Monday, April 28, 2014

[biofuelwatch] REDD makes slow progress

'Little progress' on forest protection plan

'Little progress' on forest protection plan


A global programme to reward developing countries for avoiding deforestation has made little headway, officials and conservationists say.

The delays are proving particularly frustrating for communities concerned with conserving forests in those nations.

Campaigners say that nearly eight years have passed since the programme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (Redd), was announced, but the international projects supposed to implement it are not happening anywhere.

Some countries have seen pilot schemes started, but even these are lagging behind, according to sources.

"There have been several demonstrations and preparation projects for nearly 10 years and now stakeholders are asking: 'Why is the actual project not kicking off?' They are getting impatient," says Nurma Sripatin, who heads the Redd cell in Indonesia's forest ministry.

"There have been 14 decisions and agreements on Redd in the last few years and yet there is no implementation on the ground. We find it difficult to go and talk to forest communities these days."

Indonesia is riding high in the list of 10 countries responsible for 80% of the total forest-related CO2 emissions.

Scientists say conserving forests can play a vital role in slowing climate change because deforestation and degradation of forested areas contributes nearly 20% of global carbon emissions.

They believe conserving forests not only leads to reduced emissions but also helps absorb carbon emitted from fossil fuel burning.

The Redd project was launched in 2007 and has been on the agenda of the United Nations climate negotiations.

"People hear about these negotiations, that there might be payments in the future if you conserve forests and avoid deforestation. But nothing really is coming and so people are frustrated," says Paulo Barreto, senior researcher with the Imazon Research Institute in Brazil.

"Negotiations have been very slow and there has been no clear commitment that there will be enough money to sustain the Redd projects in the long term."

Logging in Indonesia Forest communities are not getting the impetus they need to protect the environment, officials say

It is the same story in many parts of Africa, officials and community representatives say.

"These people are waiting for incentives they have been promised," says Rose Akombo, a Redd official with the Kenya Forest Service.

"While we ask them to conserve the forests, we are also limiting their use of forest-based resources which means they need alternative income.

"In other words, they need to be compensated, and that is not happening, which is a matter of huge concern."

Ms Akombo also said that even projects aimed at making communities ready for Redd were not moving in parts of Kenya.

"Even the projects that are supposed to help us prepare for Redd are not moving, mainly because of a lack of funds, so people have a reason to be frustrated."

There are two main projects to implement Redd, one led by the United Nations and the other by the World Bank.

"We have known about this impatience for quite some time now and it is understandable given the time that has elapsed since Redd was first announced at the Bali climate conference in 2007," says the World Bank's Benoit Bosquet, who headed the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) to implement Redd.

"But there is no cookie-cutter formula in this field, because of the socio-economic context of each country.

"There are issues like land tenure, user rights of the people, cultural, economic, and so on that make a pretty complex context."

Logging in Indonesia Scientists say forests can play a vital role in slowing climate change

The World Bank has allowed 44 developing countries to join its FCPF programme.

Another official with the bank, not wanting to be named, said many governments were hurrying to get the Redd programme approved but had not been able to do so because their forest communities said they had not been consulted.

The official also said that many of these communities feared that they might not get the financial payments for the carbon emissions they would save by protecting forests and that the money would go to the central government.

Analysts said the international carbon market was already underperforming and so there were questions over how carbon saved from protected forests would make money.

But Mr Bosquet says money was not the biggest issue.

"There is actually quite a bit of money that is ready to be deployed once these programmes have taken all the necessary preparatory steps to convince the donors," he explains.

Officials with the UN-Redd, another major Redd-related project, say what might appear to be a slow process has actually seen rapid progress.

"If you compare it with other sectors, there is quite a positive energy in the area of forest protection because so much experience has been acquired, I would say dramatically so, in the last five years," says Mario Boccucci, head of the UN-Redd secretariat.

Members of forest communities say they do not understand the politics of climate negotiations, but they do feel that what they were told about forest protection through Redd is not being implemented.

