Biomass: Not Out of the Woods Yet [The Biomass Monitor - July 2013]
THE BIOMASS MONITOR  is the world's leading publication tracking the health and environmental impacts of industrial-scale "biomass" energy.

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

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


(July 2013 - Vol. 4, issue 7

Biomass Opponents Take on Congress

Eighty-five organizations from twenty-six states (and counting) have signed on to a letter to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, insisting that the Senator protect Americans from harmful air pollution by ending his support for biomass incineration.

The letter, written by the steering committee of the national Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign, urges Senator Wyden to “stop classifying polluting and human disease-causing biomass incinerators as ‘clean,’ ‘renewable’ or ‘sustainable’ energy” and to do everything in his power to “end subsidies for polluting industrial-scale biomass facilities.”

Senator Wyden has been a vocal advocate for biomass energy, hailing as he does from Oregon, a state heavily influenced by the logging industry. At a 2011 town hall meeting, Wyden said Oregon could be “the Saudi Arabia of biomass,” referring to forests as ... [READ MORE]

A Biomassacre Down Under

A new report out of Australia, Biomassacre: How Logging Australia’s Native Forests for Bioenergy Harms the Climate, Wildlife and People, by Markets for Change, highlights the harm to forests, climate, wildlife and human health from logging native forests for industrial-scale bioenergy.

Instead of being a clean, green solution to wean Australia off of fossil fuels, biomass incineration—including liquid biofuels, biomass power and wood pellets—from native forests will “seriously threaten our surviving forest heritage…actually exacerbate climate change” and will come “at the cost of genuine clean, renewable energy,” such as solar and wind power.

Often referred to as “dead koala power” because of its... [READ MORE]

Biomass: The Trojan Horse of Renewables?

 - by Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch

Most people’s image of renewable energy is a wind turbine or solar panel. Few are aware that the government’s ‘renewable energy’ vision consists in large part of burning carbon-based fuel in power stations. In 2011, 77 per cent of all renewable energy ‘inputs’ came from burning biomass and according to the government’s 2012 Bioenergy Strategy, up to 11 per cent of all the UK’s energy could come from burning biomass by 2020.

This would be almost three-quarters of the UK’s entire renewable energy target. The figure includes biofuels such as soya and palm oil that are linked to large-scale deforestation and land grabbing. However, the largest share is to come from burning wood, both in purpose-built new power stations and in coal power stations that are being fully or partly converted to wood pellets... [READ MORE]


Of Biomass, "Energy Crops," Power Stations and Deforestation

- by Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch

In May 2010, the Global Forest Coalition warned in its report “Wood-based Bioenergy: The Green Lie”: “The demand for industrial wood bio-energy is causing large areas, especially in the South, to be taken over by monoculture tree plantations to serve the interests of the North.” The expansion of tree plantations in the South would, the report predicted, be both a direct and an indirect impact of the EU’s massive rush to burn ever more wood in power stations.

So, three years on, has the prediction come true? New investments in African and South American tree plantations to produce woodchips and pellets for Europe continue to be announced and different European energy companies have been looking at sourcing from both regions... [READ MORE]


Amidst Opposition, a Conference and Industry in Crisis

- by Will Bennington, Global Justice Ecology Project

Hundreds of activists descended upon Asheville, North Carolina in May for a week of major protests at the international bi-annual Tree Biotechnology conference. The conference, hosted by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), is a major gathering for genetically engineered (GE) tree industry representatives, researchers and policy makers.

The first victory came several weeks before the conference, when a field trip to an active forestry site was cancelled. Protest organizers believe the field trip was cancelled due to the threat of protests.

On Monday, May 26, the first full day of the conference, two Asheville residents disrupted a talk by Belgian tree engineer Wout Boerjian titled, “Engineering Trees for the Biorefinery.” Laura Sorenson, a grandmother, and Steven Norris, a farmer and professor, were both arrested after the disruption... [READ MORE

Photo: Orin Langelle/ for Global Justice Ecology Project

Open Letter to Transylvania County, NC Commissioners

- by John D. Runkle, Esq.

Trash burners are not good neighbors. The proposed facility would have a significant and adverse impact on the health and well being of all Transylvania citizens.

The American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Academy of Family Physicians and North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, among others, have identified health risks associated with biomass burning, including premature death, cardiovascular harm, worsened asthma and COPD, and more.

Property values in the area will decline because of toxic emissions, foul odors, loud noise, increased trash trucks on county roads and constant dust. Local real estate agents already have reported negative impacts on residential sales in the area as a result of the proposal. Tax revenues and other non-polluting economic development are likely to decline... [READ FULL LETTER]

From the Editor

by Rachel Smolker, Managing Editor

The bioenergy industry has lots of tricks up its sleeves, including the familiar rhetoric about using just “wastes and residues.” In reality, trees — whole trees — are essential to meet such massive demand. This past month saw approval of Forth Energy's new facility in Grangemouth, Scotland, which can only operate with imported wood pellets — from trees.

Ironically, in climate policy-making circles, the role of forests as carbon “sinks” is discussed ad infinitum in the context of “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.” Forests and tree plantations are offered up as an offset excuse for ongoing pollution elsewhere. So, how are we going to preserve forest carbon sinks even as renewable energy policies are supporting ever more demand for ever more wood biomass? Industry would have us believe that tree plantations, including genetically modified trees (protested in Asheville, NC this past month), are the answer to this conundrum. 

But it doesn't take a genius to see the difference between a forest and a tree plantation. Forests are essential to life on this planet. They are not just sticks of carbon, nor are they a substitute for fossil fuels. We can't just cut and burn them and then replant industrial monocultures of GE eucalyptus if we intend to hand over a habitable planet to our children — not even "Carbon Capture and Storage" can change that.


Protect Americans from Biomass Energy Air Pollution!

Please sign the online petition asking Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to advocate on behalf of the health and well-being of all Americans by ending his support for the expansion of polluting industrial-scale biomass energy. After signing the petition, please share with your friends!

If you are affiliated with an organization that would like to join the 85 organizations already signed on to the letter being hand delivered to Congress, please email samantha [at] energyjustice [dot] net. 
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