Sunday, May 30, 2010

After BP oil spill rapid divestiture of petroleum and move to bioethanol by oil giants



We have seen a flurry of activity following the failed attempt by BP to stem the spillage of oil from the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico.

When President Obama announced a departure from cozy relationships with the oil industry, a reshuffling of the Mineral Management Service and a freeze on offshore oil drilling, oil companies around the world were quick to seize new opportunities.
They joined the fray and are now moving into biofuels and bringing with them the immoral staggering amounts of profits made from petroleum to snap up fledgling biofuel companies left and right.

Valero Energy of San Antonio, Texas, PetroChina (making bioethanol from sweet sorghum, a staple food item in developing countries) and Surinaamse Staatsolie (state owned national petroleum company of Suriname in South America) are just three fairly recent entries in the playing field which promises to become soon the exclusive play ground of very cash laden oil and gas companies.

The case of Staatsolie in Surinam is just another example of how the principal agricultural export product rice of said country will be replaced by sugarcane which will be grown instead to be used for the production of bio-ethanol which is a more profitable venture.

So after destroying productive marine resources the move is now to destroy the arable land resources as well, endangering the very biodiversity of planet earth as the competition for biomass for becomes a heated battle between biofuel companies and the 1.4 billion people on the brink of starvation according to a recent study by the FAO worldwide.

The biofuels industry, the heir apparent of the oil and gas industry stands to become the next industry to rule the world unless the push to renewable energy technologies not based on biomass, fuels and biochar is funded and promoted by the US and European Union.

Milton Ponson, President
Rainbow Warriors Core Foundation
(Rainbow Warriors International)
P.O.Box 1154, Oranjestad
Aruba, Dutch Caribbean
Phone: +297 568 5908 or 011-297 568 5908 (from USA)
Web Sites:
 
To unite humanity in a global society dedicated to a sustainable way of life

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Will the UN's forest protection dream turn into a nightmare?



Will the UN's forest protection dream turn into a nightmare?

High hopes are pinned on an international plan to protect forests. But doubts remain over whether the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation project, known as Redd, will actually reduce deforestation and carbon emissions

• John Vidal explains Redd

Biodiversity in focus : deforestation in Brazil

The tropical forest conservation plan, known as REDD, has the potential to significantly reduce deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Photograph: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

It could be the cheapest way to save the planet from climate change. Western governments and corporations want to shut down a major source of carbon dioxide emissions by paying the people who destroyforests to desist. But the dream could turn into a nightmare, in which Western polluters use their carbon credits to evade cutting emissions at home, while the promised benefit to the atmosphere is lost in a mire of conflict and corruption.

The plan is called REDD, for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. It has backing from big oil and forest tribes, the World Bank, and blue-chip environment groups like the Nature Conservancy. Right now, REDD looks to be the only positive outcome likely to emerge from this December's Cancun climate conference, the successor to last year's failure in Copenhagen. If it happens, a new global business of carbon conservation in forests could soon be worth tens of billions of dollars a year.

The stakes are high. The destruction of tropical rainforests is responsible for an estimated 17 percent of global CO2 emissions — six times the amount of emissions from aircraft. REDD's backers say REDD could snuff out those emissions, sharply reducing deforestation by 2030. Already a range of pilot projects are up and running. But the warning signs about what could go wrong are flashing.

Take the Nature Conservancy's Noel Kempff Climate Action Project in Bolivia. This is a 14-year-old forest conservation project rebranded as a model for REDD. But Greenpeace last year called it a "carbon scam."

The $10 million project doubled the size of an existing national park to more than 800,000 hectares. It expelled loggers and installed forest rangers with funding from corporate sponsors, including the oil giant BP and America's largest coal burner, American Electric Power. The plan is to reward this corporate philanthropy with carbon credits equivalent to half the amount of carbon fixed in the forest. The rest go to the Bolivian government.

To date, carbon auditors say the project has prevented emissions of more than a million tons of CO2. One day, the partners may offset the carbon credits against their own emissions back home, or sell them in the carbon market likely to emerge under REDD.

The Noel Kempff project is highly regulated. Nobody doubts extra carbon is being kept in the forest. But there is a problem about its benefit to the atmosphere that can be summed up in one word: leakage. Some of the loggers expelled from the park simply put their chainsaws in the back of the pickup, drove down the road, and resumed cutting in the next forest. Since the project started, UN data show that rates of deforestation in Bolivia overall have gone up, not down, with a 4.4 percent rise between 2000 and 2005.

