Friday, August 30, 2013

[biofuelwatch] Report reveals threats to southern US wetland forests by Drax pellet suppliers





http://www.dogwoodalliance.org/2013/08/press-release-new-maps-reveal-envivas-ahoskie-wood-pellet-facility-threatens-southern-wetland-forests-surrounding-ecosystems-and-wildlife/ 

Press Release: New Maps Reveal Enviva's Ahoskie Wood Pellet Facility Threatens Southern Wetland Forests, Surrounding Ecosystems and Wildlife

August 27th, 2013 By Amanda Rodriguez

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Maps Reveal Enviva's Ahoskie Wood Pellet Facility Threatens Southern Wetland Forests, Surrounding Ecosystems and Wildlife

Maps are the latest in a mounting body of evidence proving the damaging environmental impacts of mass-scale biomass energy production 

AHOSKIE, N.C. (August 27, 2013) – New maps and a report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Dogwood Alliance reveal the ecological threat a major wood pellet manufacturing mill in Ahoskie, North Carolina, poses to surrounding endangered forests. The facility, operated by the South's largest exporter of wood pellets, Enviva, produces approximately 400,000 tons of wood pellets per year to ship to Europe as fuel for biomass electricity.

This mill relies on clearcutting some of the most diverse wetland forests in the world that have been reduced to a mere fragment of their original extent. Less than one percent of the forests surrounding the Ahoskie facility are protected from logging that would degrade native ecosystems, making remaining natural forests, and in particular wetland forests, vulnerable to wood pellet production. The four maps and the report show the facility not only threatens sensitive plants and animals within the 75-mile radius from which the mill buys trees for wood pellet manufacturing, but that it also contributes to the reduction and fragmentation of the hardwood forests in which these species thrive.

The collection of maps can be accessed online here.

"The data adds to the growing body of scientific evidence documenting that large-scale biomass energy, and the wood pellet industry that fuels it, threaten the environment," said Debbie Hammel, Senior Resource specialist with NRDC. "Natural hardwood forests are already disappearing across the region, and Enviva's Ahoskie facility could destroy the few sensitive forested wetlands remaining in the area. When these landscapes vanish, so do all the benefits they provide, such as critical habitat for wildlife and water quality and flood protection for nearby communities."

The first map in the series shows that the few remaining natural and seminatural forests surrounding the Ahoskie plant are highly fragmented. What was once an area full of diverse forest has now become dominated by pine plantations, which generally provide poor wildlife habitat compared to natural forests.

The second map identifies locations of wetland hardwood forests surrounding the wood pellet facility. A recent Wall Street Journal investigative news report found that Enviva has procured whole trees for the Ahoskie facility from clearcut wetland forests located within the map area.  Wetland forests play a vital role in maintaining biodiversity and providing ecological benefits to the region. Wetlands provide habitat for waterfowl, songbirds, black bear, and a variety of reptiles and amphibians. Wetland forests are also beneficial to surrounding communities by improving water quality, providing flood control and buffering water flow during drought. In addition, these standing forests help moderate the earth's climate by removing carbon from the atmosphere.

"Hardwood wetland forests play a vital role in maintaining biodiversity in this eco-region, and increased industrial logging in these forests can have significant, negative impacts," says Dr. Alan Weakley, Director and Curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium and one of several academic peer-reviewers of the maps. "Natural forests have been highly fragmented by conversion to pine plantations, and they are important anchors for remaining biodiversity across this broad landscape."

The third and fourth maps in the series differentiate between the increased presence of pine forests, mostly pine plantations, and the remaining natural forest types in the region, which consists principally of Upland Oak-Hickory, Bottomland Oak-Gum-Cypress and Bottomland Elm-Ash-Cottonwood.

"Having grown up romping around in these woods, I have witnessed first-hand the tragic disappearance and degradation of our majestic Southern wetland hardwood forests," said Danna Smith, Executive Director of Dogwood Alliance. "The logging of Southern forests for fuel to generate electricity has exploded almost overnight with no regard for the region's endangered ecosystems. We're calling on Enviva, along with all other wood pellet manufacturers and European and domestic utilities, to stop using trees as fuel for electricity until adequate policies are in place to protect the climate and valuable ecosystems."

Ahoskie is just one of dozens of wood pellet facilities operating in the U.S. South, which in 2012 emerged as the largest exporter of wood pellets in the world. Recent figures from market analysts project that annual exports of wood pellets will quadruple from 1.3 million tons in 2012 to nearly 6 million tons by 2015, driven by an ever increasing demand from European utilities such as Drax that are converting coal power plants to burn wood pellets in order to produce electricity. Virginia's Dominion Resources, which also buys wood from Enviva, has among the largest investments in wood-generated power in the Southeast region. In total, the company is now poised to have a generation capacity of approximately 350 MW of electricity from burning wood with potential for more in the future.