"We were told that by shedding our blood and sweat for forest conservation, we would be saving the planet, and for doing that we would be rewarded handsomely," says Laxmi Ghimire, a community forest user in western Nepal.

"We have lived up to our words but are disappointed that they have not."



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[biofuelwatch] Fw: Publication."Trade in Ecosystem Services. When payment for environmental services delivers a permit to destroy"

New Publication: "Trade in Ecosystem Services. When payment for environmental services delivers a permit to destroy"

Dear friends:
We are pleased to announce the launch of a new publication: "Trade in Ecosystem Services. When payment for environmental services delivers a permit to destroy"
The payment and trade of 'environmental services' is a trend promoted by the financial sector, the multilateral banks, conservationist organizations, governments and other institutions under the false argument that calculating the monetary value (or price) of natural functions like water purification, storage of carbon in vegetation and soils, the scenic beauty or biological diversity of a place will somehow help conserve Nature. This new advance of capital seeks to make visible for financial markets new aspects of Nature not yet dominated by capital.
This new publication looks at the concept of 'Payment for Environmental Services' in its current cloths; examines some of the claims made by those who argue that putting a price on Nature is the only way to save Nature; shows who some of the actors are, and what motivates their interest in PES. Above all, the briefing is a contribution to documenting how this latest version of the PES theory is playing out on the ground, in the territories that forest communities depend on for their livelihood and way of life.
The English version can be accessed at

The publication is also available in French, Portuguese and Spanish.
Please feel free to send us your comments and suggestions.
Best regards,
The WRM Team

WRM International Secretariat
Maldonado 1858 - 11200 Montevideo - Uruguay
tel:  598 2 413 2989 / fax: 598 2 410 0985 -



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Sunday, April 27, 2014

[biofuelwatch] Harris Poll: 61% of Americans Clueless about Biomass Energy [1 Attachment]

The good news is not a lot of people are outright supporting biomass. The bad news is that people are pretty much clueless on the topic.

We need to do a better job of sending a clear and concise message to the public that burning any form of biomass, for any reason, at any scale causes air pollution, harms the climate, and degrades ecosystems--with the risks far outweighing the benefits.

To do anything less is to further confuse an already confused public.



Poll: 61% of Americans Clueless about Biomass Energy

- by Erin Voegele, March 28, 2014. Source: Biomass Magazine  

A recently released Harris Poll addresses public perception of a variety of energy technologies, including biomass energy. The results show that many U.S. adults are unfamiliar with biomass energy and its benefits.


Josh Schlossberg

Editor & Journalist, Energy Justice Now
Editor & Journalist, The Biomass Monitor
Steering Committee, 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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Friday, April 25, 2014

[biofuelwatch] Fire at Brand New Biomass Incinerator in Rothschild, Wisconsin

Read our article Biomass Industry Plays with Fire, Gets Burned, compiling all the biomass-related fires up until May's getting hard to keep up

- Josh


Fire at Brand New Biomass Incinerator in Rothschild, Wisconsin

-April 11, 2014. Source: Wasau Daily Herald  

ROTHSCHILD — Firefighters extinguished a blaze that ignited in a dust collector at the Domtar biomass power plant early Friday morning.


Josh Schlossberg

Editor & Journalist, Energy Justice Now
Editor & Journalist, The Biomass Monitor
Steering Committee, 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] The Brutal Bust in Next-Generation Biofuels in One Chart

The Brutal Bust in Next-Generation Biofuels in One Chart

The U.S. government finally faces the fact that we won't be powering our cars with corncobs any time soon. 

When it comes to setting overly optimistic targets for the production of advanced biofuels, the United States Environmental Protection Agency makes Pollyanna sound like Eeyore.

The official 2013 target official for cellulosic biofuel–made from the non-edible parts of plants, wood waste and other non-food feedstocks–was 1.75 billion gallons. That was the volume of biofuels Congress mandated that oil refiners blend with gasoline in an effort to fight climate change.

