Burning Forests and Taxpayers for Dirty Energy [The Biomass Monitor - August 2013]
THE BIOMASS MONITOR  is the world's leading publication tracking the health and environmental impacts of "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.


(August 2013 - Vol. 4, issue 8

Biofuels and Biomass Lose Favor: Investors Beware!

Having spent the past eight years or so of my life fighting back against large-scale commercial and industrial bioenergy, it feels good to finally see the tides turning, albeit slowly, maybe not always for the right reasons, and perhaps too little too late. But consider that in just the past weeks there have been some remarkable signs that awareness is growing and policies may be slowly shifting. A few examples: 

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stating the agency has no basis for a three-year deferral that would have exempted CO2 from "biogenic" sources (ethanol, biomass, municipal wastes, landfill gases) from greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act.

The European Union Environment committee voted to cap the percentage that biofuels made from food crops can contribute to their overall target. They also voted to consider... [READ MORE]

The NRA and the Anti-Biomass Movement

Don’t worry. This article won’t flesh out the arguments for or against an assault weapons ban, mandatory background checks, or restrictions on magazine size. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with guns at all.

Whether you think the National Rifle Association (NRA) is a fortress of freedom or a bulwark bloodlust, there’s one thing almost everyone can agree on: how effective the organization has been in its mission-driven advocacy to “protect the Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

The secret of the NRA’s success (besides copious funding)? Crystal clear messaging and uncompromising political pressure. Two aspects the national anti-biomass movement must adopt in order to halt the construction of dirty biomass energy facilities... [READ MORE]

Biomass Burning in Oregon

 - by Samantha Chirillo, Energy Justice Network

Timber Town Eugene, Oregon buzzes along nearly oblivious to the forest destruction and herbicide poisoning around it. Much like a frog in a pot of water brought to a slow boil, the timber industry relies on what anthropologist and author Jared Diamond referred to as “landscape amnesia” in his book, Collapse — slow environmental degradation that would be offensive if only at a faster pace.

The scenario with the Seneca Sustainable Energy biomass power facility, located adjacent to the Seneca timber mill, is disturbingly similar. The State and local air authorities might let Seneca have its way, but no ad campaign on the part of Seneca is going to hide the reality that biomass energy, like the chemical clearcut regime it emerged from, is a dirty, destructive dead-end... [READ MORE]

Trees to be chipped for Seneca Sustainable Energy biomass incinerator in Eugene, Oregon [Photo: Samantha Chirillo]

Biomass Industry Reveals Plans to Turn U.S. into European Resource Colony

Think the days of Europe exploiting the U.S. as a resource colony are behind us? Welcome back to the 18th century. A July Biomass Magazine and Pellet Mill Magazine webinar series, "Satisfying Europe's Growing Appetite for American Wood Pellets," lays out the biomass industry’s disturbing plans to convert North American forests into wood pellets to fuel European biomass incinerators—further depleting U.S. forests, soils, and watersheds, while hastening runaway climate change. Tim Portz of BBI International hosted the industry webinar, joined by guest speakers Seth Ginther of the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, and Dave Tenny of the National Alliance of Forest Owners, a U.S.-based timber industry front group.

In 2012, the European Union (E.U.) burned 4.36 million metric tons of wood pellets for electricity, according to U.S. Industrial Pellet’s Seth Ginther. The U.K.’s portion was 30%, the Netherlands at 24%, Belgium at 16%, Denmark at 9%, and the rest shared by Sweden, Italy, Poland and a few other nations. The E.U.’s 2012 demands were up significantly from 3.23 million tons in 2011, 2.62 million tons in 2010, and 1.77 million tons in 2009.

Projected E.U. consumption for 2020 ranges from 25-70 million tons per year, though Ginther believes the “true number is 40-50 million” tons... [READ MORE]

Burning Wood is Not the Solution to Climate Change

- by Sophie Bastable, Biofuelwatch

Under the guise of ‘green energy’, burning wood in power stations has become a massive growth industry in the UK, with by far the biggest demand coming from coal-fired power station operators. So far, five of them have announced plans to convert, either partly or completely, to biomass. 

These are Tilbury in Essex, Ironbridge in Shropshire, Eggborough and Drax in Yorkshire, and Lynemouth in Northumberland. Between them these power stations will require almost six times as much wood as the UK produces in total every year. That statistic alone shows just how unsustainable wood-fired power stations are and it spells disaster for the world’s natural habitats, human rights, and our hopes of combating climate change... [READ MORE]

Trees to be chipped for Seneca Sustainable Energy biomass incinerator in Eugene, Oregon [Photo: Samantha Chirillo]

Biomass and Other Transition Fuels are a False Solution

- by Karen Orr, Energy Justice Network

Clean, truly renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030, according to recent research published by the Journal of Power Sources.

This can be done economically and without government subsidies if a well-designed combination of solar power, wind power and storage in batteries and fuel cells is implemented.

Biomass/incineration, ethanol, nuclear power and other false solutions have been promoted as “transition” fuels or technologies, yet the capital-intensive nature of these technologies make transition impossible... [READ MORE]

From the Editor

- by Rachel Smolker, Managing Editor

There have been some significant setbacks for the biomass industry recently in the US and Europe likely to at least dampen investor enthusiasm. This is great news, but still a steep uphill battle remains.

This month, Josh calls on us to take a strong position and heed David Brower's advice: “hold fast to what we believe is right.” Indeed, with the magnitude of the ecological and social crises we are facing, there is no better or more timely advice.

The biomass opposition movement will need not just a strong position, but also needs to be savvy. A recent article on the corporate PR firm Stratfor reveals their tried and true strategies for dividing and conquering activist movements: Isolate the "radicals" (who believe in social justice and political empowerment) manipulate the "idealists" and "opportunists" to advantage, then coopt the "realists" (those most willing to engage in compromise, work within the system and accept trade offs).

Good idea to take stock of what we are up against!


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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