Friday, October 30, 2015

[biofuelwatch] Bioenergy strongly conflicts with biodiversity protection

Exploiting renewable energy while allowing for protecting biodiversity

Deployment of renewable energy is expanding all over the world. There is high competition between alternative land uses, and conflicts over limited land are likely to emerge between biodiversity conservation and expanded deployment of renewable energy.

Dr Andrea Santangeli in the University of Helsinki, Finland, and his colleagues in the UK have explored global expansion of land use for renewable energies versus biodiversity protection. They discovered that the conflicts and opportunities largely depend on the type of energy at stake, with bioenergy strongly conflicting with biodiversity protection while generating only limited power at a global level.

Conversely, solar energy and, to a lower degree, wind energy, may provide relatively large power supplies with minimal impacts on biodiversity.

"We found that using a very limited amount of land for generating energy from the sun can yield large amounts of power without impacting the best areas for biodiversity protection. However, this result only holds when restrictions on energy storage and transport are largely ignored, which is unrealistic in the short term. Indeed, these findings highlight a major opportunity when political will and improved technologies make it possible to harvest renewable energy without such restrictions," says Andrea Santangeli.

Santangeli and colleagues also highlight that in the near future renewable energy most likely will not be able to make a very large contribution towards our total global energy consumption. So, other forms of energy still need to be considered.


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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

[biofuelwatch] USDA Announces $210 Million to be Invested in Biofuels Infrastructure

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From: "USDA Office of Communications" <>
Date: Oct 28, 2015 12:54 PM
Subject: USDA Announces $210 Million to be Invested in Renewable Energy Infrastructure through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership
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Release No. 0300.15
Kent Politsch (202) 720-7163
USDA Announces $210 Million to be Invested in Renewable Energy Infrastructure through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership
21 States and Private Partners Match Federal Funds to Expand Infrastructure and Increase Fuel Options for Consumers

KISSIMMEE, Fla., Oct. 28, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with 21 states through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) to nearly double the number of fueling pumps nationwide that supply renewable fuels to American motorists. In May 2015, USDA announced the availability of $100 million in grants through the BIP, and that to apply states and private partners match the federal funding by a 1:1 ratio. USDA received applications requesting over $130 million, outpacing the $100 million that is available. With the matching commitments by state and private entities, the BIP is investing a total of $210 million to strengthen the rural economy.

"This major investment in renewable energy infrastructure will give Americans more options that not only will suit their pocketbooks, but also will reduce our country's environmental impact and bolster our rural economy," said Vilsack. "The Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership is one more example of how federal funds can be leveraged by state and private partners to deliver better and farther reaching outcomes for taxpayers. The volume and diverse geographic locations of partners willing to support this infrastructure demonstrate the demand across the country for lower cost, cleaner, American-made fuels. Consumers will begin to see more of these pumps in a matter of months."

The 21 states participating in the BIP include Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The amount awarded to each state is available at: The final awards being announced today are estimated to expand infrastructure by nearly 5,000 pumps at over 1,400 fueling stations.

A typical gas pump delivers fuel with 10 percent ethanol, which limits the amount of renewable energy that consumers can purchase. The new partnership will increase the number of pumps, storage and related infrastructure that offer higher blends of ethanol, such as E15, E85, and even intermediate combination blends.

USDA's Office of the Chief Economist just released a comprehensive report on ethanol. The report, titled U.S. Ethanol: An Examination of Policy, Production, Use, Distribution, and Market Interactions, brings clarity to the complex interaction of ethanol production with agricultural markets and government policies. The corn ethanol industry is the largest biofuel producer in the country, with production increasing from about 1.6 billion gallons in 2000 to just over 14 billion gallons in 2014, stimulating economic activity in rural communities. Visit to read the complete report.

BIP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency. For more information, visit


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Thursday, October 22, 2015

[biofuelwatch] Best Breakdown of Bioenergy Carbon Cycle That I've Seen

Usually scientists aren't very good at communicating their research to the public in a way that is accessible (maybe part of the reason why there are so many climate change deniers?), but this recent interview with Timothy Searchinger out of Princeton University does the best job of any piece I've seen explaining the whole bioenergy carbon issue.

Definitely recommend reading it and if you ever need to debunk the whole "carbon neutral" biomass argument, this is the best explanation I've seen, by a well-respected scientist with unimpeachable credentials, and with his own peer-reviewed studies to back it up. As good as it gets.

