Friday, July 31, 2015

[biofuelwatch] Petition from Stop OGM Pacific : Stop GM Papaya Contamination

PETITION: STOP GM PAPAYA CONTAMINATION  For a moratorium on importated papaya seeds to New Caledonia         In February of 2014, the New Caledonian Government passed an order to  ban the importation of GM fruit seeds, including papaya, into the  territory. The ban was put into place in August of 2014. Nevertheless,  this new law went nearly unnoticed: no debate on this serious issue…are  there GM papaya plants in New Caledonia?      In spite of repeated demands, the institutions of New Caledonia have  continued to turn a political blind eye regarding the presence of  possible GM papaya plants in the territory and the probable  contamination to the traditional local papayas. For several years now,  the Office of Agriculture Development of the Southern Province have  recommended using papaya seeds from the Hawaiian SunUp variety, the  infamous GM papaya developed by the University of Hawaii.          The importation of seeds, and the contamination of local papaya plants  is of no doubt, now is the time to inform the population in order to  take the necessary steps to stop it. Moreover, given the risks of  contamination and the spreading of GM papaya everywhere, it is no longer  reasonable to continue to import papaya seeds into New Caledonia at all,  even if they are not considered GMO.          In Hawaii, 90% of papaya production is GM, with two varieties, SunUP  and Rainbow (papayas with red flesh and under the brand name of Sunrise).      50% of the non-GM papaya plants grown in Hawaii have been  contaminated by their GM counterparts.      China has been authorized to grow another GM variety, called Huaong  No 1, since 2006.      There have been GM papaya trials conducted in Thailand, Indonesia,  and the Phillipines, and probably also in India, Brazil, and Nigeria.      Papaya contamination has been reported in Taiwan, China, Hong-Kong,  and Fiji.      GM Papaya is regularly detected in food products in Europe, even  with the current restrictions against GMOs! The European Commission has  now asked for stricter testing in the exporting countries such as Thailand.      Co-existence is IMPOSSIBLE !  And it will ruin the economies of the Pacific Island nations. We invite  Pacific Islanders to join our appeal.          By signing this petition, I ask to the New Caledonian authorities:          Disclose information publically on the past importation of GM  Papayas in New Caledonia.      Make an official assessment on the actual contamination in the  territory.      Impose a moratorium on the importation of papaya seeds in New  Caledonia.                              


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Thursday, July 30, 2015

[biofuelwatch] Biofuel Crops Put Human Health at Risk

Biofuel Crops Put Human Health at Risk

Editor, The Biomass Monitor
Editor, Energy Justice Now

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[biofuelwatch] Mozambique: "No new plantation has succeeded since independence"

Mozambique: Foreign investment in agri-business but not farming?
Published: 28 Jul 2015

No new plantation has succeeded in Mozambique since independence. No new plantation investment has yet been profitable.
Club of Mozambique | 28 July 2015

Mozambique: Foreign investment in agri-business but not farming?

by Joseph Hanlon

"We know that France is a world power in agro-processing, so we are encouraging the businesses represented here to take note of the need to transfer technology to Mozambique in this area", President Filipe Nyusi told French businesspeople in Paris Sunday 20 July.

"In agriculture, we are banking on increasing production and productivity, so as to create greater competitiveness and more jobs", Nyusi said. "We think there are opportunities upstream, in terms of equipment, improved seeds and fertilizer, and downstream there is potential for agro-processing units, storage and transport to the national and regional markets". He also called for investment in infrastructure and irrigation, and pointed to the way foreign investors could promote exports to the United States and Europe. (AIM Eng & Pt, 20 July)

This could represent an important and subtle change in government policy. Since independence, government has seen foreign investment in large-scale farming as the way forward.

Yet no new plantation has succeeded since independence. No new plantation investment has yet been profitable. Even in sugar, where rehabilitation and expansion of colonial sugar estates has been successful, all the new projects have failed. Instead, growth has come from crops such as tobacco, where small holders grow the crop, and the foreign investor provides inputs and markets.

Does this finally reflect a shift in government thinking, that farming should be left to Mozambicans and that the need for foreign investment is elsewhere in the value chain?

Divisions within government and inside major projects such as ProSavana mean there will probably never be clear, official policy changes, and a change in mood will have to be read from language and what is not said. Thus is it significant that Nyusi did not mention foreign investment in actual farming?