Timber pirates are everywhere, says Karl Bahler, a principal at Bahler Consulting and the former portfolio manager at Sustainable Forest Systems, which runs a green-minded logging project near the Noel Kempff forest. "The idea that governments in places like Bolivia can effectively police property rights just doesn't match up to the reality on the ground," says Bahler. So the bigger picture suggests that, however virtuous the Nature Conservancy's activities within the park, they may not be keeping carbon out of the air. Those carbon credits may represent hot air.

To prevent such leakage, many people say governments should have to ensure that national deforestation rates are curbed before anyone can claim any carbon credits for local projects. "National accounting is essential," says Kevin Conrad, the son of an American missionary in Papua New Guinea who has promoted REDD in his adopted country as the special envoy for climate change. Yet groups like the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International oppose the idea that credits should be awarded at the national level. They have lobbied hard at the UN that local projects should qualify, whatever goes on over the back fence.

Perhaps this is not surprising for organizations whose main activity is "on-the-ground" conservation. The Nature Conservancy accepts that "national-scale accounting is the ultimate goal." But it argues that "a transition period should be allowed in which subnational or project-scale activities can generate credits for sale," which will ensure "learning by doing." In UN negotiations, the Obama administration has argued the same position. But, even if leakage does not become endemic, the danger is that a few well-publicized cases could fatally undermine the whole REDD project.

REDD faces many other challenges if it is to become part of the solution to climate change, rather than part of the problem. They range from the scientific to the economic, legal, and political.

Satellites have transformed the ability of independent scientists to track deforestation, and ended reliance on questionable form-filling by national governments. But if scientists are to verify REDD, what exactly should they be measuring? A study last year by the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre showed that in many places, farm woodlots and woody scrub are as important in capturing carbon as forests, but they are not part of the REDD definition.

There are other critical questions for the carbon counters. If countries are to be given carbon credits in return for cutting rates of deforestation, how do you measure the baseline rate? It can make a massive difference. In Brazil, for instance, deforestation rates doubled between 1990 and 2004, then fell by two-thirds in the next four years. So measuring changes in deforestation against the earlier, higher rate, would yield far greater compensation than if a more recent date were chosen.

On economics, there is a real danger that so many carbon credits will be awarded that they will end up flooding the existing carbon market and causing prices to crash. A Greenpeace study last year concluded that REDD could cut prices of carbon credits by 75 per cent. That would undermine the economics of a huge range of initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions, such as the development of renewable fuels.

Meanwhile, carbon accounting is likely to prove difficult and open to abuse. A carbon credit is more like an abstruse financial commodity than, say, a ton of wheat or coffee. In the jungles of the financial markets, the potential for carbon fraud is huge. Last August, several London City traders were arrested on suspicion of operating swindles involving carbon credits. They may be the first of many.

Is REDD fair? A looming problem is that REDD sets out to reward the bad boys of the forests if they mend their ways. The worse they are now, the more they stand to gain in the future. The bad guys are wise to this. On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, major companies responsible for pulping ancient rainforests now want to be rewarded with carbon credits for setting aside a small fraction of their huge landholdings for conservation.

Meanwhile the good guys — those who have conserved their forests all along — may get nothing. Nothing for Costa Rica, the only country in the tropics to have curbed rampant deforestation and increased its forest cover. Nothing for Guyana, which has kept its forests. And nothing for indigenous tribes who have looked after their forests for centuries.

Some say the rules should be changed to recognize long-time conservers. One carbon finance fund in London, Canopy Capital, has bought up the carbon-credit rights to the 370,000-hectare Iwokrama forest in Guyana in the hope of a payout one day. Such rewards may be fair. But if someone can gain carbon credits for protecting forests they never intended to destroy, that makes a mockery of the intention of REDD to compensate people who give up forest destruction. Paying people who have never destroyed their forests to ensure they carry on the good work may be valuable, but would not demonstrably reduce rates of deforestation or benefit the atmosphere. To pay them in carbon credits that could be sold to offset actual emissions would be potentially counterproductive in the fight against climate change.

REDD also raises afresh the issue of who owns the forests and is entitled to claim carbon credits. Some forest communities, such as the Surui tribe in the Rondonia region of the Brazilian Amazon, believe they can benefit from running their own carbon-sink forests. There are precedents. In part of the Juma rainforest in Brazil, the state government has given every household a credit card account into which it deposits $50 each month as a payment for keeping the forest intact.