For daily news updates on bioenergy, biomass, and biofuels, follow The Biomass Monitor on Twitter


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[biofuelwatch] US forests under threat as demand for wood-based biofuels grows - report

An increase in US wood pellet exports intended to reduce reliance on fossil fuels may be threatening ecologically important forests across the country, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council 
European Union (EU) rules intended to reduce power plant reliance on fossil fuels are threatening significant areas of ecologically important hardwood forests across the southeastern US, and will do little to mitigate carbon emissions, according to a new report.
The report, produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in collaboration with the Conservation Biology Institute, detailed a 150% increase in wood pellet exports (pdf) from the US during the past three years. Most are bound for Europe, where power companies are replacing coal and other fossil fuels with wood-based biofuels in order to benefit from EU incentives on renewable energy sources.
Debbie Hammel, senior resource specialist for NRDC's Land and Wildlife Program, said that the EU has few safeguards to ensure that wood pellet biofuel comes from plantation-grown trees and wood remnants, rather than wood harvested from mature forests. That calls into serious question EU claims of carbon-neutral biomass fuels, she said.
"When you burn wood pellets you are immediately and instantaneously releasing carbon into the atmosphere," said Hammel. "And there's very little certainty that those forests will continue to grow over the long term."
The report detailed geographic information system mapping (GIS) conducted in bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and southeastern Georgia – areas that have experienced rapid expansion of wood pellet manufacturing since 2012. It identified parts of Louisiana as another emerging zone of concern.
The report warned that 24m acres of unprotected forest lands across the southeastern US are at risk, largely from European biomass operations. It predicts that wood pellet manufacturing throughout the region could increase twelve-fold by 2020.
As new pellet mills come online, the report said, the areas they target for wood harvesting are likely to overlap with those of existing mills, creating what the report referred to as wood sourcing hotspots and intensifying potential ecosystem damage.
Southeastern forests in the US have long been under threat from urban sprawl, agriculture and the pulp and paper industries. Today, they are also increasingly under threat from rising sea levels. With the rise of the wood pellet industry, the risks to these ecosystems, which include hundreds of endangered, imperiled and threatened species, could escalate dramatically, warned James Strittholt, president of the Conservation Biology Institute.
"It makes perfect sense that we work toward a non-fossil fuel energy source – no argument there – but the issue is the alternatives we pick are not always benign and we need to be thoughtful about that," Strittholt said. "Just because it's trees and not fossil fuel, it shouldn't be everything goes, because everything will indeed go if there aren't some kinds of controls."
Strittholt observed that development of new wood pellet facilities is moving much faster than regulators can respond. He noted that some of the forest lands identified just last year in the mapping project as future harvest sites have already been affected.
"From the looks of the data we're seeing … there's an economic opportunity, there's a market, so the corporate response can be quite rapid compared with any safeguarding mechanisms already in place," he said.
Pellet manufacturer Enviva and British utility Drax Power are leaders in the region's expanding biomass industry. In an email, Enviva's vice president of communications, Kent Jenkins Jr, countered some of the report findings. He said the majority of wood used by Enviva's production plants in Virginia and North Carolina comes from upland forest and mixed stands rather than mature bottomland hardwood.
"Regardless of the source, we use only leftover and low-grade wood that undergoes a rigorous sustainability assessment, certified by independent third parties," Jenkins said.
Hammel dismissed wood pellet makers' sustainability standards as "extraordinarily insufficient". She said companies need to be more transparent about the source of wood used in their products and decrease reliance on mature forests that might take hundreds of years to regrow, thereby undermining any potential emission mitigation.
The NRDC is urging the EU to enact more stringent standards for biomass carbon accounting. The organization is also asking the EU to cap the amount of biofuel permitted in power generation so the demand doesn't outstrip the supply of actual low-carbon biomass like sawdust and remnant wood.
"These forests are our best defense against climate change," Hammel said. "They soak up carbon and provide habitat for critically endangered species. EU policymakers need to do the right thing and protect forests and climate."
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[biofuelwatch] FW: Petition in support of jailed food & land activists


READING, UK, 21 October 2015 – Five international organizations—Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO), GRAIN, Inclusive Development International, Bread for All, and Oakland Institute—have launched a petition asking supporters to denounce the Ethiopian government and its financial backers for the arrest of three Ethiopian food, land, and indigenous rights activists. The three activists, who face terrorism charges for attempting to attend a workshop on food security, face a court hearing in Addis Ababa on October 22.

