THE BIOMASS MONITOR is the world's leading publication tracking the health and environmental impacts of "biomass" energy.

Editors - Josh Schlossberg, Samantha Chirillo, and Mike Ewall

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

More Pollution Isn't a Climate Solution

(July 2014 - Vol. 5, issue 4


EPA Should Follow the Science on Biomass

- by William H. Schlesinger, June 18, 2014, The Hill

In America’s Southeastern states, there’s a booming energy trend that’s as big a step backward as imaginable.

In fact, it stretches back to the time of cavemen. Power companies are burning trees to produce energy, a deeply misguided practice that’s razing precious forests, producing fuel dirtier than coal and boosting carbon pollution right when we need to sharply curb this key contributor to climate change.

Power plants here and abroad are ramping up use of this antiquated energy source based on faulty claims that it’s renewable without acknowledging its impacts on our resources and climate.

Fortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking a close look at burning biomass. It should — in keeping with the President Obama’s comprehensive climate action plan — rein it in.

Last fall, I joined 40 U.S. scientists in sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency urging the agency to follow the science on biomass and draft strong standards curbing its climate emissions. Today, 50 additional scientists have joined us in this call.

Here’s why: In search of alternatives to coal and other fossil fuels, power companies have started to switch to burning biomass, plant material ranging from wood to agricultural residues to energy crops.  Increasingly, they are producing electricity from wood pellets manufactured from whole trees. This is putting our Southeastern forests at grave risk.

Biomass has all too often been labeled “carbon neutral.” But it’s not. Scientific advances in calculating emissions make clear that burning whole trees for electricity creates more carbon pollution than coal. Carbon pollution is what’s causing the changes we’re already seeing in our climate through more extreme weather, storms and floods.


The Ten Commandments of Movement Solidarity

- by Josh Schlossberg

After a decade of grassroots advocacy, my personal belief is that the greatest obstacle to positive change in the world isn’t corporations, the government, or the 1%, but lack of movement solidarity.

And no, I’m not pretending to be some modern day Moses bringing the divine truths down from the mountain. I’m just someone who has participated in the entire spectrum of the environmental movement — from mainstream to “radical,” on both coasts — who has witnessed a lot of unnecessary failures over the years, in large part because people can’t figure out how to work together.

Since my work these days focuses on the health and environmental impacts of dirty energy —  nuclear, fossil fuels, and biomass/trash incineration — most of the specific examples I give in this article will come from that realm. However, chances are the “Ten Commandments of Solidarity” can also apply to your movement, whatever it is…unless it’s evil. In which case, it won’t, so don’t bother.

Now, I’ll admit that limiting this list to just ten points is arbitrary, so if you’ve got other “commandments,” please post them in the comments, where I’ll ignore them…Just kidding, I’ll read and carefully consider them, because that’s what solidarity looks like.


Activists Shut Down Biomass Incinerator in Eugene, OR

- by Cascadia Forest Defenders, July 7, 2014,

Scores of activists with Cascadia Forest Defenders and Earth First! converged on the Seneca Jones biomass plant this morning to protest the company’s privatization of public lands in the Elliott State Forest and ongoing pollution in West Eugene.

Currently several people have locked themselves to equipment at the plant, effectively blocking the “truck dump” where biomass is loaded into the incinerator. A banner has been dropped off of a tower reading: “Seneca Jones: Privatizing the coast range, polluting West Eugene.”

Cascadia Forest Defender Richard Haley commented, “However Kathy Jones paints it, her company is a bad neighbor everywhere it operates. Here in Eugene, Seneca pollutes. In the Elliott, Seneca clearcuts and puts up ‘no trespassing’ signs in pristine, never before logged forest. East Hakki is no longer a place where locals can go hunt, fish, hike, camp or watch birds. Now it is corporate property.”


More Logging and Biomass Isn't a Jobs Solution

- by Rob Handy, July 6, 2014, Register Guard

During my tenure as a Lane County commissioner, I watched Lane County’s timber harvest rise from 337 million board feet in 2009 to 590 million board feet in 2012, reported concisely by the state Department of Forestry. In spite of this huge surge, a 75 percent increase, I never witnessed the often-predicted surge in jobs or revenues.

What I did witness was a distinct increase in clear-cutting, especially in the forests closest to Eugene. That was accompanied by rural residents in Triangle Lake being contaminated from the aerial spraying of forest poisons and by the degrading of such public waters as Quartz Creek, a vital McKenzie River tributary.

I also noticed how increased burning of logging slash made the valley murky with smoke. Ironically, the Seneca biomass energy facility I contested, instead of reducing slash burning, has degraded our air quality further by increasing its allowable pollution!


From the Editor

- by Josh Schlossberg, Editor

Every day, more and more Americans accept the reality that biomass energy does more harm than good. Remember what your 8th grade Earth Science teacher taught you about forests absorbing and storing carbon dioxide? Along with the oceans, forests are one of our best allies against runaway climate change. When you burn trees for energy you not only  release those sequestered greenhouse gases into the atmosphere all at once, but you prevent them from continuing to play their vital role of storing even more carbon.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been dragging its feet for years in deciding how to account for this so-called "biogenic" carbon dioxide--as if our carbon saturated atmosphere cares where the emissions come from. The reality is that biomass energy is typically worse for the climate per unit of energy generated than the majority of coal burning, the dirtiest fossil fuel. Pretending this "magic tree carbon" doesn't exist, as industry is urging the agency to do, is bizarre bordering on delusional.

We're hoping the EPA accurately accounts for the CO2 spewing from biomass incinerator smokestacks the same as it does the carbon emitted from the smokestacks of fossil fuel-fired plants. However, agency decisions are influenced more by politics than they are by science, so there's really no telling which way the chips will fall.

While the Republicans have made climate denialism part of their platform, President Obama and the Democrats aren't doing much better on one of the most pressing issues of our time. While the latter want to appear to be addressing the concerns of their constituents, they haven't shown themselves interested in making anything but token cuts to emissions. And it's the Democrats who are the major push behind burning more climate-buffering forests for a piddling amount of taxpayer subsidized dirty energy.

Maybe the EPA will act with integrity and do the only thing that makes any sense: account for the CO2 smokestack emissions of biomass incinerators...but we're not holding our breath.

Join the Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign

The goal of the national Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign  is to unite the biomass truth movement to oppose any and all forms of air-polluting, climate-changing, forest-felling, and water-wasting biomass energy.

To sign the Energy Justice platform, join the Biomass Opponents email list, or to just learn more about the harmful health and environmental impacts of biomass energy, go to:
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