So far, nearly all the failed plantation investments have been on former state farm land, now largely allocated. Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco has been promoting foreign investment in farming for some years, but he always stresses that investors must satisfy the land law. And it has proved very difficult to assemble thousands of hectares of vacant land, because even if land is not used intensively, it is occupied and thus has an occupier with rights.

Nyusi stressed that Mozambique has 40 million hectares of arable land, but to ensure that agriculture develops in Mozambique, measures must be taken to end the situation in which vast fertile areas are "idle" (ociosas). Nyusi said this has frustrated those who really want to farm and to produce food.

How to interpret that? Does that mean cancelling the existing land concessions to foreign investors and local elites who are not using some large tracts of prime land, as set out in the land law? Or does it mean reinterpreting the land law in ways that restrict small holder access to land that is actually used for crops, and excluding land being kept fallow or for forest products, as some have advocated as a way to release land for foreign investors? Until now government has constantly stressed the amount of land which is "underused" and should be offered to investors.

Pacheco in his statement to parliament again stressed that any investment, foreign or national. must satisfy the land law. All land "belongs" to some person or groups - there is little "free" or unoccupied land, under the present interpretation of "good faith" and "customary practice". Peasant groups know that there is both foreign and national pressure to reinterpret the land law to allow land use rights to be transferred and to reduce land rights to only land used "productively", so as to release land for foreign investors. Pacheco has chosen his words carefully so as not to prevent such changes in interpretation. So peasant fears of a "land grab" will continue.

Source: Joseph Hanlon
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[biofuelwatch] The palm oil company at the centre of a bitter land rights struggle in Cameroon

The palm oil company at the centre of a bitter land rights struggle in Cameroon

Local residents complain expansion plans by Socapalm, Cameroon's biggest palm oil company, will take over land that belongs to them
With precise, hard strikes a man cuts the branches of the short palm trees. Amid all the other tropical plants growing wildly around and into each other, the branches are hard to see at first sight. Easier to spot is the boundary of the man's field, a wall of giant palm trees a few metres away. "This is all Socapalm", says Emmanuel Elong, aged 46, as he looks up and wipes the river of sweat off his face.
We are not far from Mbonjo II, one of the villages inside the Dibombari region, in west Cameroon that is also a concession area of the private oil palm company Socapalm. Currently the country's biggest producer, Socapalm is trying to further expand production and help Cameroon become a net exporter of palm oil.
However, the plans have struggled to overcome objections from the local population in Cameroon, including Elong, who are opposed to the development of land they consider to belong to them. Unless companies such as Socapalm can resolve these issues, expectations of a boom in palm oil production in the country are likely to be misplaced.
With new land becoming scarcer in Indonesia and Malaysia, investors are looking to Cameroon and other countries in central and west Africa for opportunities. As a result, national governments have identified the development of the palm oil sector as a key target for attracting foreign investment and boosting domestic economic growth.
The majority of palm oil in Cameroon is produced on small and medium-sized farms. "Go to any village in Cameroon and you will find a mill that produces oil. Everyone depends on it", says Godswill Ntsomboh from IRAD, the Institute for Agricultural Research in Douala. Although figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization show palm oil production increased from 130,000 tonnes to 225,000 tonnes between 2000 and 2013, the country is still a net importer of the commodity.
Privatising the palm oil sector was part of the Cameroon government's plans to boost the country's overall food production. "Africa must no longer import to eat", said president Paul Biya in 2011, stressing Cameroon's enormous potential to export rather than input. He said has said he wants to turn the country into the "breadbasket of central Africa", with the help of palm oil.
As part of that plan, the previously state-owned Socapalm was sold to a conglomerate of private companies, the majority interest held by the global agribusiness Socfin in 2000. Socapalm was created in the 1960s for the country's development, with an almost socialist concept: smallholders received fertilisers and technical assistance, and a credit system was put in place to bridge seasonal losses. In return, farmers sold their crops to the state-owned Socapalm at a price fixed in a contract. The model, however, turned out to be loss-making for the state, and by the 1990s, the government's fund was exhausted.
The relationship between Socapalm and local smallholders is less clear since the company was privatised and is one of the reasons why the company has had difficulties receiving accreditation from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Elong himself also claims that he is no longer able to sell his crops to the company.
However, the challenges go beyond the integration of smallholders. Villagers, labourers and NGOs have complained about poor living and working conditions in the Socapalm plantations, a lack of maintenance of local infrastructure and pollution. The Guardian has seen copies of letters and written complaints submitted to the company and the government between 2005 and 2015.
When asked about these concerns, the chairperson of Socapalm's board, Michel Noulowe, said: "Rome was not built in one day." Projects like the renovation of housing facilities, the construction of new schools and clinics, he promises, are underway.