Recent research shows that burning whole trees in power plants increases carbon emissions relative to fossil fuels for many decades – anywhere from 35 to 100 years or more. It also emits higher levels of multiple air pollutants. Despite these findings, burning whole trees is mistakenly characterized as a renewable energy source in the United States as well as the European Union.

NRDC and Dogwood Alliance point to several alternatives to burning whole trees for electricity. Wood residuals – such as tops and limbs – or sustainably grown agricultural materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill or burned represent better options for reducing carbon emissions, provided strict sustainability standards are adopted. And truly clean energy should be prioritized. Energy efficiency, solar, wind and geothermal are smarter cleaner energy resources that provide abundant economic opportunity.

Additional information about biomass and the wood pellet industry can be found here.

# # #

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

Dogwood Alliance is increasing protection for millions of acres of Southern forests by transforming the way corporations, landowners and communities value them for their climate, wildlife and water benefits. Dogwood Alliance has revolutionized the environmental practices of some of the world's largest corporations. For more information on the organization please visit www.dogwoodalliance.org or follow on Twitter @DogwoodAlliance.



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[biofuelwatch] Biofuel crops: food security must come first





http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/29/biofuel-crops-food-security-prices-europe 

Biofuel crops: food security must come first

Even so-called 'good' biofuels need safeguards to ensure that they don't damage biodiversity or displace other crops

Biofuels made from sugar cane, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Biofuel crops increase emissions through land clearance, fertiliser use, and by displacing other crops. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

Since 2003, the UK and other EU countries have effectively poured billions of euros into biofuels, on the premise that they reduce emissions from transport. But it has been an expensive case of the Emperor's new clothes: we now know that many biofuel crops actually increase overall emissions. At the same time, they damage biodiversity, hurt some of the world's poorest people by pushing up food prices, and cost us an estimated £460m each year.

Early in September, the European Parliament will have its first opportunity to put the brakes on. MEPs will vote on whether to amend biofuels policy to take account of the critical issue of indirect land use change (iLUC) and at what level to cap biofuels made from food crops.

Biofuel crops increase emissions through land clearance, fertiliser use, and by displacing other crops. When millions of hectares of land are switched from food to biofuel crops, food prices rise and food production is displaced, triggering a domino-like chain of events ending in cropland expansion elsewhere, including into the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and the savannas of South America and Africa. This is iLUC.

We can't point to the precise hectare of rainforest that's felled because a particular farmer now grows fuel rather than food. But the evidence is clear that burning millions of tonnes of food as biofuel on top of what we eat leads to more land clearance and more fertiliser use (even accounting for useful biofuel co-products fed to animals). UK biofuel use in the first year of monitoring required around 1.4 million hectares of farmland, most of it overseas. That's an area the size of Northern Ireland, just to provide 3% of our transport fuel. By ignoring iLUC, the EU overlooks a large share of the emissions triggered by its biofuel targets.

ILUC is not just about carbon. Agricultural expansion and intensification are among the greatest of all threats to wild nature. Each year, millions of hectares of new cropland threaten tropical forests, wetlands and other biodiversity-rich habitats. Fertiliser run-off from the US corn belt, which supplies us with bioethanol, helps create an oxygen-depleted 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico. The EU's Renewable Energy Directive has laudable 'sustainability criteria', but unsustainable biofuels can still be imported; they just don't count towards the targets. Furthermore, the criteria don't address iLUC, so biofuel demand continues to cause deforestation and biodiversity loss. If a domino falls in the forest, apparently no-one can hear it.

Some in the biofuels industry don't want iLUC factors introduced next month, because some crops would no longer be counted as 'green fuels'. But fuels that trigger deforestation, increase emissions and destroy biodiversity are not 'green'. Supporters of the industry argue that iLUC factors are too uncertain for policy. But they seem happy for policy to support an industry whose promise to deliver lower emissions is even more doubtful. The irony is that any carbon benefit of biofuels is based on their indirect effect in replacing and reducing fossil fuel use. It's nonsensical to argue that food-based biofuels should be supported for this indirect carbon benefit without also counting their indirect carbon cost.

MEPs will also vote on whether to cap use of food as biofuel at 5.5% or 6.5% of transport fuel. The lower cap would protect existing jobs while sending a clear message to investors that food-based biofuels are a poor prospect. In the longer term, we should ask whether it is rational to burn any food at all in our cars.

The right biofuels have a role to play in our energy mix, in the right quantities. Governments should continue to support the development of advanced biofuels, such as those made from waste and those grown in places unsuitable for food crops. But even these 'good biofuels' need safeguards to ensure that they don't damage biodiversity or displace other crops.