But in Indonesia, the government owns the forests — and hence any carbon credits that they attract. Campaigners there complain that REDD pilot projects being set up by the Indonesian and Australian governments in Borneo — with support from the world's largest mining company, and would-be carbon offsetter, BHP-Billiton — are more likely to end up evicting forest dwellers to guarantee the protection of the forests than to enrich them.

This may already have happened in the Harapan forest in southern Sumatra, where locals say they have been thrown off their land as part of a carbon-sink project endorsed by the Prince Charles Rainforest Project and the conservation group Birdlife International. Birdlife says only illegal loggers have been expelled, but the locals say that isn't so. The only certainty is that the project seems to have created a lot of local antagonism.

We should not be too skeptical. It may be that a mixture of government concern and consumer pressure will soon outlaw pirate loggers, and that financiers can create carbon markets that will reward good behavior by landowners and governments alike. But, even in the days of satellite observations, it will remain hard to know exactly what is going on deep in the forest.


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Mo Constantine's innovation: finding an alternative to palm oil



Mo Constantine's innovation: finding an alternative to palm oil

How the product inventor and Lush cosmetics co-founder, 56, is starting a war on palm oil

Mo Constantine photographed with her Palm Oil Free Soap

Mo Constantine photographed with her palm oil free soap at the Lush factory in Poole, Dorset. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer

Mo Constantine's previous hits include bath bombs and Lush soap. If you haven't had the pleasure, just follow your nose: Lush shops have become familiar fixtures on the high street. You can smell their "zingy" ingredients a mile off. Constantine and her husband Mark (a familiar face on TV) have been tinkering with ingredients to "detox" bathtime since the 1970s, when they sold products to a fledgling Body Shop. They have taken on animal testing and the iniquities of trade in cosmetic commodities, and promoted organic ingredients, all from their Dorset HQ.

But palm oil presented a serious hurdle. The cosmetics industry uses almost 7% of all palm oil supply and is heavily implicated in the destruction of biodiverse rainforest throughout Southeast Asia. For Mo Constantine, the conclusion was obvious: come up with an alternative. "It took us a year to get it just right because it's pretty tricky," she explains. The new base she has created combines sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and coconut oil with sodium hydroxide and water, mixed together and boiled to accelerate the saponification process. Salt is added to separate the soap from the mixture, and the finished soap is then extruded to produce "dry noodles".

These noodles are now the base for the entire soap range, allowing Lush to reduce its annual palm oil use by around 250,000kg. Bucking the industry's usual trend for secrecy in product development, Mo is urging other companies to follow suit: "The palm-free soap base isn't something we're keeping to ourselves." Her wider ambition is for the whole industry to wash its hands of palm oil.


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http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/30/lucy-siegle-innovator-lush-cosmetics-war-palm-oil



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Friday, May 28, 2010

Indonesia Puts Moratorium On New Forest Clearing



Indonesia Puts Moratorium On New Forest Clearing

Date: 28-May-10
Country: INDONESIA
Author: Sunanda Creagh

Indonesia will place a two-year moratorium on new concessions to clear natural forests and peatlands under a deal signed with Norway aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, the government said in a statement.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday witnessed the signing of an agreement in Oslo under which Norway will invest $1 billion in forest conservation projects in Indonesia.

"In the second phase of the partnership, Indonesia is prepared to suspend for two years new concessions for the conversion of peat and natural forest lands," said the statement issued late on Wednesday after the talks.

"Sufficient non-forest lands exist for Indonesia to accommodate the growth of its vitally important plantation industries, a major source of livelihoods in Indonesia."

The suspension would encourage the development of new plantations "on degraded lands rather than vulnerable forests and peatlands."

Previous concessions already granted to clear forest land are likely to still be honored, since the statement only referred to new concessions.

Palm oil firms such as Wilmar and Indofood Agri Resources have big expansion plans in Indonesia, already the largest producer of an oil used to make everything from biscuits to soap.

Part of Norway's $1 billion will be spent on creating monitoring systems and pilot projects under a U.N.-backed forest preservation scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

REDD allows developing nations to earn money by not chopping down their trees and preserving carbon-rich peatlands, seen as key to slowing climate change because forests soak up huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

The Oslo deal will see a new Indonesian government agency tasked with prioritizing and co-ordinating REDD projects.