The land is ours

However for Elong, who founded a movement representing Cameroonian farmers and villagers who feel marginalised by the Cameroonian subsidiary Socapalm, the main concern is the land Socapalm leases from the state. Before it was privatised, Socapalm only developed about one third of its total concession in the country, spread across six areas including Dibombari. That is now changing. Joseph Mengue, the company's head of human resources, says that "the contract the company signed obliges us to expand within the boundaries of the concession".
In 2011, the company put forward expansion plans that would have taken over the fields of some of villagers in Dibombari region. Elong called the population together and they blocked the construction workers. Another blockade took place in April this year. Negotiations have been ongoing with the villagers, but Socfin has admitted to being unhappy with the grassroots movement. In an interview with the Guardian, Luc Boedt, CEO of Socfin, said: "We deal with the real stakeholders. We speak with elected people and not some excited villagers."
Local NGOs say the company needs to engage with local communities, regardless of the difficulties this presents "Land is an issue, especially here in Africa", says Jaff Bamenjo, co-ordinator at Relufa, a Cameroonian NGO that works on food security. He says that local communities believe that Socapalm is expanding onto land that belongs to them, but that the conflict can be resolved with dialogue.

Role of government

Although the experiences of Socapalm may deter some private investors, David Hoyle deputy director of the non-profit ProForest, says land rights are a common issue across west Africa. "One of the challenges across the region is that there is no real land-use planning, there is no regulation of what is a protected area and what is for housing and farming.
"So when the companies are looking for land, they've got primary forest or very dense carbon-stock forest on the right, and on the left they've got villages with all their farms, and the marginal land in the middle is degraded and not suitable for oil palm cultivation," he adds.
Samuel Nguiffo, director of the Centre for Environment and Development and a well-known environmental campaigner in Cameroon, points the blame at government officials for the problems. 'The government gives out land without designating specific areas for palm oil. There are no conditions, no system," he concludes.
Both Hoyle, who spends part of the year working in Cameroon, and government officials have confirmed that a new national strategy for the palm oil sector is being planned to attempt to resolve the relationship between palm oil companies, smallholders and the local population.
While some historic land use disputes need to be dealt with on an individual basis, Hoyle says there needs to be an overarching plan from government. "If palm oil is to expand in Cameroon and is going to be sustainable then we need clarification on what land is for palm oil, for housing or forestry."
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

[biofuelwatch] Nitrous Oxide releases higher than expected from Big Agriculture

>> Nitrous Oxide is a potent greenhouse gas - it is produced by agricultural practices using nitrogenous fertilisers, for example growing maize. Theses GHG emissions from growing maize (and soy?) should be factored into the climate impacts of maize grown for food, for ethanol and for biogas. It appears from this research that N2O releases may be higher than previously estimated, further weakening the case for bioenergy from maize>>

Greenhouse gas source underestimated from the US Corn Belt, study shows

Estimates of how much nitrous oxide, a significant greenhouse gas and stratospheric ozone-depleting substance, is being emitted in the central United States have been too low by as much as 40 percent, a new study led by University of Minnesota scientists shows.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, measured how much nitrous oxide is emitted from streams in an agriculturally dense area in southern Minnesota. Agriculture, and specifically nitrogen fertilizers used in row-crop farming, is a major contributor to nitrous oxide emissions from streams, the paper notes.

Nitrous oxide emissions are measured at the University of Minnesota Tall Tower Trace Gas Observatory -providing a top-down constraint on the regional emissions. Estimates of nitrous oxide emissions also are calculated by combining on-the-ground (bottom-up) measurements within the region. These measurements are used to keep track of emissions and help inform strategies for reducing nitrous oxide loss from agricultural lands. However, very large differences have been observed between these top-down and bottom-up approaches, indicating large uncertainties, and undermining the development and assessment of mitigation practices.