In the meantime, it's clear that the Emperor has no clothes. Will the European Parliament listen to the science, and curb the unseemly rush for food-based biofuels? I'll be writing to ask my MEPs to vote for a more modest approach, and I urge you to do the same.

• Dr. Ben Phalan is a research associate in conservation science at the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, and is the Zukerman junior research fellow in global food security at King's College.



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Thursday, August 29, 2013

[biofuelwatch] Colombia nationwide strike against 'free trade,' privatization, poverty



http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/22461

Colombia nationwide strike against 'free trade,' privatization, poverty

Common Dreams | August 25, 2013

Ignored by English-language media, rural uprisings spread across industries as hundreds of thousands protest US-backed govt

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

A nationwide strike in Colombia—which started as a rural peasant uprising and spread to miners, teachers, medical professionals, truckers, and students—reached its 7th day Sunday as at least 200,000 people blocked roads and launched protests against a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and devastating policies of poverty and privatization pushed by US-backed right-wing President Juan Manuel Santos.

"[The strike is a condemnation] of the situation in which the Santos administration has put the country, as a consequence of its terrible, anti-union and dissatisfactory policies," declared the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), the country's largest union, in a statement.

The protests and strikes, largely ignored in the English-language media, have been met with heavy crackdown from Colombia's feared police, with human rights organization Bayaca reporting shootings, torture, sexual assault, severe tear-gassing, arbitrary arrests, and other abuses on the part of state agents. Colombia's Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon recently claimed that the striking workers are being controlled by the "terrorist" Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in a country known for using unverified claims of FARC connections as an excuse to launch severe violence against social movements.

"Violent clashes continue in rural areas where farmers and truck drivers have been setting up roadblocks since Monday, and the Santos administration has deployed 16,000 additional military personnel to 'control the situation,'" Neil Martin of the Colombia-based labor solidarity organization Paso International told Common Dreams Sunday. "There have not been deaths reported in relation to this violence, but human rights organizations and YouTube videos have documented military personnel beating protestors, stealing supplies, carrying out vandalism unwarranted arrests, and generally inciting violence."

Protesters are levying a broad range of concerns about public policies that devastate Colombia's workers, indegenous, and Afro-Colombian communities. The US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement has forced small farmers to compete with subsidized US products, made them more vulnerable to market fluctuations, and eroded their protections and social safety nets through the implementation of neoliberal policies domestically. Farmers are demanding more protections and services in a country beset with severe rural poverty.

Meanwhile, the Colombian government is handing out sweetheart deals to international mining companies while creating bans and roadblocks for Colombian miners. Likewise, the government is giving multinational food corporations access to land earmarked for poor Colombians. Healthcare workers are fighting a broad range of reforms aimed at gutting and privatizing Colombia's healthcare system. Truckers are demanding an end to low wages and high gas prices.

"This is the third or fourth large-scale non-military rural uprising this year," Martin told Common Dreams.

Colombian workers organizing to improve their lives are met with an onslaught of state violence: Colombia is the deadliest country in the world for union activists, according to the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, and 37 activists were murdered in Colombia in the 1st half of 2013 alone, leading news weekly Semana reports.

Santos, who says he refuses to negotiate while the strikes are taking place, has so far been unsuccessful in his efforts to quell the swelling protests that are paralyzing much of the country, particularly in rural areas.

"[W]e just want solutions to our problems," Javier Correa Velez, the head of a coffee-growers association called Dignidad Cafetera, told the Miami Herald. "The strike is simply a symptom of an illness that the entire agriculture sector is suffering from."




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[biofuelwatch] We do not believe in "responsible agriculture investment"



http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/22454

We do not believe in responsible agriculture investment

Radio Mundo Real | 13 August 2013

We do not believe in responsible agriculture investment

A continental consultation to discuss the concept of "responsible agriculture investment" developed by the Committee on World Food Security took place in Bogota, Colombia on August 7 and 8.

Several questions were raised at the event, such as: Are "responsible" investments those that profit from territories? Should FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) member states legitimate land grabbing or the appropriation of water sources through a "certificate" of responsibility? What are the necessary public resources policies to achieve rural development?

The starting point for the meeting was the regional situation in terms of large-scale agriculture megaprojects that displace peasants and native peoples; large hydroelectric dams that submerge ancient peoples; or transnational corporations that flood the region with their genetically modified (GM) seeds that harm its biodiversity.

The organizations that were called to participate in the consultation by their representatives before the Civil Society's Mechanism that is part of the Committee on World Food Security criticized the concept of responsible agriculture, by comparing it with Corporate Social Responsibility, through which some corporations seek to mitigate or greenwash the impacts of their policies on the communities.

