October 2015
Volume 6, Issue 10


Encouraging Media Balance on Bioenergy
(October 2015)

Incinerator PR Campaign to Keep Trashing Minneapolis?

- by Lara Norkus-Crampton, Southside Pride

A recent article published in the online periodical Politico gives a glowing review and revisionist history of our 27-year-old downtown garbage burner, HERC. The article is part of the "What Works" series, which lists JP Morgan Chase Bank as a sponsor as of April 2015. Perhaps coincidentally, JP Morgan Chase Bank is listed as a collateral agent in a pledge and security agreement with Covanta in 2007, listing Covanta Hennepin Energy Resource Co. as a subsidiary.

According to this piece, HERC "has emerged as the centerpiece of Minneapolis' own push to be carbon-neutral by 2030, as Minnesota's largest city looks to vault itself into the world's top tier of sustainable cities." At the outset, this is a ridiculous statement. As any barbecue cook will tell you: You burn stuff -- you make carbon. In the case of HERC -- some of it goes into the air, land and water, and some of it goes to an ash landfill.


Some have argued that incinerating tree products or biogenics ("biologically-based materials other than fossil fuels and mineral sources of carbon") can be okay because replacement trees planted now can suck up that carbon in 20 (or 30) years [or more]. But this "go slow" approach to counter atmospheric carbon dumping from incineration and other sources of combustion energy doesn't acknowledge the urgency of the climate change we are experiencing now.

Some cite the only other alternative to burning as landfilling -- with the resulting methane as a "worst case scenario" from a carbon emissions standpoint. It seems like the residents of Minneapolis deserve better waste management policies than the best of the worst choices. Recycling, composting and other Zero Waste methods are demonstrated best practices from an environmental, public health and financial standpoint.


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Denverites Respond to Denver Post's Pro-Incinerator Editorial

- by Zero Waste Denver

Editor's Note: After a virtual media blackout on the Denver Zoo's proposed incinerator, The Biomass Monitor wrote an article outlining concerns with the facility published by Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicleon August 31, followed one week later by a Denver Post article (after ignoring the topic for 9 months). On September 25, the zoo abandoned its incinerator proposal.

We recently readThe Denver Post's poorly thought out editorial titled "Let Denver Zoo convert animal waste to fuel." The editorial is just that, an opinion piece that ignores facts regarding the Denver Zoo's waste to energy machine. Below we dismantle select statements from the Post's opinion piece.

First, the title of the editorial indicates the authors show a weak understanding of the environmental regulatory process. "Let" implies allow. If the EPA and state regulators find the machine is not in compliance with environmental laws and regulations, the Zoo will not be granted final operating permits. All permits to date are draft.

Secondly, the Zoo's proposed waste stream is not only animal waste. In fact, according to the Zoo's own document, the waste stream is comprised of 90-92% organics (wood chips, animal waste, cardboard, food waste, yard trimmings, alfalfa, hay, waste paper, paperboard) and 8-10% (PLA plastic, PET plastic, HDPE/LDPE plastic).

This "plant" would "convert" paper products (possibly chlorinated and containing formaldehyde),PLA (compostable) plastics, and HDPHE/LDPHE plastics to pellets to make syngas. This process would possibly release toxic chemicals such as dioxin, considered a persistent organic pollutant. Through the Stockholm Convention, the international community is working towards a ban of these chemicals.

The editorial states that "the Denver Zoo has suddenly run into a buzz saw of ill-advised opposition over its endeavor to install a waste-to-fuel plant that would convert animal poop and other waste into a power source."

We are not sure what constitutes "a buzz-saw of ill-advised opposition." In a representative democracy, citizens have a right and obligation to investigate and ask questions of theirgovernment, especially on matters that directly affect them.



Only Mother Nature Can Put Out Big Wildfires

- by George Wuerthner, Billings Gazette

Our wildfire policy paradigm needs a dramatic overhaul. Current wildfire policies are driven by outdated ideas about fire behavior as well as the ignoring the important ecological role of wildfire in maintaining healthy forest ecosystems.

