Clearcutting of coastal native hardwood forests in North Carolina – Drax is burning pellets from native forest logging in this region. Photo: Dogwood Alliance
Campaigners have reacted angrily to Government announcements on Wednesday setting out increased support for new biomass power capacity through “strike prices”.  High levels of long-term subsidies have been guaranteed for the partial conversion of Drax and Eggborough Power stations to biomass (allowing both to avoid having to shut down), for the biomass conversion of the currently closed Lynemouth Power station and for a large new biomass plant proposed by MGT Power at Teesside Port. Coal to biomass conversion strike price is £105 p MWh. Dedicated biomass will get £125 p MWh guaranteed.
MGT Power’s plans have already been implicated in land-grabbing in Brazil for eucalyptus plantations,  whilst Drax has been shown to have burnt pellets sourced from the clear-cutting of ancient wetland forests in the southern US.  Overall, further support was announced for more than 4GW of biomass capacity, which will see operators burning almost 30 million tonnes of green wood a year and receiving approximately £ 1 billion in subsidies for this annually.  Drax has already been guaranteed around £198 million in subsidies for biomass conversion under an existing subsidy scheme. 30 million tonnes of wood is equivalent to three times the UK’s total annual wood production. Continue reading New support for biomass electricity will mean more forest destruction and land-grabbing, say campaigners
Commodity Crimes: Illicit land grabs, illegal palm oil, and endangered orangutans, by Friends of the Earth US, Walhi-Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Forest Heroes, and Sum Of Us
Report about the activities of palm oil company Bumitama Agri in West Kalimantan, their traders – IOI Corp and Wilmar International – and their financiers and investors
Senegal: Who is behind Senhuile-Senethanol?, joint report by Group for Reflection and Land in Senegal (CRAFS), GRAIN and Re:Common
The Indices of Multiple Deprivation
To generate the data used in the deprivation study included in “Biomass: The Chain of Destruction”, a measurement called the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) was used. The IMD is a qualitative study of deprived areas in the UK, published by the UK government.
It is based on the concept that deprivation consists of more than just poverty. Poverty is not having enough money to get by on, whereas deprivation refers to a general lack of resources and opportunities. Separate indices have been developed for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the results are available to the public online. This study focused on England and Scotland.
A country is split up into “Lower Super Output Areas” – homogenous small areas of relatively even size (of around 1,500 people) of which, for example, there are 32,482 in England and 6,505 in Scotland. These are then ranked from the least deprived (1) to the most deprived (32,482 in the case of England or 6,505 in Scotland).
Biomass Power Station Location
Grid co-ordinates for biomass power stations throughout the UK are available from Biofuelwatch Once the location of a biomass power station was established on a map, a radius of 1km was plotted around it. IMD interactive mapping tools for England and Scotland were then used to establish all of the Lower Super Output Areas (LSOA) that occurred within this 1km range.
Once a data set of LSOA ranks for each power station had been collected, these ranks were combined and averaged for each. The LSOA ranks were also population weighted, to take account of the fact that LSOA size can vary. This measure was useful because it summarised the geographical area which fell within 1km of a biomass power station taken as a whole, including both deprived and less deprived LSOAs. This resulted in a single average IMD rank for each biomass power station area which was used as the final data set from which to generate the graphs and tables used in the report. Please see pages 54 – 57 of this document for more information on the calculation used.
Eucalyptus plantations in Baixo Parnaíba region. Photo: Ivonete Gonçalves de Souza
In the Brazilian state of Maranhão, the livelihoods and land rights of traditional communities are under threat from the pulp and paper company Suzano Papel e Celulose, which is establishing new eucalyptus plantations, some of them for producing paper, others for producing wood pellets for UK or other European power stations. Suzano’s eucalyptus plantation developments have been causing serious land conflicts in Maranhão’s Baixo Parnaíba since 2005. Recently, the situation has become even worse as Suzano has started investing in new, very fast-growing and dense plantations with a view to producing wood pellets for export. The company has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to supply a UK company, MGT Power, that has planning permission for a large biomass power station in Teeside and is proposing another one in Tyneside. Many communities are also facing the destruction of their lands and savannah forests by large landowners for soya monocultures.
Communities in Baixo Parnaíba have been living in harmony with the region’s highly biodiverse Cerrado ecosystem and they heavily rely on harvesting fruits from native trees for their livelihoods. Suzano, on the other hand, is bulldozing trees and all other vegetation to clear the way for eucalyptus monocultures. Ironically, they are seeking to market their wood pellets from these plantations as ‘renewable energy’.
To find out more about Suzano’s plantations and the threats to communities and to biodiversity in that region, please click here.
Communities have asked for international solidarity with their struggle to have their rights to the land recognised. Recognition of their land tenure would protect both their livelihoods and the savannah forests and biodiversity of the region. Please support them by signing the petition below. We will forward your message to the World Rainforest Movement who will send it to the relevant authorities in Brazil. The petition calls for the communities’ land rights to be formally recognised and guaranteed. Please do not alter/personalise the text below. Many thanks!
This petition is for individuals only. If you belong to an organisation that would like to support the demands of the communities in Baixo Parnaíba, then please email email@example.com to endorse the original letter found here.
In July 2013, the UK government announced an infrastructure loan guarantee scheme for energy, road and rail projects, with the declared aim of boosting economic growth. Under the UK Guarantee Scheme, private companies are guaranteed that, if anything goes wrong with their investment which causes them to default on loans to a bank or another lender, the government will pay back those loans for them, out of general taxation. In other words, tax payers carry the risk of private investments. Continue reading Guaranteeing disaster for communities and forests: Say no to Public Loan Guarantees for biomass
Biofuelwatch has released a new report, Biomass: The Chain of Destruction. It explores the global impacts of the UK’s biomass boom, looking at what the current demand for biomass for electricity, supportive Government policy and resulting speculative investments mean, in terms of forest destruction in the Americas and impacts on communities in the UK. It also includes Eucalyptus Plantations for Energy: A Case Study of Suzano’s plantations for wood pellet exports in the Baixo Parnaíba region, Maranhão, Brazil, the first documented case of a land-grab in Brazil for biomass destined for power stations in the UK. The authors of the Brazilian case study are Ivonete Gonçalves de Souza (CEPEDES) and Winfridus Overbeek (World Rainforest Movement).
Continue reading Biomass: The Chain of Destruction