THE BIOMASS MONITOR  monthly newsletter is the only publication in the U.S. covering the health and environmental impacts from industrial-scale "biomass" energy.

Managing Editors - Rachel Smolker and Mike Ewall
Editor & Journalist - Josh Schlossberg

A publication of Energy Justice Network, Biofuelwatch, and Florida League of Conservation Voters.


(January 2013 - Vol. 4, issue 1

Biomass Health Study a Smokescreen?

A study on the health risks from a biomass power incinerator proposed for Placer County, California contains “several fallacies,” according to Norma Kreilein, MD, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A Health Impact Assessment of the Proposed Cabin Creek Biomass Energy Facility in Placer County, California claims that the construction of the 2.2 megawatt Cabin Creek Biomass Energy Facility two miles from 16,000 resident Truckee will “likely benefit community health in the Lake Tahoe region,” despite emitting higher levels of particulate matter and other air pollutants per unit of energy than a coal-fired plant, the dirtiest fossil fuel. The nearest residence stands 1,500 feet from the proposed facility.

On December 27, 2012, the Center for Biological Diversity 
appealed the Placer County Planning Commision's decision to...  READ MORE


Report: Biomass Dirtier Than Coal

Friends of the Earth (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland), Greenpeace, and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds denounce burning trees for electricity as a greater threat to the climate over the coming decades than burning coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, in a report released in November.

The report, 
Dirtier Than Coal: Why Government plans to subsidise burning trees are bad news for the planet, criticizes proposals by the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to continue and expand taxpayer subsidies for the biomass power industry.
The NGOs accuse the government of ignoring principles set out in the 2012 UK Bioenergy Strategy which called for a biomass energy policy that would “deliver genuine carbon reductions that help meet UK carbon emissions objectives to 2050 and beyond.” According to critics, even the Bioenergy Strategy’s policy conclusions support an expansion of biomass energy and contradict the analysis and cautions about carbon impacts.

Friends of the Earth (FOE)Greenpeace, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) say that the government has “chosen to exclude a number of key sources of emissions” from biomass energy in their carbon calculations, with the findings... READ MORE

A "Sustainable" Military?

In December 2012, the U.S. Senate voted to strike language from the National Defense Authorization Act that would have limited military use of biofuels by requiring that they only purchase biofuels at costs comparable to petroleum fuels. Further, they amended the bill to allow defense spending on refinery construction, previously prohibited. That move included the $510 million in funding via an agreement between the US Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy.

Given the call to reduce military budgets, biofuels are at issue  after hackles were raised following the revelation that the Air Force had paid out $59/gallon for biofuelled test flights, and the Navy's "Great Green Fleet" demonstration, using $26/gallon fuel, at a total cost over $12 million... READ MORE

Gainesville Sun's Biomass Cover-Up

- by Karen Orr, Energy Justice Network

One of the tragedies of life in Gainesville, Florida is that there is so little reality based journalism. In today's SUN, editorial page editor Ron Cunningham continues the newspaper's disinformation campaign on the city's Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) boondoggle. Cunningham rewrites history when he states: "I just wish they had been here hotly debating that issue three, four or even five years ago, when it might have made a difference."

Cunningham knows citizens strongly and publicly opposed the tree burning incinerator plan three, four and even eight years ago. Maybe more. The Gainesville city commissioners were well aware of the bad environmental consequences a biomass incinerator would have on... READ MORE


Report: Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage: Climate Savior or Dangerous Hype?

A new report by Rachel Smolker and Almuth Ernsting of Biofuelwatch condemns carbon capture and storage (CCS) as setting the stage for increased burning of climate-busting biomass and fossil fuels for energy, in effect keeping us from looking at the way the way we produce—and consume—energy.

BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage): Climate saviour or dangerous hype? reveals the technical and financial unlikelihood of reducing carbon dioxide emissions through carbon capture and storage, how the technology will result in the burning of even more biomass and fossil fuels, and points out the “serious risks and hazards” inherent in the process. BECCS involves capturing carbon dioxide from biomass power facilities by... READ MORE


Beyond Burning: Renewables for a Steady State Economy

- by Mark Robinowitz,

Using solar energy for twenty years (and wind power for ten) taught me that renewable energy could only run a smaller, steady state economy. Our exponential growth economy requires ever increasing consumption of concentrated resources (fossil fuels are more energy dense than renewables). A solar energy society would require moving beyond growth-and-debt based money.

After fossil fuel we will only have solar power, but that won’t replace what we use now. We need to abandon the myth of endless growth on a round, and therefore, finite planet to have a planet on which to live. Will we use the remaining fossil fuels to make lots of solar panels and relocalize food production instead of waging Peak Oil Wars?

Living on our current solar budget could not be a seamless substitute for digging up a hundred million years of sunlight.

From the Editor

by Rachel Smolker, Managing Editor

With the holiday season over and the “end of the world” forecasts proven wrong once again, I guess we have to get back to work! And there is no shortage of work to be done opposing the insanity of burning forests and other things to “fix” an overheating planet. As the articles in the January issue of The Biomass Monitor illustrate, there is a troubling combination of new and dangerous developments proposed alongside an ongoing “campaign of denials.”

For example, the facility proposed in Placer County, California will by its own admission release hazardous air pollution into a residential area, contributing to disease. Yet the deniers pretend that burning wood is “clean” and claim it will “benefit community health” in spite of massive evidence to the contrary. The US military biofuel proposal is based on a campaign of denying another massive body of evidence, one that shows biofuels fail to reduce emissions and worsen global hunger.

As the article by Mark Robinowitz highlights, perhaps the biggest denial campaign of all is the one that denies planetary limits, instead promoting “endless growth” as possible and desirable. Let's hope this is the year when we shall succeed in denying the deniers!

Biomass Buster of the Month

Dr. Norma Kreilein -- Indiana

During her 25 years as a pediatrician in southern Indiana Dr. Norma Kreilein, Fellow in the American Academy of Pediatrics, noticed “increased rates of respiratory disease, cancer, and learning/ autism problems slowly rising over the years.” Her understanding of the link between environmental pollution and human health made her a major player in the successful opposition of a biomass incinerator proposed for Jasper, Indiana. 

In 2011, Dr. Kreilein and Healthy Dubois County launched a landmark “Open Door” lawsuit against the City of Jasper for lack of government transparency. After an “early defeat,” they won on appeal in 2012, bringing the suit back to court. Along with two other medical doctors and a scientist, Kreilein testified at a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. to educate lawmakers on the health hazards of biomass incineration.

Norma’s outlook for the future “depends on whether government and its citizens continue to blindly accept marketing equations that put profit to the industry over mathematically inevitable consequences.”

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