"That is very important. There are conflicting claims on land and while we are having this moratorium, this agency can review those conflicts," said a source in the REDD development industry, who asked not to be named.

A separate, additional agency will be formed "to create a national system to monitor, report and verify emissions and emissions reductions," the statement said.

A database of degraded land will also be created.

A vast food estate planned for eastern Indonesia's heavily forested Papua province would still be created following the announcement, Papua governor Barnabas Suebu told Reuters by telephone text message.

"But it will be in the context of this green policy," he said. "The land that will be used for the food estate is of very low value of carbon and biodiversity."

The Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research welcomed the deal, which they said could be "a game-changer in the drive to make REDD a reality."

Greenpeace Indonesia called for a moratorium on all forest and peatland conversions, including existing concession permits.

Indonesia has vowed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2020, or by 41 percent with sufficient international support.

(Editing by Neil Chatterjee)

© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved


http://planetark.com/enviro-news/item/58208



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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Biofuels learn to eat less



Biofuels learn to eat less

THE feast is coming to an end for biofuel producers. Their supposedly clean, green fuel has been gobbling up some of the choicest food crops, including corn, rape and soya, leading to controversy and protests around the world.

Now the industry increasingly finds itself forced to dine on more meagre fare: the inedible scraps left by other industries. But it is now finding ways to turn these scraps into a hearty dinner - and it could even provide for others, too.

First-generation biofuels are a victim of their own success. Talk of climate change and energy security led to a surge in crops grown to fill fuel tanks rather than stomachs, bringing food price hikes and changes in land use.

So the goal now is to efficiently convert so-called "second-generation" sources - grasses, wood, paper and the inedible waste from food crops - into biofuels. One of the main biofuels is bioethanol, which could supplement or even replace gasoline as a transportation fuel.

Squeezing meaningful quantities of bioethanol from this waste is challenging but not impossible. In a report last year, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a lobby group based in Washington DC, estimated that second-generation biofuels could reduce annual US petroleum imports by nearly $70 billion by 2022. The US imported $24.7 billion in energy-related petroleum in January 2010 alone.

One report estimates that biofuel from plant waste could reduce US petroleum imports by $70 billion

Bruce Dale of the Office of Biobased Technologies at Michigan State University in East Lansing is even more optimistic. He thinks second-generation biomass could, in theory, generate 350 billion litres of biofuel per year - essentially equivalent to all of the US's oil imports.

In order to do so, ways must be found to break down the cellulose that forms the inedible cell walls of green plants into an easily digested form that can be converted into sugars using enzymes. Those sugars can then be fermented into bioethanol.

Dale and his colleagues have developed a technique called ammonia fibre expansion (AFEX) that he says can convert over 90 per cent of the cellulose into biofuel. AFEX involves adding biomass to an ammonia-filled chamber at 100 °C and up to 20 times atmospheric pressure. After 5 minutes the pressure is explosively released, and the combined effects of the hot ammonia and rapid depressurisation breaks up the cell wall, pulling apart its cellulose microfibres. This makes it easier for enzymes to reach the cellulose molecules, meaning more of it can be turned into sugar.

Finally, these sugars are fermented with yeast or bacteria to produce bioethanol or other biofuels. The technique produces 300 litres of biofuel from a tonne of plant material, Dale says, compared with around 160 litres per tonne using existing commercial techniques.

The university has licensed the technology to a company called MBI in Lansing, Michigan, which plans to build a pilot plant that by the end of this year will be able to process a tonne of plant material per day. It hopes to have a commercial plant running by early 2012, processing 250 tonnes of biomass per day and generating around 27 million litres of biofuel each year, says David Jones of MBI.

It is not the only company with big claims for efficient bioethanol yields.ZeaChem, based in Lakewood, Colorado, says its process can convert a tonne of feedstock into over 500 litres of bioethanol. That's because the firm uses acetogenic bacteria found in the guts of insects - rather than standard yeast - to convert the sugar into ethanol.

Fermentation produces carbon dioxide, and so reduces the amount of carbon available to be converted to ethanol. The acetogenic bacteria directly convert all of the carbon in sugar into acetic acid, which is then combined with hydrogen to produce ethanol without the carbon losses, the firm claims.

Microbiogen, a firm based in Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia, says fermentation can be profitable even with carbon losses. Its fermentation process yields a surprising by-product - plentiful supplies of brewer's yeast.