The EPA subsequently slashed that target to 6 million gallons last year. And on Earth Day yesterday the agency finally came down to earth and issued a retroactive target to reflect the actual production of biofuels in 2013.

The number: 810,185 gallons.

The 86 percent cut in the 2013 target came in response to an appeal by American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. The trade group's members were understandably miffed that in previous years the EPA had fined them millions of dollar for failing to blend biofuels that did not exist.

What gives?

Other sources of renewable energy such as solar and wind continue to break production records and attract investment from the likes of Google. The search giant yesterday, for instance, announced it would buy the equivalent of 407 megawatts of electricity from an Iowa wind project being built by Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy. And today, Google said it was putting $100 million into a fund to finance rooftop solar arrays for homeowners to be installed by SunPower.

In short, making advanced biofuels is a far more technologically challenging and complex process than deploying solar panels or wind turbines. And attracting investors to put up the hundreds of millions of dollars to build biofuel refineries has been no easy task.

Still, hope springs eternal at the EPA. Last year, the agency set a 17 million gallon cellulosic biofuel target for 2014.

"New facilities projected to be brought online in the United States in 2014 would increase the production capacity of the cellulosic industry by approximately 600 percent," the EPA stated, estimating that total production next year could reach 30 million gallons.

That's not going to happen.

In January, one of the few commercial cellulosic biofuel producers, Kior, which is backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, shut down its Mississippi refinery amid "structural bottlenecks, reliability and mechanical issues," the company stated in a March regulatory filing.

So how much progress is the industry making to hit that 17 million gallon goal for 2014?

Here's how much cellulosic biofuel was produced in the first quarter of this year, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers: 75,000 gallons. 



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Thursday, April 24, 2014

[biofuelwatch] Study Says Ethanol Does Not Qualify as a 'Renewable Fuel'

A government-funded study conducted by the University of Nebraska finds that corn-based biofuels contribute more to global warming than gasoline.

Ethanol and other biofuels made from corn contribute more to climate change than gasoline in the short term, according to a study released by the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study challenges the Obama admistration's assertions that ethanol and other biofuel derivatives from corn are a cleaner gasoline alternative that will help fight climate change by reducing the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.

The peer-reviewed study, which cost $500,000 and was paid for with a federal grant, concludes that biofuels made with corn byproducts release 7% more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline. Thus, they don't even come close to meeting current federal standards to qualify as a renewable fuel source.

The federal government has given more than $1 billion to companies producing cellulosic biofuels because of their status as a renewable fuel source.

The report, released Sunday, was immediately criticized by producers of cellulosic biofuels and the Obama administration, who claim the research presents flawed data.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Nebraska, is one of the first to quantify how much carbon is dispersed into the atmosphere when corn residue is removed and used to make biofuel, instead of left on farm fields to replenish them with carbon. 

The Environmental Protection Agency previously conducted a similar analysis and found that biofuels made from corn residue do meet federal renewable fuel standards. Renewable cellulosic biofuels must release 60% less carbon pollutants than gasoline to qualify. If a biofuel doesn't meet that standard, it would be hard to produce and sell, as the industry relies on government subsidies of $1 per gallon.

Last year, the Associated Press published an article where it revealed that the EPA analysis of corn-based biofuels did not correctly assess the environmental consequences.

Despite the study's harsh findings, its researchers claim that corn-based biofuels still hold promise as a greener alternative to gasoline in the long term.


Cliff Weathers is a senior editor at AlterNet, covering environmental and consumer issues. He is a former deputy editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers.



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[biofuelwatch] US EPA massively cuts mandate for cellulosic biofuels

'Advanced' biofuels still not delivering...

Biofuels Mandate Is Cut Drastically


U.S. EPA has revised the number of cellulosic biofuel gallons in 2013 that needed to be blended in the U.S. fuel supply to 810,185 ethanol-equivalent gallons — about five ten-thousandths of a percent of the country's fuel — a move supported by both oil and renewable fuel groups.