The researchers found that some of the discrepancies between bottom-up emission measurements and those taken from the air can be attributed to variations in the size and flow of streams and rivers; by taking the impact of stream networks into account, scientists can more accurately estimate and mitigate increased concentrations of nitrous oxide. A strong relation was observed between the emission strength of a stream and its size, known as stream order. The smallest streams, or those with the closest connections to the land, were the strongest sources. The researchers hypothesize that this is a consequence of both high nitrogen loading and higher turbulent exchange rates. As stream size increases, the potential of these processes to produce large emissions is diminished. These two mechanisms acting together help explain why headwater streams are such strong sources.

The findings suggest that nitrous oxide emissions from rivers have been underestimated by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) by as much as nine-fold. By properly accounting for the emission factor of these sources, much of the difference between bottom-up and top-down approaches can be resolved.

"Nitrous oxide emissions from rivers have been an overlooked and uncertain source because the variability in stream sizes and land-use types has made an accurate estimation difficult," says Peter Turner, one of the study's authors and a PhD candidate in the university's Department of Soil, Water, and Climate.

"We identified an important relationship between the size of the stream and its potential to emit nitrous oxide that can be used to scale up emission estimates. Understanding the riverine nitrous oxide source is an important step forward for understanding the global nitrous oxide budget."

Since 2009, the team has been tracking down the sources of nitrous oxide emissions in the Upper Midwest using tall tower observations, soil and plant chambers, and a new system designed for investigating emissions from streams, says Tim Griffis, a professor in the university's Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. "We have known for some time, based on atmospheric measurements, that nitrous oxide emissions within the region are underestimated. This study provides a key piece to solving that puzzle and will help land managers and scientists develop better strategies for mitigating nitrous oxide emissions."

The next step is to confirm that nitrous oxide degassing also occurs in drainage channels in other agricultural regions, such as China and India, where productivity is maintained by intensive use of nitrogen fertilizers, says Xuhui Lee, a Professor in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University and a collaborator on the study.

Greenhouse gas source underestimated from the US Corn Belt, study shows


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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

[biofuelwatch] Study shows link between heat stress and dehydration on plantations and Central American Chronic Kidney Disease epidemic

(forwarded from La Isla Foundation)


Public health journal Environmental Research published study results last week from a groundbreaking epidemiological investigation into the causes of Chronic Kidney Disease of nontraditional causes (CKDnT) in Central America.

This disease, also known as Mesoamerican Nephropathy (MeN), has killed over 20,000 people, most of them sugarcane workers.

The study, which took place at Salvadoran sugar mill El Angel, examined 189 sugarcane cutters before and after work shifts, or "cross shift," measuring biomarkers indicative of hydration and kidney function. "It is the first time that an investigation of this kind (cross shift) has been realized among cane cutters susceptible to developing [CKDnT]," said Dr. Ramón Garcia-Trabanino, a nephrologist and principal investigator of the study.

Results showed physiological damage to the kidneys over the course of the workday due to heat stress and dehydration. These findings support the leading hypothesis of the causes of CKDnT, which identifies workload with repeated heat stress and dehydration as the principal driver of disease. "[The study] succeeded in demonstrating an association between heat stress and kidney damage," García-Trabanino said. "We observed once again that the disease is more frequent in coastal regions and that it is associated directly with levels of heat stress."

The results provide a scientific basis for intervening in working conditions to provide workers with better access to water, rest, and shade, according to researchers. "With the exception of climate change, all other risk factors observed in this study (dehydration, [excess uric acid], etc.) are modifiable factors through relatively simple interventions and therefore we must intervene as soon as possible to stop the damage," García-Trabanino said.

During last harvest, the El Angel mill opened its doors to host the Worker Health and Efficiency (WE) Program, the first-ever concerted workplace intervention targeting CKDnT prevention. The WE Program is an ongoing collaboration between research institutions Karolinska Institutet, Lund University, Gothenburg University, London School of Health and Tropical Medicine, Imperial College London, University of Birmingham, SALTRA, and the US Occupational Health and Safety Agency with consultation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-NIOSH and the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.

Both the study published last week and the first WE Program intervention were facilitated by La Isla Foundation (LIF) and Solidaridad Network with funding from the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

Read and download the open source study in full here.