Microbiogen uses dilute sulphuric acid to break down another component of the plant cell wall: a complex polymer called hemicellulose, which binds cellulose microfibres together. The hemicellulose separates into its chief building block, a sugar called xylose, which can then be washed away with hot water. The process was developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

The xylose does not go unused, however. Microbiogen has spent a decade developing a strain of brewer's yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, for the fermentation stage that is unique in being the only non-genetically modified strain able to thrive on xylose as well as glucose. As such, the yeast is suitable for use in GM-free foods.

Around one-third of the yeast grown on the xylose is used in fermentation, while the remaining two-thirds can be harvested and used for animal or human food production. "This means we potentially get about 200 litres of ethanol plus 80 to 90 kilograms of excess high-protein yeast per tonne of waste plant material," says Philip Bell of Microbiogen.

The firm plans to cultivate further yeast strains that, as well as producing biofuel, might find uses in wine-making, brewing, baking and health food manufacture. Selling the excess yeast should help to make second-generation biofuels more economical, Bell says. "The conversion of xylose into yeast biomass appears to be at least as valuable, if not more so, than converting it into ethanol," he says.

If he's right, the biofuel industry could soon become known as a food provider rather than an unwelcome consumer.


[Ends]


http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627624.300-biofuels-learn-to-eat-less.html



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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tony Blair linked with bio-ethanol funding



Tony Blair has taken a page from former U.S. VP Al Gore's politics-to-environmental-hero playbook. After 10 years of leading Britain, Blair is joining Khosla Ventures, where he will serve as an adviser to cleantech startups. The venture capital firm, based in California, has partnered with Tony Blair Associates.

Khosla Ventures focuses its investments in cleantech and information technology startups. Locally, the firm has backed a number of New England cleantech startups, including Mascoma Corp. and GreatPoint Energy Inc. Lebanon, N.H.-based Mascoma develops enzymes for the conversion of organic material to biofuels, such as ethanol. GreatPoint Energy is a Cambridge coal gasification company.

Mashable points out Blair's long-standing environmental support, including his not-so-veiled criticism in 1997 of the U.S. indifference to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "Solving the climate crisis is more than just a political agenda item – it's an urgent priority that requires innovation, creativity, and ambition," Blair said in a press release about the Khosla Ventures partnership.


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10:10 campaign action - ask Chris Huhne



Chris Huhne, the new Climate Change Minister, is scheduled to meet the 10:10 team and get their view on the priorities for climate change action.

10:10 are looking for ideas:

http://www.1010global.org/uk/askchris

A simple request - which mirrors the current campaign in Lush stores:

Ask him to remove all subsidies (ROCs) for burning palm oil and other biofuels for electricity generation. Annual subsidies for the biofuel power stations currently in planning in England and Wales amount to nearly £100 million. Biofuel electricty will accelerate not delay climate change.

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90 Us scientists write to Obama(Pelosi)/Congress: count the carbon in biomass




Scientists to Congress & Obama: count the carbon in biomass

Nathanael Greene

Posted May 24, 2010 in Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

Tags:
, , , , , , ,, ,

Today a group of leading scientists from across the country sent a letter to congressional leaders and Obama officials urging them to carefully count the carbon from biomass burned for energy as part of a comprehensive climate bill or any other leg islation or regulation. The letter makes abundantly clear that failing to do so risks sacrificing forests around the globe and putting more pollution into the atmosphere, not less.

As my colleagues have written about (here, here and here more generally), the American Power Act (APA) proposed by Senators Kerry and Lieberman provides a solid framework for reducing our global warming pollution and investing in a cleaner economy. Unfortunately, as proposed, the bill would turn a blind eye towards emissions from biomass combustion, threatening to significantly undermine the bills carbon reduction goals. (For some basic thoughts on how the bill should be amended see this fact sheetput out by NRDC and other groups after the House climate bill passed.)