It's a drastic reduction from the amount EPA had decided on eight months ago — 6 million gallons — and an even larger decline from the 1 billion gallons the industry was meant to produce in 2013, according to the 2007 law that put the federal renewable fuel standard in place.

The adjusted amount — the number of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) registered with EPA minus 8,332 RINs considered to be invalid — reflects the most accurate figure for the sector, said representatives from both oil trade groups and biofuels associations. Cellulosic biofuel makers produce fuels from agricultural wastes, wood, household trash and energy grasses. The fuel is considered to be more environmentally sustainable than biofuels from food crops like corn and soybeans. RINs are credits that represent ethanol-equivalent gallons of biofuels that can be bought and traded by oil companies to comply with the RFS.

The decision is a win for the oil industry, which took the agency to court over EPA's 2012 renewable volume obligations. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that EPA could not set its numbers to promote the growth of biofuels beyond a realistic capacity (Greenwire, Jan. 25, 2013).

"Nearly five months after the end of the year, EPA has finally agreed to reconsider its 2013 mandate for biofuels that do not exist," said Bob Greco, downstream group director for the American Petroleum Institute, in a statement.

Oil companies are subject to penalties if they do not blend the required amount of cellulosic fuel in the greater fuel supply, and unrealistic figures from EPA can create uncertainty in the market.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 sets yearly targets for biofuels from 2008 and 2022, by which time the nation should be on track to produce 36 billion gallons per year. However, it allows the agency enough flexibility to make year-to-year adjustments. This ability to make changes to the mandate lets EPA base targets on current market conditions, say biofuel backers. Oil companies disagree and say the RFS must be repealed outright.

Projections fall short of 'reality'
"EPA should base its cellulosic mandates on actual production rather than projections that -- year after year — have fallen far short of reality," Greco said.

EPA has proposed a 17-million-gallon target for the 2014 cellulosic gallons, a number the oil industry says will not be met.

"In the first quarter, less than 75,000 gallons of cellulosic biofuel were actually produced — less than one percent of EPA's projections," said American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers President Charles Drevna in a statement. "We hope that EPA radically adjusts the 2014 mandate to reflect actual production and obviate the need for the industry to continually challenge these unrealistic mandates."

In its original assessment, EPA expected cellulosic production to come from two firms: INEOS Bio, which makes ethanol from farm and household waste at a facility in Vero Beach, Fla.; and KiOR, which makes renewable gasoline and diesel from Southern yellow pines at a refinery in Columbus, Miss.

KiOR alone represented 80 percent of EPA's cellulosic projection. But the company fell on hard times in the second half of 2013, and its production estimates fell from 3 million to 5 million actual gallons of cellulosic biofuel to 1 million to 2 million, according to an August conference call. INEOS Bio only began to generate RINs in January 2014, holding KiOR accountable for all 810,185 RINs from 2013.

Representatives from the cellulosic industry supported EPA's decision to revisit the numbers.

"The retroactive adjustment for 2013 is the right thing to do based on unique circumstances," said Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council.

But he added that EPA should be wary of backing down from future projections for cellulosic fuels.

"It's important for people to understand that this is a one-time adjustment," Coleman said. "Going forward, the agency will continue to base targets on expected volumes in forthcoming years, which is the only way to grow the advanced biofuels industry."

EPA's acknowledgment sets a good precedent, said Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association.

"We look forward to producing more gallons in the future," he said.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500



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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

[biofuelwatch] EXCLUSIVE from Energy Justice Now: "Public Lands, Dirty Energy"

Public Lands, Dirty Energy

- by Josh Schlossberg, Energy Justice Now

Grassroots advocates have done a bang up job alerting the American public to the disturbing health and environmental impacts of the extraction, transportation, and generation of dirty energy (fossil fuels, nuclear power, and biomass/trash incineration). Greenhouse gases, air pollution, and water contamination from energy sources requiring smokestacks or cooling towers have become common knowledge to all but the willfully ignorant.