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[biofuelwatch] Senegal landgrab on the verge of implosion (Senhuile's biofuels scheme)

Press release
24 July 2015

For immediate release

Senegal land grab on the verge of implosion

A new report by Italian researchers shows that the controversial Senhuile project in Senegal is on the verge of collapse. The project, initiated by Italian and Senegalese investors four years ago to produce biofuels, has provoked fierce resistance from affected communities in which six people have died. Its investors claim to have secured the rights to 45,000 hectares of land, though the company has cultivated only a fraction of this; to make matters worse, Senhuile's disgraced former CEO is counter-suing the company on a variety of charges.

Senhuile is synonymous with land grabbing in Senegal. The project has been dogged by problems since it was set up. In 2011, villagers furious with the deal granting the company 20,000 ha in Fanaye, rose up in protest. Two villagers were killed and the project was then suspended and moved to a new location in Ndiael. There, several children from the area drowned in the project's unprotected irrigation ditches, while suspicions of illicit finance rocked the company's credibility.

Now, a new report by Italian researchers published by Re:Common shows that the firm's public relations efforts are backfiring and that the project is mired in deeper conflict and contradiction.

Some key findings:

  • The company fired its CEO, Benjamin Dummai, who was subsequently jailed for embezzlement, but he is now counter-suing Senhuile for 14 offences including fraudulent raising of capital and money laundering.
  • In recent weeks, the Italian investors have made it clear that their Senegalese land holdings go beyond the 20,000 ha attributed to them in the Ndiael region. They claim to have retained the rights to the 20,000 ha originally ceded to the project in Fanaye. They also claim to have recently acquired 5,000 ha in Fass Ngom. Yet the company has only managed to cultivate 1,500 ha in the past year, raising serious questions about why the authorities have allocated them so much land. In all areas affected by the project, the it is fiercely contested by farmers and pastoralists who can no longer make a living. Rumours abound that the project will be flipped to a major US or West African corporation.
  • Tampieri has spent the last year investing heavily in public relations work to win over the hearts and minds of local villages around the project site. Yet visits with the communities show the stark contradiction between what the company says and the experiences of people on the ground, exposing the company's corporate social responsibility agenda completely hollow.
  • The project's worst offences are the real human suffering and loss of life. Last month, a 16-year old herder drowned trying to cross the company's irrigation canal and the family is preparing to file suit. The company has also been laying off workers and dismisses the demands of the 37 villages surrounding its project to pack up and go home.

"Whatever your position on development or management of land resources, we can't keep on telling people what's actually going on on the ground and presenting evidence of the company's irregularities, while all it does is deny and attempt to cover up the divisions, contradictions, and conflicts surrounding the project. There's been open conflict around this project for five years. It can't go on like this," said Davide Cirillo, a researcher with WOTS? (Walking on the South), an Italian collective that has done a great deal of work with the Senegalese communities.

This report is being launched jointly by the Collective for the defence of Ndiaël and Re:Common, in cooperation with GRAINInvestigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI)SUNUGAL, and the Walking on the South collective, groups that have been working to expose the Senhuile project as illegitimate and harmful.

For more information

Senegal: come si accaparra la terra - in Italian or French

Who is behind Senhuile-Senethanol? – Nov 2013

Senhuile director arrested for alleged financial crime – May 2014


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

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[biofuelwatch] Blazing a trail of deception: the White Rose Project and “negative emissions” technologies"negative-emissions"-techno

Blazing a trail of deception: the White Rose Project and "negative emissions" technologies


Energy companies are exploiting "clean coal" myths to justify dirty developments and profit from lucrative subsidies.

Image of a coal-fired power station.Still dirty... Flickr/Martin. Some rights reserved.

In the UK, a new coal fired power station is being developed by Drax that, if built, would be the first new coal fired power station to be switched on since Drax's existing power station opened in 1974. This is surprising given that there were mass protests against new coal in the UK that saw a whole new generation of coal fired power stations stopped in their tracks. Yet plans for Drax's new "White Rose" power station are proceeding largely unopposed. This is because, as will be discussed below, the UK public has been fooled by the rhetoric of "clean coal", "bioenergy with carbon capture and storage", and "negative emissions"

The White Rose Carbon Capture Project is a proposed 428 MWe power station capable of burning both coal and biomass, that developers say will capture 90% of the carbon it emits, and store it safely under the North Sea.  According to Drax, it will co-fire up to 15% wood with coal.  But it will in fact be allowed to burn any proportion of coal and wood. The power station will use "Oxyfuel Combustion", one of a number of different carbon capture technologies that extracts some of the CO2 coming out of the smokestack.

