To find out more about our work in the US or to get involved in the US campaign, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
To view and/or download The Biomass Monitor, a monthly US newsletter about biomass policies, developments and campaigns, published by Biofuelwatch, Energy Justice Network, Florida League of Conservation Voters and the Florida Environmental Justice Network, please click here.
Updates from Biofuelwatch US
Biofuelwatch US has been working over the past years with allies to develop a network of activists across the country opposing biomass incineration. We have served on the coordinating committee, and helped the network to develop a “platform” position that goes beyond rejecting biomass to include a more holistic set of steps needed to address the problem of climate and energy. We continue to work to build support and membership. We have regular ongoing phone conference calls and a very active listserve for sharing information and strategies. Contact us if you are interested to join! You can read and sign on to the network’s platform, available here.
We work to assist people at all levels – from community organizers and activists to state and federal level government representatives, to international grassroots and NGO groups, to delegates to the UN and other international bodies. We provide analysis and resources to help inform people about the threats presented by large scale bioenergy, in all its’ various forms. We continue to focus much of our attention on opposing large scale industrial wood bioenergy, a massive threat to forests and biodiversity as well as to human health.
IN VERMONT: With support from a Fund for Wild Nature grant to Biofuelwatch and Energy Justice Network, the first effort to map the land footprint of a biomass facility, the McNeil biomass electricity generation station in Burlington Vermont was completed (work by our colleague Josh Shlossberg and EJN staff).
THE BIOECONOMY: We also work to keep abreast of new technologies that involve burning or refining of large quantities of biomass – all part of the “bioeonomy” wherein plant biomass substitutes for petroleum based fuels, chemicals and materials are sought. Examples include biochar, and bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (beccs) which are also proposed as “climate geoengineering” technologies (see below, and see our reports and articles)
STOP GENETICALLY ENGINEERED TREES: We work collaboratively as part of the Stop GE Trees Campaign and follow developments in biotechnology, that involve the conversion of trees and crops into fuels and chemicals. We work to raise awareness of these developments and to effect policy changes. GE Trees are becoming an increasing threat in the USA, as the US Department of Agriculture continues to grant permits for testing and development of various GE species, including GE eucalyptus varieties that could be grown in the southern USA and also GE poplar and other species intended for the Pacific Northwest region. These GE trees are specifically intended for the purpose of providing fast growing biomass for bioenergy. See Rachel’s blog post in Huffington Post , published in conjunction with a week of action at the “Tree Biotechnology Conference’ in Asheville, NC., May 2013, and for more information see here.
SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY: We also monitor developments in “synthetic biology” which are largely focused on developing synthetic microbes and algae to produce “biobased” fuels and chemicals. Rachel was recently a panelist in a Hastings Center event: “The bioethics of synthetic biology applications for bioenergy”, providing critical perspectives on both synthetic biology and industrial scale bioenergy.
BRIDGE BUILDING AND EXTREME ENERGY: Biofuelwatch US works to “build bridges”, bringing concerns about large scale bioenergy to diverse audiences. In part this means “joining conversations” on a wide variety of topics related to climate, energy, agriculture and forestry, and public health. We work to provide input to networks opposing nuclear, big hydroelectric dams, fracking and mountaintop removal, among others, to ensure that large scale bioenergy is not supported deliberately or inadvertently when other forms of dirty energy, are opposed. We aim to ensure that the growing movement against “extreme energy” extraction must also include opposition to large scale bioenergy. Rachel contributed a chapter to a recent book entitled “Energy: overdevelopment and the delusion of endless growth”, published by the Post Carbon Institute.
RENEWABLE ENERGY POLICIES: Biofuelwatch has worked to raise awareness and concerns with various policy initiatives to advance renewable energy that are likely to result in further supports for dirty energy, including bioenergy. Among these is the UN “Sustainable Energy For All Initiative”, a “public-private partnership” that claims as its goal to “alleviate energy poverty” but fails to provide any definition of “sustainable”. Rather it appears on track to support any and all energy developments and to be focused on providing favorable investment opportunities in developing countries for many of the most destructive big oil, gas, hydro and bioenergy companies. We worked to raise awareness of this at the RIO Plus 20 conference in summer of 2012 and continue to monitor developments. Please see our briefing: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2012/sefa/.
BIOENERGY AND PUBLIC HEALTH: Rachel contributed to a Sept 2012 U.S. congressional briefing on health impacts of bioenergy, organized by Save Americas Forests. Following that, a letter was crafted to Senator Wyden, from Oregon. Wyden has been a key supporter of biomass burning, and also has championed legislation to open up forests in his region for biomass removal (“thinning”). On the other hand, Senator Wyden has simultaneously been actively concerned about public health and air quality. The letter is an attempt to force the senator to recognize that his support for biomass burning runs counter to his interest in clean air. The letter requests that he and his colleagues “stop classifying polluting and human disease-causing biomass incinerators as “clean,” “renewable” or “sustainable” energy and end subsidies for polluting industrial-scale biomass.
CARBON TAX AND BIOENERGY: With allies at Energy Justice Network, Grassroots Global Justice and Movement Generation, we helped to initiate a letter pointing out the problems with a proposed carbon tax, including the risk of creating large incentives for bioenergy if fossil carbon emissions are taxed while biogenic carbon (from land conversion) are (wrongly) considered “neutral”.
EPA AND REGULATIONS: In the U.S. overall, the tea party Congress has been working hard to dismantle EPA regulations under the Clean Air and Clean Water Act, claiming that such regulations are “bad for jobs and the economy”. Regulation of CO2 and particulates are especially relevant to biomass burning. We therefore have continued to pressure EPA to improve regulations – including proper acknowledgement of emissions from biomass combustion. EPA exempted carbon emissions from “biogenic sources” under CO2 regulations (the “tailoring rule”) for a period of three years while they “study the matter”. Our allies at the Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal challenge, arguing that the exemption was unlawful. That case went to the US Court of Appeals where a decision is pending. We have also been pushing for improved EPA regulation of particulates, including ultrafine and nanoparticulates.
Biofuelwatch works not only on US and UK-specific biomass issues, but also more broadly, and at international level. For example:
INTERNATIONAL WOOD PELLET TRADE: Biofuelwatch UK has launched a campaign to oppose coal to biomass conversions. Most of the pellet supply to UK is, at least currently, from North America, specifically the Southeastern US and British Columbia. The very rapid expansion of pellet exports to Europe is very alarming and has potential to grow exponentially, presenting an enormous threat to remaining forests around the world. We are working to assess the scale of pellet trade and its impacts in the US and BC. Other organizations, including Dogwood Alliance and allies have meanwhile launched similar campaigns centered on exposing and opposing the wood pellet trade. We are currently looking into the BC pellet industry.