However, to achieve a critical mass of action that will influence public policy and shift private investment away from energy sources that cause more harm than good, dirty energy opponents must find common threads to weave the fabric of the movement together.

One such thread consists of the forests, prairies, and deserts on public lands that belong to every U.S. citizen, and the threat dirty energy poses to it all. READ MORE

Josh Schlossberg

Editor & Journalist, Energy Justice Now
Editor & Journalist, The Biomass Monitor
Steering Committee, 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] IPCC hangs hopes on fantasy bioenergy technology Truthout [6 Attachments]

IPCC Report Leaves Hopes Hanging on Fantasy Technology

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 10:21By Rachel SmolkerTruthout | News Analysis

Wellheads that check the temperature and pressure of the sequestered carbon dioxide gas, left, at American Electric Power's Mountaineer plant in New Haven, West Virginia, September 14, 2009. Carbon capture and sequestration has been a missing piece in eliminating greenhouse gases, and only a few projects are making headway, like the one at American Electric Power's Mountaineer plant. (Photo: Kevin Riddell / The New York Times)
This year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed for us, once again, that the planet is warming, even more and even faster than panel members thought. In fact, it is getting even warmer even faster than they thought the last time they admitted to having underestimated the problem. We humans are in deep trouble, and finding a way out of this mess - one that will ensure a decent future for us - is becoming increasingly difficult, if not nearly impossible. 
That difficult task is what the latest installment from IPCC, the Working Group 3 report on mitigation is intended to address. This past weekend, the "summary for policymakers" was released after the mad rush of government negotiations over the scientists' text took place in Berlin last week.
This is the fifth assessment report, and differed from the previous reports by also including some (contentious) discussion of ethical considerations. Notably, this report acknowledges that economic growth is the fundamental driver of emissions. It also offers economic analysis showing that taking necessary steps to protect the climate would require an annual economic growth opportunity loss of a mere 0.06%. As Joe Romm noted: "that's "relative to annualized consumption growth in the baseline that is between 1.6 percent and 3 percent per year." So we're talking annual growth of, say 2.24 percent rather than 2.30 percent to save billions and billions of people from needless suffering for decades if not centuries."
That's great, but the big question is: What investments are recommended, and would they actually work? What became clear from leaked earlier drafts was a troubling prominence of false solutions and unicorns included among the strategies for mitigation.
The report considered 900 stabilization scenarios, aiming to achieve anywhere from 430-720 ppm (parts per million of CO2) by 2100. What they concluded is that to achieve (maybe) even the alarmingly high 450-550 ppm - the level thought to hold some chance for limiting warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels - would at this point require not only reducing emissions, but also using some technology to actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
It seems that IPCC is at a loss to provide realistic pathways even to achieving 450 or 550 ppm, which is pretty alarming in itself, but also, it seems unrealistic to assume in any case that we are in control of earth systems such that we can pick a ppm target and just go there. We are already experiencing unanticipated, underestimated and uncontrollable feedbacks that make the discussions of targets and ppm modeling seem a bit obsolete. Nonetheless, this is the framework for the report.
IPCC is telling us that we will need not only to reduce the ongoing flow of emissions, but also to find a way to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. The working group cochair Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist, stated at the press briefing that many scenarios "strongly depend on the ability to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."
How are we to supposedly remove CO2 from the atmosphere? The only techniques on offer are bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration, also called BECCS, and afforestation.
The problem with this conclusion, and the reason the media picked up on it even prior to the final report release is that BECCS is almost entirely unproven; we already have a strong basis for assuming it will not actually work to remove CO2, and it is extremely risky and costly. IPCC acknowledges this, even as they deem it essential.