The principal company behind the White Rose is Drax Plc, operators of the UK's largest coal-fired power station and now also the world's largest biomass power station – the other partners are Alstom, BOC and National Grid. White Rose is currently making its way through the planning system, and has attracted widespread support from policy makers, industry, and even some green groups. It has already received £50 million from the UK Government for feasibility studies, been guaranteed EUR 300 by the European Commission (if CO2 is captured), and is set to receive up to £900 million of UK tax payer's money by the end of the year for upfront construction costs. On top of this, Drax expect to be awarded a very generous "Contract for Difference", the UK Government's subsidy mechanism that will include electricity generated with carbon capture technology.

Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and Negative Emissions

On the White Rose website is the bold proclamation that:

"By co-firing biomass to the extent of the 10% CO2 not captured, it will be possible to reduce the CO2 emissions impact of the plant even more and potentially achieve a plant with negative CO2 emissions."

This "negative emissions" rhetoric is reflected elsewhere, for example in the White Rose developers' written evidence to the UK's Energy and Climate Change Committee:

"The combination of biomass and CCS for power generation even offers the even more exciting prospect of negative emissions...

In the longer term, CCS combined with biomass is the only low carbon technology that could remove industrial quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere and permanently store it in deep geological formations. CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere during the natural growth process of biomass. Following combustion of the biomass the CO2 is captured and permanently stored providing a net carbon removal from the atmosphere, or "negative emissions". These negative emissions could be used to offset emissions from other harder to decarbonise sectors."

Needless to say, industry lobby groups, such as the Global CCS Institute, areusing the same rhetoric about the White Rose project:

" addition to capturing nearly 90 per cent of its carbon emissions, under the right circumstances it could reach zero or even negative emissions... This project, and several others at advanced stages of planning in the UK and mainland Europe, have the potential to reinvigorate CCS in Europe and help meet the world's climate targets."

Is this just opportunism on the part of an industry desperate to keep on burning things, or is it taking a lead from elsewhere? In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is partly responsible for the hype around Carbon Capture and in particular Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (or BECCS).

The IPCC's Working Group 3 report summary in 2014 effectively says that if we want to have any realistic chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels (still alarmingly high), we would need emissions reductions as well as some sort of technology to actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) is singled out as the most realistic and 'important' approach, in combination with 'afforestation'.*

"Mitigation scenarios reaching about 450 ppm CO2eq in 2100 typically ... rely on the availability and widespread deployment of BECCS and afforestation in the second half of the century."

Although they do qualify this by saying that:

"There is only limited evidence on the potential for large scale deployment of BECCS, large scale afforestation and other CDR technologies and methods."

What the White Rose Project shows is that hype around BECCS and "negative emissions" technologies is already being exploited by companies to attract government subsidies.

What are the chances of the White Rose actually achieving "negative emissions"? Not good.

Total and Vattenfall have tried and rejected the White Rose's carbon capture technology as economically not viable due to the large amount of energy used in the process, and have withdrawn investment into it. Furthermore, an oxyfuel plant like the one Drax plans to build can be run far more cheaply and easily without capturing CO2. There are numerous ways that the White Rose could be legally operated without anywhere near 90% capture, or even without any carbon capture at all. For example, under EU and UK legislation, all of the CO2 emitted from burning wood is classed as 'carbon neutral' and the White Rose plant could therefore meet UK emissions standards by simply burning 50% wood, 50% coal and capturing no carbon at all.  Next is the issue of storage – whilst it might be technically feasible to scrub CO2 out of smokestack emissions, there is no convincing evidence that CO2 stays put when injected into geological formations. And finally, there's the issue of the damage done by coal mining and wood extraction for the White Rose's fuel. No level of corporate greenwash can make these processes "clean" or "green".

