a carpet of sword ferns and salal, sits a gleaming industrial facility that's been hailed as a significant step toward a carbon-neutral future for B.C., Canada and even the world.

The wood-gas fired plant just off Marine Drive in Vancouver, the university boasts, "will reduce UBC's natural gas consumption by 12 per cent and campus greenhouse gas emissions by nine per cent (5,000 tonnes), the equivalent of taking 1,000 cars off the road."

"It's very exciting," said Brent Sauder, UBC's director of strategic partnerships, who helped shape plans for the plant. "It's not a research activity -- it's a mission."

That mission is to replace finite, climate-baking fossil fuel with renewable wood to generate electricity. It sounds so darn cool: UBC students charging their iPods on solar energy stored in wood.

Ethanol Plant at Buffalo Lake, MN Cited

- April 14, 2014. Source: KDUZ/KARP

St. Paul, Minn.– The ethanol plant in Buffalo Lake formerly owned by Minnesota Energy is in the process of correcting water and air quality permit violations, and must pay a $10,000 civil penalty, according to an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

In October 2012, Renville County officials reported a “white discoloration” in a section of Judicial Ditch 15 downstream from the plant. An MPCA inspection revealed that contaminated stormwater and cooling tower wastewater had been discharged to the ground, causing a storm pond to overflow, and eventually flowing to Judicial Ditch 15. The inspection also noted that the plant had failed to meet permit requirements for observing discharge limits, monitoring, and reporting.  

A New Kind of Pipeline…for CO2?

[Pipelines aren't just for fossil fuels anymore. -Ed.]

- by Russell Hubbard, April 12, 2014. Source: Omaha World-Herald 

A Wyoming oil company told Nebraska ethanol producers Friday that a $1 billion carbon dioxide pipeline across the state would mean up to $50 million a year in new revenue for them.

Scott Hornafius, president of Elk Petroleum, said such a pipeline would buy some or all of the CO2 produced by the state’s 24 ethanol plants and ship it to Wyoming, where it is needed for injection into oil wells. The CO2 helps drillers extract almost as much oil as the initial strike, about 17 percent of the well’s total.

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