The media, starting with The Guardian, picked up on this even in advance of the final negotiations, referring to BECCS as "the dangerous spawn of two bad ideas," and in another article referring to it as the "plan to worsen global warming."
The BBC headlined "UN dilemma over 'Cinderella' Technology." And the UK Daily Mail asked: "Could we SUCK UP climate change? Referring to the great potential for carbon storage in Britain due to many abandoned coal mines and gas wells.
Here is what the final summary report actually states: "Mitigation scenarios reaching about 450 ppm CO2eq (carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2100 typically involve temporary overshoot of atmospheric concentrations as do many scenarios reaching about 500-550 ppm CO2eq   in 2100. Depending on the level of the overshoot, overshoot scenarios typically rely on the availability and widespread deployment of BECCS and afforestation in the second half of the century. The availability and scale of these and other Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies and methods are uncertain, and CDR technologies and methods are, to varying degrees associated with challenges and risks (see Section SPM 4.2, high confidence). CDR is also prevalent in many scenarios without overshoot to compensate for residual emissions from sectors where mitigation is more expensive. There is only limited evidence on the potential for large-scale deployment of BECCS, large-scale afforestation and other CDR technologies and methods."
Biofuelwatch (the organization for which I serve as codirector) authored a report on BECCS in 2012, and so we have some familiarity with the nature of the "uncertainties" and the degree to which evidence on the potential is "limited."
There is near-zero real-world experience with BECCS beyond a handful of attempts and a surprising number of canceled projects.
BECCS is not only "risky," but already we have very good reasons to assume it will fail. For one thing, the entire logic behind BECCS rests on false assumptions. One false assumption is that bioenergy (and so far that appears to include all manner of processes, from corn ethanol refineries to coal plants retrofitted to burn trees in place of coal for electricity) is "carbon neutral." The idea is that adding CCS to a carbon neutral process, will render it "carbon negative." That simplistic thinking assumes that carbon absorbed out of the atmosphere by plants as they grow will be captured and buried, and then when more plants grow, they will absorb yet more carbon, a net "removal." But, much is left out of that story.
Virtually nobody still contends that corn ethanol is "carbon neutral." Yet the premier BECCS project that is often referred to is an ADM corn ethanol refinery in Decatur Illinois. In fact, when emissions from indirect impacts are included in analyses, along with a complete assessment of the impacts from growing, harvesting, fertilizer and chemical use etc., most bioenergy processes actually cause more emissions even than the fossil fuels they are meant to replace. As for burning biomass (mostly wood) for electricity, there is a substantial literature - including peer-reviewed science, challenging the "carbon neutral" claim. It is well-established that counting just the emissions from smokestacks, burning wood releases around 50 percent more CO2 per unit of energy generation even than coal, along with many other pollutants. And it is simply incorrect to assume that this CO2 (as well as even further emissions resulting from harvest, transport and many indirect impacts) will be resequestered in new tree growth. If new trees do in fact grow, it may take decades. Further, we know already from the current scale of biofuel and biomass demand - just look at the current corn ethanol debacle - that it is driving loss of biodiversity, higher food prices, land grabs and other damages. Scaling up bioenergy to the extent that would be required to supposedly reduce global CO2 levels would be a disastrous backfire.
IPCC might have noted that the US EPA officials, charged with regulating CO2 emissions, found itself stymied with regard to how to account for emissions from bioenergy. Under pressure from industry, they decided to exempt biomass burning facilities from regulation for three years while they studied the problem. But that exemption was challenged in court, and the judge ruled there was no basis for it. In other words, CO2 from bioenergy should not be assumed "neutral" and therefore should not be exempted from regulation.
Most BECCS projects so far involve capturing CO2 streams from ethanol fermentation processes (because that is a relatively pure stream of CO2 that is cheaper and easier to capture). But then, the CO2 is not stored safely away, rather it is pumped into depleted oil wells to raise the pressure enough to force remaining oil out, a process called "enhanced oil recovery." Oil industry analysts in fact estimate there is huge potential for accessing oil in this manner, and because it is profitable, it offsets some of the very substantial costs associated with CCS. This is hardly "carbon dioxide removal"! Furthermore, it is laying the groundwork in experience for using CCS applied to fossil fuels - i.e. so called "clean coal." Capturing CO2 from coal plants remains more expensive and difficult due to the mix of gases, but the coal industry is hopeful that technology development will occur with BECCS.