An expensive White Elephant

So far no oxyfuel plant bigger than 30 MW (14 times smaller than the proposed White Rose project) has been built anywhere in the world. The US government has just pulled the plug on a smaller but otherwise identical planned power station, having wasted $202.5 million (£131 million) on it. The project was abandoned due to cost-overruns, delays, and because private sector investors were unwilling to contribute funds to such a project. No other projects of this type have attracted any private or public sector funding.

By pouring up to £1 billion into the White Rose, the UK will be left with a large, polluting, white elephant. Rather than a "clean" plant achieving "negative emissions", UK citizens will be tricked into underwriting a brand-new, filthy, greenhouse gas spewing, coal and biomass power station.

The true cost of the White Rose

While the public is led to believe they are supporting a climate friendly project, in fact the White Rose, even with a very optimistic 90% CO2 capture rate, would still be increasing emissions. But the true costs of this project will be in the extra coal and biomass that will be burned at the power station. The White Rose will get its fuel from the stockpiles at the adjacent Drax power station, from the same Drax supply chains. This includes coal mined in Russia, the US and Colombia, as well as the UK, and biomass predominantly from the US and Canada.

Currently, Drax is planning to keep its existing coal and biomass plant operating until 2039, with no closure plans for its remaining 3 coal units. Even with effective carbon capture, the plan therefore is to emit more, and not less CO2, through the operation of the White Rose. The new power station will create a new long-term demand for coal, additional to that of the existing power station. This will only exacerbate the impacts of coal mining worldwide, including in northern Colombia where villages have been forcibly evicted for an opencast mine that supplies Drax, and where water depletion and pollution, and coal dust pollution, have devastated communities' ability to grow food and feed themselves. At other mines in Colombia, companies have been directly implicated in the funding of paramilitary violence and murder of trade union activists.

Drax already burns more wood than any other power station in the world, and wood pellets could make up to 15% of the fuel burned in the White Rose. The vast majority of the wood that Drax burns is imported from the southern US and Canada, with imports expected to increase significantly as new pellet facilities begin production. Even at the early stages of growth for this industry, whole trees are being turned into pellets. Scientists and US conservation NGOs have shown that Drax is sourcing pellets directly linked to the clearcutting of highly biodiverse and carbon rich swamp forests in the southern US.

The claim that burning biomass is "low carbon" or even "carbon neutral" at the point of combustion has also been shown to be totally false. If evidence collected on the wood sourcing of Drax's main supplier in the US, Enviva, is applied to the UK government's own recently published biomass carbon calculator, it can be shown that a significant proportion of wood that Drax burns results in up to 3 times more carbon emissions than equivalent generation from burning coal.

The impacts of the huge expansion of the wood pellet industry are likely to be felt more widely. As European and North American wood is increasingly burned in power stations, paper companies are looking to the global South for their wood sourcing, from countries such as Brazil. More directly, the Brazilian company Tanac SA has reported entering into a sourcing agreement with Drax which will see the company build a large pellet plant, which is likely to result in the expansion of monoculture tree plantations in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Monoculture tree plantations in Brazil are associated with the displacement of indigenous and traditional communities, deforestation, water and soil depletion, and pollution.

Regardless of whether the White Rose power station captures any carbon, it will increase carbon emissions from forest degradation and logging, and from coal mining.

Campaign update

On June 18, campaigners inflated a giant white elephant carrying the message "No public funds for coal and biomass" outside the offices of the Department of Energy and Climate Change in London. The activists were delivering a petition signed by almost 114,000 people that called on the UK Government not to support the White Rose Project with a grant that would cover most of the costs of the project's implementation. The message was a simple one: public funds should not be wasted on expensive new thermal power stations, using technology that others have dismissed as unviable, and locking us into more coal and biomass sourcing long into the future.

You can read more about the White Rose Project here, and by downloading Biofuelwatch's briefing.

In conclusion

The White Rose Project is a worrying case study of how international hype around BECCS and CCS is being exploited by energy companies to justify dirty developments and profit from lucrative subsidies. These developments have very little to do with achieving "negative emissions", and everything to do with turning climate change into a deceitful business opportunity.

* 'Afforestation' means planting trees where there have been no forests for at least 50 years – and in practice it means large-scale tree plantations on grassland, farmland, etc.  Thus, far from a benign alternative, so-called afforestation threatens small farmers, pastoralists and other communities as well as ecosystems and biodiversity – just as large-scale bioenergy, including for BECCS does.  


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