In March of 2015, Omot Agwa Okwoy, Ashinie Astin, and Jamal Oumar Hojele were arrested on their way to a workshop on food security in Nairobi, Kenya, organized by the international NGOs GRAIN, Bread for All, and ASO. The three food, land, and indigenous rights activists were detained for nearly six months without charge and denied access to legal representation during that time. On September 7, 2015, they were charged under Ethiopia's draconian counterterrorism law.

The charges against Omot and the other activists claim that they are active in the Gambela Peoples Liberation Movement (GPLM) though it is not considered by the Ethiopian government or any other body to be a terrorist organization. The activists have no ties to the GPLM and there is no evidence linking them to the organization. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that the food security workshop in Nairobi had any connection to the GPLM. These charges were fabricated by the Ethiopian police and prosecutors, under Ethiopia's highly controversial counterterrorism law, in order to intimidate and silence the country's indigenous communities. The Anuak and other indigenous peoples in Ethiopia are struggling to defend their lands and resources against the incursion of large-scale land grabbing by foreign and domestic investors. 

The petition asks supporters to denounce the Ethiopian government as well as its financial backers—the US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and the World Bank, which provide financing to Ethiopia through international aid packages—for the unjust imprisonment of these activists and call for the government to drop of all charges against them.

Omot Agwa Okwoy was an interpreter for the World Bank during its 2014 investigation of a complaint by Anuak indigenous people alleging widespread forced displacement and human rights violations related to a World Bank project in the southwestern Gambela region. Omot arranged interviews for the bank's Inspection Panel, its internal watchdog, with Anuak who told World Bank investigators about beatings, rapes, and summary executions by Ethiopian soldiers. Soon after, government agents began hunting for Omot, visiting his church, his family, and leaving messages on his phone leading up to his arrest in March.

Instead of supporting Omot, his former employer the World Bank has said little about his case and continues to bankroll the Ethiopian government, as do the governments of the US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, and Canada.

Ashinie Astin, from a Majang indigenous community, is a former elected member of the Gambela regional council. Jamal Oumar works for Assossa Environmental Protection, an NGO that promotes environmental protection and indigenous rights. Both Omot and Jamal are reported to be in poor health. Jamal was admitted for two weeks in a military hospital while the three were detained without charge.

The families of Omot, Ashinie, and Jamal are struggling to get by and provide food for their children after the loss of their primary income-earners. Omot's wife Abang is currently living in exile, in a refugee camp in South Sudan with their two young girls under difficult conditions and without access to proper schooling. Abang, who had a surgery on her left ear before her husband was detained, has had deteriorating health problems and experienced anxiety and depression since her husband's arrest.

Supporters can sign the online petition by visiting:

Contributions can be made to support the detainees and their families by visiting:

More information and background on the campaign can be found at:


Nyikaw Ochalla, Anywaa Survival Organisation, UK (English, Amharic)
Tel: +44-79-39389796 | Email:

Devlin Kuyek, GRAIN, Canada (English, French)
Tel: +1-514-571-7702 | Email:
Anuradha Mittal, Oakland Institute, US (English)
Tel: +1-510-469-5228 | Email:

David Pred, Inclusive Development International, Cambodia (English)
Tel: 1-917-280-2705 | Email:

Tina Goethe, Bread for All, Switzerland (English, German, French)
Tel: +41-76-516 5957 | Email:


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Friday, October 16, 2015

[biofuelwatch] Environmental, economic shortcomings of US biofuel laws

>>Disturbingly, they suggest the remedy is to provide more support for 'advanced' biofuels - the 'solution' which has also gobbled up subsidies and investor's money and delivered next to nothing<<

Economists provide policy recommendations for more meaningful, sustainable reforms

October 15, 2015
University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
The federal Renewable Fuel Standard and its overreliance on corn ethanol has created additional environmental problems in its 10-year history, resulting in unmet targets for cutting air pollution, water contamination and soil erosion, concludes a new study.

The federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its overreliance on corn ethanol has created additional environmental problems in its 10-year history, resulting in unmet targets for cutting air pollution, water contamination and soil erosion, concludes a new study released by University of Tennessee researchers.

In fact, the authors -- Drs. Daniel G. De La Torre Ugarte and Burton C. English of the UT Institute of Agriculture -- find that from an environmental and energy security perspective, the subsidies and mandates for corn ethanol would have been better and more effectively directed towards advanced biofuels.

