January 2015
Volume 6, Issue 1

EPA Gives Green Light to Biomass Carbon Pollution
(January 2015)

EPA Chooses Politics Over Public Interest on Energy Policy

- by Samantha Chirillo and Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

In December, 900 Americans, including 100 organizations across the U.S., collectively voiced their concerns about major parts of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, in comments submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Citizens specifically asked the EPA to: set more aggressive targets and address environmental justice; not encourage more fracking (gas) or nuclear energy, and close the methane loophole; and disallow a shift from coal to biomass and trash burning and close the biogenic CO2 loophole.


The EPA released their revised framework in November 2014, shortly before the comment deadline on the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. In a memo dated November 19, 2014, EPA announced its decision to virtually ignore the carbon dioxide emissions of biomass energy in its revised Framework for Assessing Biogenic CO2 Emissions from Stationary Sources.

After years of urging to accurately account for these emissions, grassroots advocates across the U.S. contend that the EPA’s biogenic carbon loophole will open the door to an onslaught of incineration that will harm public health, exacerbate runaway climate change, and degrade our nation’s forests and drinking watersheds.


Biomass Industry Plays With Fire, Gets Burned

- by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

Smokestack emissions aren’t the only public health concern in regards to biomass energy facilities. Fires and explosions have been responsible for multiple injuries and three deaths at biomass facilities over the past three decades.

As of June 2013, fires and/or explosions have occurred at 26 industrial biomass facilities, based on research from UK-based Port Talbot Residents Against Power Stations and The Biomass Monitor. Additionally, over 45 wood pellet plants and 20 wood products mills have experienced fires of varying levels of intensity and destructiveness.


Fires at biomass facilities typically start from boiler fires, spontaneous combustion of fermenting woodchip or sawdust piles, or wood dust explosions, according to the Institution of Fire Engineers and F.E. Moran Plant Services.

The most recent biomass facility accident occurred on January 13, 2015 when a woodchip pile in King George V Graving Dock ignited, owned by Eco Sustainable Solutions Limited. 


Biofuel Hell

- by Richard Adrian Reese, Wild Ancestors

I keep having nightmares about one possible future: biofuel hell. Clearly, they are visions sent by ancestral spirits, and they are meant to be shared. Perhaps they will inspire writers, movie makers, and other creative people to produce healing, mind-altering work. Perhaps they will inspire contemplation and sincere conversations. At this point, I’m just going to dump a bag of jigsaw puzzle pieces on the table. See what you can do with them.

During World War II, when gasoline was rationed, or unavailable to civilians, hundreds of thousands of vehicles in dozens of nations were converted to run on wood gas. Car owners installed equipment that weighed 400 to 500 pounds (180 to 225 kg), plus another 50 to 100 pounds (22 to 45 kg) of fuel — wood chips or charcoal.


In the firebox, fuel was ignited to release the gasses, primarily nitrogen and carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide was the flammable and explosive energy source.  It was also extremely poisonous, much to the delight of morticians. Many folks drove with their windows rolled down. The gas contained twice as much non-flammable nitrogen as carbon monoxide, which meant that it was not a high-powered fuel.


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Cartoon: John Trever


Josh Schlossberg, Mike Ewall, and Samantha Chirillo

Editors, The Biomass Monitor

Back issues and blog:




- by Josh Schlossberg, Editor

Does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledge the existence of human-caused climate change? If so, it doesn’t seem to be taking it very seriously, as demonstrated by the agency’s recent decision to basically ignore carbon dioxide emission from biomass energy facilities.

Despite dire warnings from virtually every climate scientist in the world, the Obama administration has shown itself unwilling to enact policy that would meaningfully limit carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, realizing that complete inaction on climate change would be politically disastrous, it has decided to harvest the low-hanging fruit of alternative energy sources by giving the green light to more biomass incineration.

Of course, as anyone with a basic grasp of Earth Science knows, instead of limiting carbon pollution, burning more trees will only emit more carbon into the atmosphere, inching us dangerously close to the tipping point of runaway climate change.  

The EPA knows very well that we can’t calculate the climate impacts of biomass energy without measuring the carbon dioxide emitted from facility smokestacks. Whether you’re in favor of a particular energy source or not, surely we can all agree that, unless we account for its carbon footprint, we’re not going to make much progress in regards to climate change.



Top 10 Biomass Stories in the News

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Windfarms More Efficient than Biofuels?

2. Over 1,200 New Biomass Incinerators to be Constructed Within the Next 10 Years?

3. Covanta Settles for $536,211 in Lawsuit Over Biomass Ash Testing

4. Commercial Use of Wood Energy is Heating Up

5. Questions of Reliability at Gainesville, FL's Biomass Generator

6. Rim Fire Forests Fuel Biomass Energy

7.  Maryland “Zero-Waste” Plan Draws Fire Over Inclusion of Incineration

8. Southwest Airlines to Use Forest Biofuels

9. Farm Bill Logs National Forests for Bioenergy

10. Study: Logging Destabilizes Forest Soil Carbon

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