Wildfires are driven by climate/weather conditions. When the right conditions exist -- drought, low humidity, high temperatures and wind -- you cannot stop a blaze. Climate/weather drives big fires, not fuels. And until the weather changes, firefighters cannot control a blaze, they are only wasting tax dollars and putting their lives at risk.

What is well established by scientists is that the larger blazes in the past few decades (however, not more than during previous past major drought period) are the consequence of progressively warmer and drier climate due to human-caused global warming. This has lengthened fire seasons and increased severity of fire weather.

In other words, the conditions that support fire spread and growth have improved. Comparisons with the mid-1900's, roughly 1940-1980's, ignore the fact that much of that time period, the climate was cooler and moister -- thus resistant to large fires. Beginning with 1988 when there were large fires in Yellowstone and other areas of the West, we have seen a shift towards warmer, drier conditions, hence more large blazes.

Furthermore, the flawed presumption that fuel reductions can preclude large fires ignores fire behavior during wind-driven blazes. During large blazes, wind-blown embers jump over, around, and through fuel reduction projects and fire lines making them largely ineffective.Demanding more logging to "fire-proof" the forest is a fool's errand.


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Photo: Josh Schlossberg

Cartoon: Mike Keefe


Josh Schlossberg, Mike Ewall, and Samantha Chirillo

Editors, The Biomass Monitor

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- by Josh Schlossberg, Editor

Readers of The Biomass Monitor know that we often give the media a hard time for its often unbalanced coverage of bioenergy and incineration.

We've done research proving that most media coverage completely ignores the health and environmental impacts of the #1 form of "renewable" energy in the US.

We've also documented how a lot of the "opposing view" to the bioenergy industry actually comes from bioenergy boosters and advocates for taxpayer subsidies for incineration, who oppose only a small portion of the technology -- a bit like quoting "clean coal" advocates as the counterparts to the coal industry.

Regardless of whether you love or hate bioenergy, we deserve to have all the information available to us so we can make informed decisions about our energy future. The media's job is to provide objective evidence and report on the entire spectrum of perspectives on the issue from industry, to "sustainable" bioenergy advocates, to opponents (and accurately label them as such).

Of course, it's not enough just to point out what the media's doing wrong, we've got to enable it to do better. After speaking with many journalists, we've learned that unbalanced bioenergy coverage is often the result of a looming deadline, preventing journalists from doing the research and getting the other side of the story.Which is why The Biomass Monitor is in regular communication with journalists across the US writing on bioenergy, not just to point out their mistakes, but to provide them with the most recent science and contacts working on the issue.

We look forward to the day when the media gets the story right on bioenergy, so we don't have to.



Top 10 Bioenergy Stories in the News

Follow The Biomass Monitor on Facebook and Twitter for breaking news on biomass energy.;

1. Solar and Wind Energy Threaten Trash Global Incineration Market

2. Study: Biofuels Could Increase Water Consumption by 42%

3. Biofuel Refineries Close in US

4. Clinton and Sanders Back Ethanol

5. Convergence of Trends Aren't Good for Biofuels Industry

6. Bioenergy Production Forecast

7. Biomass Supporter Protested

8. US Biofuels Boom Threatens Brazilian Organic Farmers

9. Green Groups Speak Out Against Subsidies for Biofuels and Wood Burning

10. "Renewable Energy" - Powerful Words Make Us Do Stupid Things



Incineration Nation?

Trash incineration is one of the most controversial ways to generate energy, with concerns ranging from air pollution, to carbon emissions, to economics.

Join The Biomass Monitor on Thursday, October 15 at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ETwhere we speak with and Mike Ewall, director of Energy Justice Network, about his take on trash incineration and Zero Waste alternatives. 

RSVP on Facebook and email thebiomassmonitor [AT] for call in number.

Download the audio file for September's call, "Green or Gross? Denver Zoo to Incinerate Trash and Manure for Energy."