"The anniversary offers an opportunity to thoroughly review this policy's legacy, both in terms of its impacts on the broader economy as well as the environment," said Dr. De La Torre Ugarte. "Our analysis shows that the RFS has created more problems than solutions, particularly with regard to hampering advancements in biofuels. Corn ethanol was presented as a 'bridge' to advanced biofuels and a means of reducing GHG emissions. However, the reality is clear that this policy has been a bridge to nowhere."

"Due to the RFS's inherent and structural limitations, we remain too reliant on corn ethanol," said Dr. English. "As our research demonstrates, corn ethanol along with decreased demand of transportation fuels has restricted the growth and maturation of the advanced biofuel industry, resulting in fewer environmental and economic benefits."

The authors also determined that the corn ethanol industry has received almost $50 billion in cumulative taxpayer and market subsidies since 2005, providing evidence that the industry "cannot survive in any real commercial sense without mandated fuel volume requirements and RIN markets."

Moreover, according to the researchers, the RFS -- in its current form -- focuses almost exclusively on a single crop from a concentrated region of the country. Conversely, advanced biofuels represent a significantly more diverse portfolio of fuel feedstocks that can be sourced from a variety of regions and environments around the country.

"The RFS's overemphasis on corn must be revisited, and more stable solutions that encourage -- rather than discourage -- biofuel diversification should be pursued in order to advance the policy's original objectives," said Dr. De La Torre Ugarte.

The researchers provide policy recommendations for improving the RFS to help make the transition to advanced biofuels possible. As the report notes, for advanced biofuels to enter the market, an investment-based mechanism is necessary to overcome capital intensity and technology risk.

"After 10 years of missed objectives, it's time to rethink the structure and practical implementation of the RFS and examine other policy designs aimed at promoting the production and consumption of advanced biofuels," added Dr. English.

The report finds that because the RFS's framework continues to limit a transition from corn ethanol to advanced biofuels, the policy's projected benefits -- including improved air quality and broader based economic gains -- have not materialized to the extent promised. The report notes there is evidence in the literature that "the production and use of corn ethanol may actually increase smog levels and greenhouse gas emissions."

To view the full report, visit the UT Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group website:


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[biofuelwatch] Protected and intact forests lost at an alarming rate around the world


October 15, 2015
Aalto University
Protected and intact forests have been lost at a rapid rate during the first 12 years of this century. According to researchers, 3% of the protected forest, 2.5% of the intact forest, and 1.5% of the protected intact forest in the world were lost during 2000 – 2012. These rates of forest loss are high compared to the total global forest loss of 5% for the same time period.

Protected and intact forests have been lost at a rapid rate during the first 12 years of this century. According to researchers at Aalto University, Finland, 3% of the protected forest, 2.5% of the intact forest, and 1.5% of the protected intact forest in the world were lostduring 2000 – 2012. These rates of forest loss are high compared to the total global forest loss of 5% for the same time period

In Australia and Oceania, as well as North America, the loss in protected forests exceeded 5%. Worryingly, in parts of Africa, Central Asia, and Europe, the relative forest loss was higher inside protected areas than outside. However, in several countries of South America and Southeast Asia, protection was found to substantially prevent forest loss.

On a global scale, agricultural land expansion is one of the most important processes causing forest loss.

According to the analysis, high rates of protected forest loss were also associated with high proportions of agricultural land. At the same time, the losses in protected and intact forests were associated with a high gross domestic product, challenging partly the previous findings.

"Forests maintain ecological diversity, regulate climate, store carbon, protect soil and water and provide resources and livelihoods for the world's population. It is alarming that official protection in many places does not actually protect the forests," says Timo Räsänen, Postdoc fellow at Aalto University.

"However, there are also positive signs, especially in the tropics. For example, the rate of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon has finally declined in recent years," continues Matias Heino, researcher at Aalto University.

The analysis was conducted, using recently published global remote sensing based forest cover change data, together with global spatial datasets on protected areas and intact forest landscape. Global forest loss in protected areas and in intact forest landscapes have not been previously assessed with detailed and uniform datasets that allow consistent forest extent comparisons over space and time.

The study was made in collaboration with researchers from the Natural Resources Institute of Finland, King's College London and the VU University of Amsterdam.

Protected and intact forests lost at an alarming rate around the world



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