Groups across the US denounce “National Bioenergy Day” as a dirty sham

For Immediate Release
October 22, 2014

Groups across the US denounce “National Bioenergy Day” as a dirty sham

From: Biofuelwatch, Dogwood Alliance, Energy Justice Network, Partnership for Policy Integrity, Save America’s Forests, and Global Justice Ecology Project

Groups around the United States denounce the Biomass Power Association, Biomass Thermal Energy Council and their industry partners’ designation of this date as “National Bioenergy Day.” Pointing to growing opposition to bioenergy facilities around the nation and the world, they say burning trees, contaminated wastes, and garbage is grossly and dangerously misrepresented by industry advocates as “clean, green, and carbon neutral.” The groups point out that biomass power pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere than even coal, along with comparable amounts of toxic air pollution, while also posing new threats to forests, ecosystems, and our health.

Rachel Smolker, Ph.D., co-director of Biofuelwatch, states: “The biomass industry has perpetrated a series of dangerous myths that they just keep repeating to ensure ongoing subsidies and supports. The Biomass Power Association website, for example, is rife with misleading statements, for example proclaiming to ‘Light America with clean, green biomass power—a natural solution to energy independence.’ This is utter nonsense as we would need several planets worth of biomass to provide any significant portion of overall US energy demand from biomass.” (1)

Mary Booth, Director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, stated: “When we’ve examined the actual data on bioenergy, we find the truth is opposite from industry’s claims. On National Bioenergy Day, every time citizens and policymakers hear bioenergy is ‘clean,’ they should substitute the word ‘polluting.’ When they hear that it’s ‘carbon neutral,’ people can count on it emitting more CO2 than fossil fuels. (3) Bioenergy industry misrepresentations are so severe, we’ve actually filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to ask them to look into the matter.”

Energy Justice Network Founder, Mike Ewall, states: “We have been supporting community groups around the country as they fight to protect their health and their communities from installation of these dirty polluting facilities which are very often located in low income communities. We have a network with members in 35 states around the country, including lawyers, scientists, environmentalists and community members, with over 40 proposed facilities stopped since 2010, and more victories expected by the end of the year.” (4)

Carl Ross, executive director of Save America’s Forests stated: “The Department of Energy and the US Department of Agriculture continue to provide copious subsidies for bioenergy, and policymakers such as Ron Wyden from Oregon are eagerly pushing to accelerate logging on our national forests for burning in biomass incinerators using the false claim that cutting forests will ‘protect against wildfires.’ (5) Our public forests are an ecological treasure, and should not be a substitute for coal. In addition to destroying our natural forest ecosystems, biomass incinerators cause human illness and death by causing or increasing many human diseases, such as emphysema, asthma, birth defects, stroke, heart disease and cancer.” (6)

Adam Macon, Campaign Director at Dogwood Alliance states: “European energy companies such as DRAX and RWE are setting up wood pellet manufacturing facilities in the Southern United States, exporting pellets back to Europe to burn in place of or in combination with coal in large power plants. (7) And now genetically engineered trees threaten the South as companies like ArborGen are seeking to deregulate and plant their engineered eucalyptus in the region.” (8)

Far from being clean, green, renewable or sustainable, biomass power is a dirty disaster and a waste of precious taxpayer dollars that should be put to far better uses supporting weatherization, efficiency measures, public transportation, zero waste policies and real forest and biodiversity protections.

National Bioenergy Day is a sham and a scam based on misleading misinformation. This past July, the Federal Trade Commission was urged to investigate the false claims made by the biomass industry. (9) It’s time to follow up on that request!

NOTES:

1) Calculating how much land would be required to supply a significant amount of bioenergy depends on many variables; however, a “back of envelope” calculation based on reasonable assumptions for electricity generation alone from wood biomass indicates that supplying one year’s worth of electricity to the US would consume around 10% of all trees in the country (details available on request).

2) 50% more CO2 into the atmosphere even than coal

3) In “Trees Trash and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal,” the Partnership for Policy Integrity reveals, based on permit reviews, that biomass facilities release 150% of nitrogen oxides, 600% volatile organic compounds, 190% particulates and 125% carbon monoxide of a coal plant per megawatt hour as well as 50% more CO2. http://www.pfpi.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/PFPI-briefing-on-bioenergy-report-April-1-2014.pdf

4) over 40 proposed facilities stopped since 2010

5) Information available here: https://sites.google.com/site/ecosytemadvocates/Home/blm

6) Congressional briefing on health impacts of biomass: http://saveamericasforests.org/Forests – Incinerators – Biomass/Documents/Briefing/

7) Investigation of the Enviva pellet mill in Ahoskie, North Carolina revealed that the company was cutting whole trees from remaining pockets of surrounding endangered wetland forests, even as claims continue that the industry uses only “waste and residue.” http://www.nrdc.org/media/2013/130827a.asp

Those pellets are exported across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe and burned in coal plants such as DRAX in UK, as a substitute for coal. http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/chain-of-destruction/

8) ArborGen seeks deregulation of GE eucalyptus for biomass in southern US: A draft EIS is to be released soon. Groups are calling for a ban on GE trees. http://stopgetrees.org/usda-to-ban-ge-trees/

9) Federal Trade Commission request to investigate false claims made by the biomass industry. http://www.pfpi.net/federal-trade-commission-urged-to-investigate-biomass-power-industry

CONTACTS

*Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch: 802.482.2848 (office), 802.735.7794 (mobile). rsmolker@riseup.net

*Adam Macon, Dogwood Alliance: 828.251.2525 x15 adam@dogwoodalliance.org

*Mary Booth, Partnership for Policy Integrity: 413.253.3256 (office), 917.885.2573 (mobile) mbooth@massenvironmentalenergy.org

*Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network: 215-436-9511 mike@energyjustice.net

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