The largely prohibitive costs have to do with the fact that capturing, compressing, transporting and storing CO2 all requires infrastructure and energy. It is assumed that adding CCS results in a "parasitic" energy load in the range of at least 30 percent of the facility capacity. In other words, 30 percent more biomass would be needed simply to power the CCS process itself.
Pumping and storing CO2 - from bio or fossil fuels - underground is downright foolhardy. We know full well that the earth's crust is not static! There is the potential that CO2 deposits could increase seismicity (earthquakes). A catastrophic sudden release would be very dangerous given that CO2 is lethal at high concentrations. There is also much concern that the vast infrastructure of pipelines and trucking etc. that would be entailed in large scale deployment of CCS (with fossil or bio energy), would result in myriad small scale leaks. Valclav Smil calculated that to sequester just a fifth of current carbon dioxide emissions ". . . we would have to create an entirely new worldwide absorption-gathering-compression-transportation-storage industry, whose annual throughput would have to be about 70 percent larger than the annual volume now handled by the global crude oil industry, whose immense infrastructure of wells, pipelines, compressor stations and storages took generations to build."
IPCC recognizes how risky and uncertain BECCS is, and yet they still deem it essential? We might have hoped they would offer a pathway with more likelihood of success, given all that is at stake.
IPCC also include natural gas, nuclear and large-scale bioenergy all as "low-carbon or zero-carbon" options. And, as with BECCS, they provide lip service to the risks and concerns around these, but they seem to minimize these very real risks when the scenarios they rely on incorporate those same mitigation strategies (to differing degrees) as though they were viable.
To their credit, IPCC has recognized that geoengineering is not an option and should not be considered "mitigation." While there was pressure, especially from Russia, to include geoengineering, including solar radiation management (SRM) into the mix, this was met with welcome resistance. Carbon Dioxide Removal techniques, including BECCS, also are considered in the context of geoengineering debates. But they are tightly linked to practices in place already, so it is more difficult to place them squarely in the geoengineering camp, where they would be subjected to the Convention on Biological Diversity defacto moratorium. We already know the impacts of large-scale bioenergy, and they are not at all clean, green, sustainable, low-carbon or carbon negative. They make matters worse, not better. Under the influence of desperation, we risk making lethal blunders.
While IPCC painted a remarkably palatable economic analysis of the costs of mitigation, they fall pretty flat in providing realistic means for using that finance to successful ends. Perhaps the problem boils down to this: IPCC knows economic growth is the driver, but instead of suggesting that we dramatically ramp it down within a justice-based framework, they instead seek a means to keep the engines of growth revving, but using "alternative," and so-called "zero- and low-carbon" sources of energy and materials. In so doing, they sidestep reality. 
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


Rachel Smolker is a codirector of Biofuelwatch and an organizer with Energy Justice Network. She has researched, written and organized on the impacts of biofuels, bioenergy and biochar on land use, forests, biodiversity, food, people and the climate. She works at all levels, from community organizing to international UN Convention negotiation processes. She is a member of the Climate Justice Now network and has worked to oppose market-based solutions to climate change and other "false solutions." She contributes regularly to Huffington Post and to Global Justice Ecology project's "New Voices on Climate Change. She is the daughter of one of the founders of the Environmental Defense Fund and participated in a protest against that organization because of the key role EDF played in advocating market-based solutions to climate change. Rachel has a Ph.D. in ecology/biology from the University of Michigan and worked previously as a field biologist, gaining firsthand experience with the complex balance between the needs of people and the ecological systems they depend upon. She is author of To Touch A Wild Dolphin (Doubleday 2001) and lives in Vermont. 

    Rachel Smolker, Ph.D.
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