Valter Da Silva of the Latin American Coordination of Countryside Organizations (CLOC-Via Campesina) said that behind the so called "responsible" investments there is a criminalization of native and peasant seed production because they threaten the corporate monopolies. He said that public investment policies are needed to promote the production of this kind of seeds.

Da Silva highlighted the importance of talking about the principles that, in his opinion, the organizations advocating for food sovereignty should follow. Although he was skeptical as to the level of support that these policies could have within the FAO as global policies that would force states to protect peasant farming.

Meanwhile, Javier Rivera, a peasant and coordinator of the Agroecological Movement of Latin America and the Caribbean (MAELA) of the Tulua region in Valle del Cauca, Colombia, said that in the Andean region the concept of responsibility has been an excuse to get international cooperation funds that rarely reach the communities.

He said the newly created Alliance for Food Sovereignty should have input and tools "so that the grassroots are able to confront these policies and investments", which in the case of Colombia have been used to displace peasants and replace food production with agribusiness, including agrofuel production.

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty has several representatives in the Andean region at the Civil Society Mechanism that will bring before the FAO the principles that come out of the meeting, as well as the definitions resulting from the consultation scheduled for October




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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

[biofuelwatch] EXCLUSIVE from The Biomass Monitor: Tracking Biomass Air Pollution on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula





Tracking Biomass Air Pollution on Washington's Olympic Peninsula

- by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

Government agencies and policymakers have long turned a deaf ear to concerns with human health threats from biomass incineration. A new experimental study underway on Washington's Olympic Peninsula may ultimately compel elected officials to act to protect public health from biomass incineration, while serving as a model for communities around the nation.

The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) budgeted over half a million dollars to conduct this new experimental study "focusing on the impacts of biomass fueled cogeneration facilities on air quality downwind," with additional monitoring of the air quality near two proposed biomass incinerators, a 20-megawatt facility atNippon Industries in Port Angeles and a 24-megawatt facility atPort Townsend Paper Company in Port Townsend.

The new study would... [READ MORE]

--
Josh Schlossberg
Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign, Energy Justice Network

Find Energy Justice Network on Facebook and Twitter

"Compromise is often necessary, but it ought not to originate with environmental leaders. Our role is to hold fast to what we believe is right, to fight for it, to find allies, and to adduce all possible arguments for our cause. If we cannot find enough vigor in us or our friends to win, then let someone else propose the compromise, which we must then work hard to coax our way. We thus become a nucleus around which activists can build and function." -- David Brower


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[biofuelwatch] LAN Colombia biofuel flight



LAN Colombia claims that its recent biofuel flight used ‘second generation’ biofuel. But the crops used was camelina, which is highly nutritious, high in Omega 3 fatty acids. The airline states that CO2 emissions were 'almost the same' as absorbed during plant growth, ignoring the emissions that will have resulted from growing the crop and processing it into fuel.
http://www.lan.com/en_us/sitio_personas/news/official-press-release/first-commercial-flight-colombia-using-biofuel




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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

[biofuelwatch] EXCLUSIVE from The Biomass Monitor: Australia Reverses Ban on Native Forest Incineration





Australia Reverses Ban on Native Forest Incineration

- by Jenny Weber, Huon Valley Environment Centre 

Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) state government has announced plans to allow native forests to be logged and burnt for electricity generation. Removing a ban on burning native forest wood for electricity would give a green light for the construction of electricity plants powered by native forests, proposals that attempt to prop up the collapsing export wood chipping market. 

The NSW Government has opened a submission period through theEnvironment Protection Authority for comment on this plan to amend the regulation that currently prohibits use of native forests for bio-energy. The Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009 currently prohibits the use of “native forest bio-materials” to generate electricity. 

The O’Farrell government is proposing to amend this regulation to enable... [READ MORE]

--
Josh Schlossberg
Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign, Energy Justice Network

Find Energy Justice Network on Facebook and Twitter

"Compromise is often necessary, but it ought not to originate with environmental leaders. Our role is to hold fast to what we believe is right, to fight for it, to find allies, and to adduce all possible arguments for our cause. If we cannot find enough vigor in us or our friends to win, then let someone else propose the compromise, which we must then work hard to coax our way. We thus become a nucleus around which activists can build and function." -- David Brower


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[Biofuelwatch] Biofuelwatch UK August Newsletter



Dear all, 

This is the August edition of our monthly newsletter, with details of recent news from bioenergy campaigns. Please let us know if you would like more information about particular campaign issues/news. And if you are looking for news about biomass campaigning in the US, then please see http://energyjustice.net/biomass/monitor

In this mailout:

1. Tell Defra: Don't blow off air pollution testing!
2. Important vote on biofuels policy in EU Parliament on 11th September
3. UK Conversions Update: Tilbury B closes but Drax burns more wood than ever
4. Why Government claims about capping support for dedicated biomass power stations and about biomass sustainability standards can't be believed
5. Chris Huhne's new job sheds light on cosy relationship between DECC and energy companies
6. Climate Radio: Biomess
7. Campaign updates: Battersea Against Biofuels & Grangemouth Green Investment Bank alert


1. Tell Defra: Don't blow off air pollution testing!


Take part in the alert here: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/defraalert/

Air pollution in the UK reduces average life expectancy by two years and contributes to up to 200,000 early deaths every year, according to a government advisory body.  Biomass expansion alone has been predicted to cause the loss of up to 1.75 million life years by 2020, according to a study commissioned by the last Government.  The Supreme Court has confirmed that the Government is in breach of EU requirements to reduce air pollution levels.

Instead of reducing air pollution, Defra want to cover it up by dismantling air quality monitoring and reporting across England. In a consultation that runs until 13th September, Defra proposes four options which range from weakening to entirely abolishing requirements for local authority air quality monitoring and reporting.  Their preferred option would likely see less than 100 air quality monitors out of around 600 retained, according to Defra's own Impact Assessment.  Defra claims that this will help local authorities focus on 'actions' rather than reporting and monitoring – but if there is no local data to show where air quality limits are being breached, there will (as far as the Government is concerned) be no need for action. 

Without sufficient air quality data, communities would have no hope of stopping planning applications for polluting developments because of the risk they pose to public health – whether they are biomass power stations, waste incinerators, fossil fuel power stations or new roads.

We have launched an alert asking people to write to Defra. Please take part in it here http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/defraalert/, and ask your friends and colleagues to do the same.
 

2.
Important vote on biofuels policy in EU Parliament on 11th September

On 11th September, MEPs will be voting on possible changes to EU biofuels policy.  There is now overwhelming evidence that EU biofuels targets and subsidies have had disastrous impacts on the climate, on the number of people going hungry, on land-grabbing and human rights, on forests and other ecosystems and on freshwater and healthy soils.  Voting against all biofuel targets, subsidies and other incentives should therefore be imperative – but sadly, that voting option is not even expected to be put before MEPs.
 
Industries with vested biofuel interests have launched a major lobbying campaign and have been misinforming policy makers in order to secure their own financial interests.  For background information about their lobbying, see http://corporateeurope.org/news/food-fuels-last-chance-lobbying-agrofuels-industry-0 .
 
As a result, it seems likely that the 'best' option that MEPs will be able to vote for is a 5% cap on "crop-based biofuels", including ones from the main current biofuel feedstocks, including soya, maize, palm oil, oilseed rape and sugar cane.  So-called second-generation biofuels (i.e. biofuels produced from solid biomass such as wood) would be exempt from the cap, even though they could result in yet more industrial tree plantations with the same serious impacts as oil palm plantations.  However, second-generation biofuels remain in the research and development stages and are not so far economically viable (even with subsidies and targets).  Therefore a 5% cap would clearly be significantly less bad than a higher cap. 
 
Given the strength of industry lobbying for a much higher cap – and thus for even more land grabbing and land conversions to biofuels – calling on MEPs to vote for damage limitation is therefore crucial. 
 
We will forward an alert to MEPs by another organisation (Down to Earth) on this list in the next few days and will encourage people to take part in it.
 
In the meantime, we would recommend reading this report about EU biofuels policy and its impact on land and water grabbing worldwide: http://www.econexus.info/node/185 .
 

3. UK Conversions Update: Tilbury B closes but Drax burns more wood than ever

NPower/RWE have announced that Tilbury B, the first coal to biomass conversion in the UK, has closed for good. While this is certainly good news for forests, the official reasons for the decision to close the power station after such huge investments were made into it appear unconvincing to us. We suspect that the costs arising from the fire and future explosion risks, such as the insurance that they would need to cover them, may have been a factor.

Drax on the other hand has now converted its first unit to wood pellets and begun generating electricity from it. On top of this, it has entered into an agreement with Rentech which will see the start of pellet exports from Ontario - 4 million tonnes over 10 years - threatening forests in yet another region where clearcutting and the conversion of biodiverse forests to plantations is a major concern.
 

4. Why Government claims about capping support for dedicated biomass power stations and about biomass sustainability standards can't be believed


What's behind the headline "Britain to limit funding for new power-only biomass plants"?

In July there were several media reports about the UK government supposedly having announced that support for electricity-only biomass power stations will be capped. Unfortunately, the headlines were misleading.

First of all, there has been no Government announcement about limiting funding for any type of biomass at all.  And secondly, the exemptions from any possible 'cap' on electricity-only biomass are such that they make the whole debate/proposal entirely meaningless.  Yes, the Renewable Energy Association is complaining loudly, but it appears that this is purely an attempt to maintain control of (bio)energy policy developments by energy firms.