I did a little video late last year explaining the fundamental flaw in the approach that the APA would take. The letter from the scientists puts it clearly:

Replacement of fossil fuels with bioenergy does not directly stop carbon dioxide emissions from tailpipes or smokestacks. Although fossil fuel emissions are reduced or eliminated, the combustion of biomass replaces fossil emissions with its own emissions (which may even be higher per unit of energy because of the lower energy to carbon ratio of biomass). Bioenergy can reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide if land and plants are managed to take up additional carbon dioxide beyond what they would absorb without bioenergy…. On the other hand, clearing or cutting forests for energy, either to burn trees directly in power plants or to replace forests with bioenergy crops, has the net effect of releasing otherwise sequestered carbon into the atmosphere, just like the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. That creates a carbon debt, may reduce ongoing carbon uptake by the forest, and as a result may increase net greenhouse gas emissions for an extended time period and thereby undercut greenhouse gas reductions needed over the next several decades.

Like the climate bill adopted by the House last year, APA would explicitly exempt power plants and industry facilities from having to hold emissions permits for the CO2 pollution coming out of their smokestacks when they burn "renewable biomass." The term "renewable biomass" was defined in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 as part of the updated Renewable Fuel Standard. While that original definition is far from perfect, it does prohibit the most destructive sources of biomass (think clear cutting public forests or plowing under endangered habitat). Unfortunately both the House ACES bill and APA would redefine renewable biomass to mean just about any source of biomass. That needs to be changed. The proposed APA definition contains absolutely zero protections for at risk habitat, forests, or grasslands on private lands and lacks needed safeguards on our federal forests as well. For example, under the current definition of biomass chopping down and grinding up forests that are home to imperiled species is not allowed. Nor is plowing under the few remnants of native praire left in this country (only about 4% of the original remain). In contrast, under the APA definition, both these activites are not only allowed, they are encouraged. (For more on what is at stake see this fact sheet.)

So between blowing open the definition and turning a blind eye to the emissions, you end up with a biomass loophole big enough to drive a truck through—a truck loaded with big, old trees that should be keeping carbon out of the air and providing habitat to animals struggling to adapt to the changing climate.

Most importantly, Congress needs to understand that they're not just creating a biomass loophole, they're actively encouraging biofuels refiners, utilities and industry to burn more biomass. We have the Renewable Fuel Standard, and I've written a lot recentlyabout the corn ethanol tax credit. The House climate bill includes a renewable electric standard that would require the use of renewables, which on the whole is an important step, but the biopower part of this is another big incentive for burning biomass. And then of course the climate bill itself creates a big incentive for burning biomass by holding companies accountable for the pollution caused by burning fossil fuels but not counting the carbon released from burning biomass. It will only be natural for companies to use the stuff they don't have pay for.

This is like squeezing on a balloon—if we only squeeze on part (the fossil fuel emissions), we're just going to shift the emissions to the other part (the biomass emissions).

So how big a deal is the biomass loophole? Well the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration recently published its Annual Energy Outlook for 2010, and it provides some insight. Unfortunately, taking its lead from Congress, EIA does not count the emissions from the combustion of biomass in its total greenhouse gas emissions, but they do add up these emissions. I'm going to write more about EIA's data tomorrow, but the scale is eye-popping:

… [I]ncluding direct CO2 emissions from biomass energy combustion would increase the 2008 total for energy-related CO2 emissions by 353 million metric tons (6.1 percent). In the AEO2010 Reference case, including emissions from biomass would increase the projected 2035 total for energy-related CO2 emissions by 813 million metric tons (12.9 percent).

EIA's number for 2020 is about half a billion metric tons of which 215 million is an increase over 2007, the earliest year they report. For a little context, that increase would be equal over 20% of the total reductions targeted for 2020 by both the House ACES and Kerry-Lieberman APA. And this represents the BAU reference case forecast without the added incentives for biomass combustion in the climate bills. Now, of course, direct emissions are not the same as the careful net emissions accounting that the scientists are urging Congress to embrace, but changes in soil carbon, nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer applications, or the limited and slow regrowth of burned up biomass can easily make bioenergy just as polluting as fossil fuels especially over the next 20-30 years.

Bottom line, EIA's data clearly shows that the carbon emissions associated with bioenergy threaten the very basic goal of climate legislation. We're talking about a block of pollution equal to roughly half of the reductions the bill is supposed to provide. Biomass sourced carefully could really be part of the solution but, how can we hope to get good biomass or solve global warming if we don't count all the source of pollution as pollution. You can't fix a problem if you don't first acknowledge that it exists.

It's time for Congress to act and pass a comprehensive climate bill. They should follow the scientists and the science and account for biomass emissions carefully.

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ngreene/scientists_to_congress_obama_c.html
Full list of names on the letter document at: http://216.250.243.12/90scientistsletter.pdf

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