May 2015
Volume 6, Issue 5

Media Bias for Biomass Energy?
(May 2015)

Media Bias for Biomass Energy?

- by Josh Schlossberg, Earth Island Journal

The media is finally starting to pay attention to the growing trend of cutting down forests for biomass energy. Unfortunately, according to a recent survey conducted by The Biomass Monitor, this attention seems to be biased.

In fact, 76 percent of U.S. daily newspaper articles covering forest biomass energy over a six-month period from October 15, 2014 through April 15, 2015 entirely ignore the health and environmental impacts of this controversial energy source, including air emissions, climate impacts, and ecosystem degradation.


Seven of the articles mention negative economic impacts of forest biomass, and four cover nuisances, specifically concerns with truck traffic and noise from chipping trees. These figures are specific to forest biomass reporting, and do not include coverage of corn-based ethanol or other types of biofuels.

In the US, bioenergy -- the burning of trees, plants, manure, and other living "biomass" for electricity, heating, and transportation -- provides more energy than any other alternative energy source. Despite the prominence and rapid expansion of bioenergy, largely due to federal and state grants, loans, and tax incentives, a 2014 Harris poll shows that 61 percent of Americans are unaware of its pros and cons.

How much of this lack of understanding is a result of the media's typically one-sided reporting on the issue?


Journalists: Incinerators Are Not Waste-to-Energy Facilities

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

There is no such thing as waste-to-energy. "Waste-to-energy" is a public relations term used by incinerator promoters, but is not an accurate term. In the bigger picture, they're waste-OF-energy facilities.

Scientifically, there is no such thing as "waste-to-energy." Matter cannot be turned into energy without a nuclear reaction, and thankfully, that's not what is happens with incinerators. What is actually happening is that waste is turned into toxic ash and toxic air emissions while a small fraction of the energy in the waste is recovered in the process.


In the environmental advocacy community, we've come to call them "waste-OF-energy" facilities because we know that recycling and composting the same discarded materials saves 3-5 times as much energy as incinerators can recover. This was first documented in 1992, and the basic laws of physics haven't changed since then.

It's self-evident, as all of the energy it takes to make paper, for instance (cutting trees, trucking them to a paper mill, burning coal to power the mill, shipping the paper around more...) isn't all present in the paper itself, as much of it went up the smokestacks at the mill or the tailpipes of the logging and trucking equipment. Recycling the same paper saves that energy by avoiding new extraction and production.

Dictionary definition: Incinerator - noun - a furnace or apparatus for burning trash, garbage, etc., to ashes.


Media Disinformation on Biomass

- by Chris Matera, Massachusetts Forest Watch

Some people might call it a media failure that tree-fueled biomass energy, one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive forms of energy that exists, has a "clean" and "green" reputation with much of the public.

It is not a media failure, it is a media success when we acknowledge that the mainstream media does not work for the public, or for uncovering the truth about matters of importance, and has devolved into nothing but paid distributors of misinformation used to benefit their corporate masters.  


That so many can be led to believe that a drastic increase in cutting and burning of forests is going to "lower" carbon emissions, and "help" the environment, in spite of indisputable, strong scientific evidence and common sense to the contrary, is a sad testimony to this malevolent power.

This serious problem of media disinformation at the service of wealthy and powerful interests cuts across all issues of importance to the public. If called upon to do so by their paymasters, these "presstitutes" will diligently work to convince the public of anything, even that water runs uphill.  

With biomass energy, even the label "biomass" is indicative of the spin applied to most issues today. If the public were told they are going to be forced to subsidize a massive increase of cutting and burning of forests to "help" the environment, they would likely object.


The Biomass Monitor is the nation's leading publication covering the health and environmental impacts of biomass energy. We are accepting submissions at thebiomassmonitor AT

Photos: Josh Schlossberg

Cartoon: Carol Simpson


Josh Schlossberg, Mike Ewall, and Samantha Chirillo

Editors, The Biomass Monitor

For subscriptions, blog, and back issues go to:



- by Josh Schlossberg, Editor

"An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy," said good old Tommy Jefferson. So what happens when the public is kept in the dark on one of the most important issues of our time: our clean energy future?

64 percent of Americans support alternative energy, which, for most people, means solar and wind power. Yet the #1 form of so-called "renewable" energy in the U.S. is actually bioenergy, the burning of trees, plants, manure, trash, and other "biomass" for electricity, heating, and transportation fuels.

Instead of shining a spotlight on the impacts of the biomass boom, the media seldom even mention the air pollution, carbon emissions, forest degradation, and watershed despoliation that are the scientifically-documented byproducts of biomass incineration.

In fact, 76 percent of U.S. daily newspaper articles covering biomass energy over a six-month period (October 15, 2014 – April 15, 2015) entirely ignore any mention of health or environmental impacts or its opposition. Whatever the reason for this one-sided coverage -- be it ignorance, lack of resources, or outright pandering -- it's unbalanced journalism at its worst.

This gaping hole in reporting on bioenergy is the main reason The Biomass Monitor has been publishing monthly issues for the past six years. As long as the media fails to paint an accurate picture of this polluting and resource-intensive energy source, The Biomass Monitor will be here to arm you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your clean energy future.



Top 10 Biomass Stories in the News

Follow The Biomass Monitor on Facebook and Twitter for breaking bioenergy news.

1. Top Five Biomass Boosters in the U.S. Senate

2. More California Biomass Facilities Closing

3. $629 Million in Taxpayer Dollars for Bioenergy

4. Planned La Pine, Oregon Biomass Facility Hinges on Market

5. Plainfield, Vermont Biomass Continues to Rile Neighbors

6. Oregon Senate OK's Carbon Neutral Biomass Bill

7. Plainfield, Connecticut Biomass Facility Losing Money

8. Company to Burn Biomass in Escanaba, Michigan Coal-Fired Plant

9. Public Weighs in on Plumas County, California Biomass Proposal

10. Boardman, Oregon Coal Plant Mulls Biomass



Are media outlets doing an adequate job covering the health and environmental impacts of dirty energy?

Not according to Steve Horn, a Madison, Wisconsin-based freelance investigative journalist and writer for DeSmogBlog.

Join Steve on Thursday, May 21 at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET to get the scoop on media's scarce reporting on corporate polluters.

Email thebiomassmonitor at for the call in number. 

Download the audio file for March's call, "Mining the Soil for Biomass Energy" with hydrologist Jon Rhodes.