Although one article (http://planetark.org/wen/69263) cites Energy Minister Ed Davey as criticising electricity from imported wood, if that really is his view it has not been reflected in actual policy announcements. Here's what's actually happened:

+ Back in 2012, the Government proposed a 400 MW cap on electricity-only biomass that would be eligible for subsidies under the current subsidies regime, i.e. Renewables Obligation Certificates.  However, they then announced that no such cap would be included in the new legislation. The latest announcement says that they may eventually consult on whether or not to keep open the option of in future withdrawing subsidies for such new power stations. Hardly a newsworthy announcement or change of heart.

+ Separately, a consultation connected with Electricity Market Reform has been published proposing guarantee prices for coal-to-biomass conversions and biomass plants classed as CHP, but not for electricity only biomass power stations.  Note that this is only a proposal - the consultation runs until September and the Government has a track record of adjusting any proposals if energy companies complain.

+ But let's assume that the Government really were to go ahead refusing a minimum price guarantee for future electricity-only biomass and perhaps to cap subsidies under the Renewables Obligation for it, too.  Does it mean they're actually looking to comply with the Renewable Energy Directive which says that only biomass energy with at least 70% conversion efficiency would be supported (something that would be worth celebrating)?  Not at all, because they have exempted: Converted coal-to-biomass power station units (e.g. Drax) which will receive both types of support long-term; any dedicated biomass power station that has EVER been accredited under the Government's CHP Quality Assurance (CHPQA) scheme; and even more bizarrely, biomass power stations are classed as CHP if they're only 'partially accredited'.

In short, it's a myth that the Government has announced or proposed limiting support for low-efficiency biomass power stations.

DECC's revised biomass sustainability criteria are misleading and meaningless

The Department of Energy and Climate Change announced its revised sustainability criteria for the biomass electricity generation industry last week. These criteria once again fail to take into account the majority of emissions from biomass, and encourage the use of flawed sustainability certification schemes. Read our press release here: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/deccs-revised-biomass-sustainability-criteria-are-misleading-and-meaningless/


5. Chris Huhne's new job sheds light on cosy relationship between DECC and energy companies


The recent revelation that former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne has secured a job worth £100,000 a year with Zilkha Biomass Energy has been met with cynicism by bioenergy campaigners. Chris Huhne is being rewarded for his ardent support for the biomass industry during his time as Energy and Climate Change Secretary. He oversaw vast subsidies and other support mechanisms being put in place for bioenergy which have resulted in a rush for biomass that could see the UK's demand for wood rise to 90 million tonnes a year – nine times the UK's annual production. Plans for coal to biomass power station conversions in the UK alone will create a demand for wood pellets almost double what was produced globally in 2010 – good news for companies like Zilkha who will benefit directly from these misguided renewable energy policies.

Read our press release here: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/chris-huhnes-new-job-sheds-light-on-cosy-relationship-between-decc-and-energy-companies/


6. Climate Radio: Biomess


The latest edition of Climate Radio on biomass is available for download here: http://climateradio.org/biomess/

"It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. European consumption patterns are already responsible for over a third of of global deforestation which is bad news for the climate, biodiversity and forest dependent communities. And yet the UK and Europe have now decided to burn trees to create electricity. Why are policy makers are ignoring the advice of their own scientists which says this will be worse for climate change than burning coal? Where might millions upon millions of tonnes of trees come from and what impacts might this have for exacerbating land grabs and land conflicts?"

Featuring:

    Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch US, Energy Justice Network
    Harry Huyton, Head of climate and energy policy, RSPB
    Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch UK
    Giuseppe Nastasi, legal advisor at Client Earth
 
 
7. Campaign Updates:
 
Battersea Against Biofuels

Plans for a biofuel (we fear palm oil) CHP plant as part of the Battersea Power Station re-development have not yet been scrapped, but an application has been delayed by a few months.  Sime Darby, one of the largest and most controversial palm oil companies in the world, owns 40% of the shares in this development.  If you live in London and would like to find out more/get involved with Battersea Against Biofuels, please email Biofuelwatch@ymail.com or go to https://www.facebook.com/BatterseaAgainstBiofuels.
 
Green Investment Bank: Don't fund Forth Energy's destructive Grangemouth biomass power station

Take part in our alert here: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/gib-grangemouth-alert/

On 3rd June, the Scottish Government approved Forth Energy's consent application for a biomass power station at Grangemouth Port that will burn 1.5 million tonnes of wood.  Most of the wood will be imported – likely from North and/or South America.  This is the first of three similar planning applications by Forth Energy to be determined – ones for Rosyth and Dundee are still pending (with a Public Local Inquiry expected over the Dundee plans). Now the Green Investment Bank (GIB) is considering whether to help finance the power station. For Forth Energy, a GIB loan may well be key to attracting the private sector loans – which means, without GIB support, the power station might not be built.

Over 1000 people have so far taken part in this alert - but you can still have your say if you haven't done so already. No decision to fund the Grangemouth plant has been taken by the Green Bank so far so there's still time to tell them that they mustn't, and to help spread our alert.
 
Follow us on our Facebook page!  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Biofuelwatch/232061670199471  
We're also on Twitter @Biofuelwatch.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

[biofuelwatch] Fw: [Manyemen_uk] Rare Chimps & Possible New Fish Species Face Bulldozers in Cameroon






Diverting existing and future farming land away from subsistence food to oil palm is madness by Government - A farmer in the Talangaye village told Cameroon state radio, "Our land for cultivation has been given away, and we cannot expand or increase the production for our crops."


 
The destruction of the last African rainforests to make way for corporate palm plantation in the South West region of Cameroon - in this case, a particularly destructive and corrupted project by Herakles Farms (SGSOC).
 
 
"Before Herakles Farms we had support from Government and other groups, today we see no one. We live with the bad roads, the heavy rains, and the demands with pressure from Herakles Farms to overrun our farm lands"




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[biofuelwatch] Rare Chimps & Possible New Fish Species Face Bulldozers in Cameroon





The destruction of the last African rainforests to make way for corporate palm plantation in the South West region of Cameroon - in this case, a particularly destructive and corrupted project by Herakles Farms (SGSOC).
 
 
"Before Herakles Farms we had support from Government and other groups, today we see no one. We live with the bad roads, the heavy rains, and the demands with pressure from Herakles Farms to overrun our farm lands"
 


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Friday, August 23, 2013

[biofuelwatch] DECC's revised biomass sustainability criteria are meaningless





See Biofuelwatch press release at

--
  Duncan Law  Biofuelwatch and Battersea Against Biofuels  Tel: 07958 635181  Skype: ttbrixtonite  (usually work Weds pm, Thurs, Fri)    http://biofuelwatch.org.uk/ and https://www.facebook.com/BatterseaAgainstBiofuels    Follow us on our Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Biofuelwatch/232061670199471   We're also on Twitter @Biofuelwatch.



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Thursday, August 22, 2013

[Biofuelwatch] Tell Defra: Cut air pollution, not air quality monitoring - Biofuelwatch alert




Dear all,

Biofuelwatch have just launched an alert to encourage people to respond to Defra's consultation on requirements for local authority monitoring and reporting of air quality. The new proposals are aimed at dismantling air quality monitoring in England, which will have substantial impacts on campaigns against polluting developments and make it easier for breaches in EU air pollution limits to be ignored or covered up. Please take part in the alert by following the link below. If you can, please forward to friends and colleagues. The consultation ends on the 13th September.

Many thanks,

Oliver Munnion


Link to alert: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/defraalert/

Tell Defra: Cut air pollution, not air quality monitoring

Air pollution in the UK reduces average life expectancy by two years and contributes to up to 200,000 early deaths every year, according to a government advisory body.  Biomass expansion alone has been predicted to cause the loss of up to 1.75 million life years by 2020, according to a study commissioned by the last Government.

The Supreme Court has confirmed that the Government is in breach of EU requirements to reduce air pollution levels.  Now Defra has come up with a plan: Instead of reducing air pollution, they want to cover it up by dismantling air quality monitoring and reporting across England.  
In a consultation that runs until 13th September, Defra proposes four options which range from weakening to entirely abolishing requirements for local authority air quality monitoring and reporting.  Their preferred option would likely see less than 100 air quality monitors out of around 600 retained, according to Defra's own Impact Assessment.  Defra claims that this will help local authorities focus on 'actions' rather than reporting and monitoring – but if there is no local data to show where air quality limits are being breached, there will (as far as the Government is concerned) be no need for action.  
Without sufficient air quality data, communities will have no hope of stopping planning applications for polluting developments because of the risk they pose to public health – whether they are biomass power stations, waste incinerators, fossil fuel power stations or new roads.

 
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[biofuelwatch] England: Air pollution monitoring stations face closure





http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/22/air-pollution-monitoring-stations-shut

Air pollution monitoring stations face closure as government looks to cut costs

Campaigners accuse Defra of covering up pollution figures as it plans to close up to 600 stations in England to save money
Air pollution in London : A man jogs on Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath with smog in the distance
Air pollution limits are being breached, with the highest levels in London. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
Up to 600 stations for monitoring air pollution across England could be shut down under new government plans to save money by cutting regulations.
Ministers want to remove obligations on local authorities to assess air quality in their areas, resulting in less monitoring. But environmental campaigners are accusing them of trying to hide one of the country's biggest public health problems.
Government advisers have estimated that one type of pollutant – miniscule particles from diesel engines, fossil fuel power stations and other sources – is killing 29,000 people a year in the UK, and costing health services about £16bn.
But European air pollution limits meant to protect health are being breached in urban areas across the country, with the highest levels in London. According to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the limits for the toxic exhaust gas, nitrogen dioxide, were exceeded in 40 of the UK's 43 air quality zones in 2010.
But now Defra has launched a six-week consultation, due to close on 30 August, proposing a radical overhaul of the local air quality management regime that has been in place since 1997. The proposals are aimed at helping meet ministers' "red tape challenge" to roll back legislation in order to help businesses.
The favoured option is to drop existing requirements for councils to make detailed assessments of air pollution. Defra's analysis shows that this could lead to the closure of 600 monitoring sites, all of which measure nitrogen dioxide and a quarter of which also test for pollution from tiny particles.
The closures could save councils nearly £50m over 10 years, Defra suggests. The proposals only apply to England, and have been rejected by the Scottish government on the grounds that they "would deliver no obvious benefit".
"The UK government wants to hide air pollution and cares nothing for public health," said Simon Birkett, director of the campaign group, Clean Air in London. He points out that the consultation is taking place in the summer holidays and describes the financial saving as illusory.
He added: "Worse, the changes would mean the loss of key protections in the planning system and the very monitors and expertise needed now to improve air quality."
Prof Duncan Laxen, the managing director of Air Quality Consultants in Bristol, said that much of our understanding of air pollution has come from local authority monitoring: "It will be a retrograde step if the government's preferred option is to lose this local knowledge."
Defra insisted that the aim is to "reinvigorate and refocus" local air quality management. It said that the current regime was "diagnosis driven" and that "the level of local reporting can distract resources from air quality improvement".


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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

[biofuelwatch] EU: Woody biomass draft rules too weak-campaigners





http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/19/eu-biomass-idUSL6N0GH2QM20130819 

Woody biomass draft rules too weak-campaigners

Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:47pm EDT

* Biomass expected to account for around half of EU renewable energy

* Biofuel mistakes forced policy u-turn

* Utilities say they want harmonised system

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Draft proposals to regulate the use of biomass to generate energy, critics say, place the European Union on track to repeat the mistakes it made in its policy on biofuels, increasingly seen as doing more harm than good.

Various forms of woody matter, ranging from olive stones and old black-currant bushes to specially-manufactured pellets, are used to generate electricity and heat.

Utilities, such RWE, have embraced biomass to help substitute highly polluting coal, and biomass is expected to account for around half of the EU target to get 20 percent of all energy from renewable sources by 2020.

A draft version of a Commission proposal seen by Reuters details sustainability criteria for biomass.

They include a minimum greenhouse gas savings of 60 percent compared with fossil fuel, avoiding producing raw material in areas of high biodiversity and harmonised accounting rules to prevent each member state setting different standards.

The proposals also link allowing government financial support to meeting the Commission's proposed criteria.

The Commission, the EU executive, does not comment on unpublished documents.

Campaigners say the draft, expected to be published over the coming weeks, does not take sufficient account of mounting scientific evidence that biomass is not carbon-neutral and some forms are more environmentally-damaging than fossil fuels.

"Biofuels are really just the tip of the bioenergy iceberg. With current biomass policies unchanged, we are likely to meet our renewable energy target while increasing rather than decreasing emissions," Ariel Brunner, head of EU policy at BirdLife International, said.

BIOFUEL POLICY U-TURN

On biofuels, the Commission has been forced into major policy shift.

In 2008, the European Union agreed to get 10 percent of transport fuel from renewable sources, but last year, the Commission announced plans to restrict the use of crop-based biofuels to 5 percent after scientific studies underlined the environmental damage caused by some of them.

The European Parliament is expected to hold a plenary vote on the new biofuel proposal in September. To become law, it would also need member state endorsement.

The main problem is indirect land use change, known as ILUC. The term refers to the disruption caused by using farmland to grow crops for energy rather than food, either within the European Union or elsewhere in the world.

It can mean farmers expand into rain forests and wetlands, for instance, which substantially adds to carbon emissions.

Environmental campaigners say the ILUC issue is relevant to biomass as well as to biofuel and the biomass proposal does not take sufficient account of it.

They also say the biomass sustainability criterion of a 60 percent emissions cut versus fossil fuel is meaningless because it ignores the carbon emitted while burning the woody biomass.

Biomass users declined to comment in detail on an unpublished document but said they would welcome harmonised standards.

A spokeswoman for RWE Innogy, which has a plant in Georgia, United States, to make biomass pellets said: "RWE considers a sustainable use of biomass as vital for all industries".



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