Tag Archives: north carolina

[NEWS] Is Wood a Green Source of Energy? Scientists Are Divided

– by Warren Cornwall, January 5, 2017, Science

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Drax Biomass (Daily Mail)

It took half a century for an acorn to grow into the 20-meter-tall oak tree standing here in a North Carolina hardwood forest near the banks of the Northeast Cape Fear River. But it takes just seconds to turn the oak into fuel for the furnace of a European power plant.

A logging machine—a cross between a tank and a one-armed crab—grabs the tree with a metal claw. With a screech, a spinning blade bites through the trunk. Ultimately, the thickest bits of this tree and hundreds of others from this forest will be sliced into lumber. But the limbs from large trees like this, along with entire small or crooked trees, go to a specialized mill to be squeezed into tiny wood pellets. Shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, they will likely end up fueling a giant power plant in the United Kingdom that supplies nearly 10% of the country’s electricity.

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[NEWS] Booming Wood Pellet Production Inching Toward Watershed Forests

– by Jeff Day, August 25, 2016, Bay Journal

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Enviva logging for biomass energy (Dogwood Aliiance)

A growing industry that’s harvesting “woody biomass” from forests for energy generation could gain a toehold soon in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Like virtually every other form of energy, it’s also generating intense debate about its environmental impact.

Biomass from trees is already used to generate a small amount of power in the United States; wood chips generate electricity at several small plants owned by Dominion, the Virginia-based energy company. (The term “biomass” generally refers to any plant material used for fuel. Woody biomass is made from trees.)

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[NEWS] Does Biomass Harvest Affect Wildlife?

– by D’Lyn Ford, July 5, 2016, North Carolina State University

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Photo: North Carolina State University

On loblolly pine plantations in the Southeast, timber harvesting often involves an extra step: gleaning woody debris left behind after clearcutting. Branches, treetops and smaller trees are sources of biomass that can be compressed to make wood pellets, a renewable energy source often used for heating stoves and generating electricity.

Biomass harvesters may leave some of the woody debris on the ground to conserve food and cover for wildlife, but the guidelines they follow vary widely. Recommendations for the amount of debris to be left on the ground range from 10 to 30 percent, depending on the state. Some guidelines recommend creating piles of debris, while others say it should be left scattered across the land.

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Biomass Impacts in the Southeastern U.S.

– by Matt Williams, April 2, 2016, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

CYPRESS-Clearcut

Photo: PRI.org

The dogwood trees are in bloom at this time of year in North Carolina. Tiny white flowers single them out from the other foliage that lines the interstates. And turkey vultures are ubiquitous, circling above them in flocks of three or four, tilting as they glide on the hot air.

With other European NGO colleagues I’m visiting my friends from the Dogwood Alliance, one of the American NGOs we work with on bioenergy. This is the first of a few blogs I’ll try to post during the course of my trip.

As we’ve driven past strip malls, diners and wetland forests filled with cypress trees I’ve been spotting birds like great blue heron and rough-winged swallow as well as stunning butterflies suck as the tiger swallowtail.

The southeastern USA is the source every year for millions of tonnes of wood pellets that are shipped to Europe, mostly the UK, to be burned in power stations.

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Duke Energy to Buy Swine, Poultry Waste Biogas From Planned North Carolina Facility

– by John Downey, March 19, 2016, Charlotte Business Journal

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Photo: Bloomberg

Duke Energy has signed agreements to buy biogas generated by swine waste, poultry waste and other biomass sources from a processing facility to be built in eastern North Carolina. Filings with the N.C. Utilities Commission say Carbon Cycle Energy, based in Boulder, Colo., will build the biogas project.

Duke (NYSE:DUK) confirms it will use what is called “directed biogas” from Carbon Cycle to produce some power at four of its plants — its Buck Combined Cycle Plant in Rowan County, Dan River Combined Cycle Plant in Rockingham County, H.F. Lee Combined Cycle Plant in Wayne County and Sutton Combined Cycle Plant near Wilmington.

The company had said Thursday that it expected to have an announcement soon on a deal involving power from swine waste. That announcement is likely to come early next week. Read more

Amidst Opposition, a Conference and Industry in Crisis

– by Will Bennington, July 4, 2013, Global Justice Ecology Project 

Hundreds of activists descended upon Asheville, North Carolina in May for a week of major protests at the international bi-annual Tree Biotechnology conference. The conference, hosted by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), is a major gathering for genetically engineered (GE) tree industry representatives, researchers and policy makers.

The first victory came several weeks before the conference, when a field trip to an active forestry site was cancelled. Protest organizers believe the field trip was cancelled due to the threat of protests.

On Monday, May 26, the first full day of the conference, two Asheville residents disrupted a talk by Belgian tree engineer Wout Boerjian titled, “Engineering Trees for the Biorefinery.” Laura Sorenson, a grandmother, and Steven Norris, a farmer and professor, were both arrested after the disruption.

“We took dignified action today to directly confront the growing corporate control over our seeds, forests, and communities,” Norris said. “We are sending a crystal clear message to the GE tree industry and its investors—expect resistance.”

GE trees for biofuels 

Activists are particularly concerned with the United States Department of Agriculture’s recent announcement that they are preparing an Environmental Impact Statement regarding the deregulation of cold-tolerant genetically engineered eucalyptus trees developed by GE tree company ArborGen, which has offices in the US, Brazil and Australia. They are jointly owned by some of the largest timber corporations in the world—International Paper, MeadWestvaco and Rubicon.

Rubicon CEO Luke Moriarty has stated that ArborGen plans to sell half a billion GE eucalyptus seedlings annually for bioenergy plantations across the US South. Eucalyptus is highly invasive, flammable, and extremely water-intensive. If perfected in the US, these GE freeze tolerant trees will expand the disaster of eucalyptus plantations around the world to regions currently too cold for conventional eucalyptus trees.

A recent boom in the biofuel industry throughout the region has activists particularly concerned that plantations of GE eucalyptus, pine, and poplar will play a major role in feeding new wood pellet facilities, biomass incinerators, and cellulosic biofuel plants.

Throughout the week, members of Global Justice Ecology Project and Earth First! spoke with several conference attendees. Many of them whole-heartedly support an expansion of the new “bioeconomy,” including the use of fast-growing GE trees to supply demand. One Virginia Tech researcher accidentally recited ArborGen’s motto, “more wood, less land,” while simultaneously justifying the use of GE trees and insisting that industry does not influence academic research.

ArborGen and their Brazilian competitor FuturaGene were major sponsors of the conference. Both are seeking government approval for the commercial release of their GE tree “products,” despite a decision by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2008 that warned countries of the dangers of GE trees and urged them to use the Precautionary Approach regarding GE trees, including confining all trials to the greenhouse.

Monsanto and ArborGen – Connecting the dots

A day before the conference began, on Saturday, May 25, millions of people around the world participated in the March Against Monsanto. In Asheville, ArborGen was a major focus of the March Against Monsanto, attended by over 1,000 people.

Tom Llewellyn of the REAL Cooperative drew the links between Monsanto and ArborGen during the march. “Many Monsanto employees have gone to work at ArborGen, including many of their executive staff. Monsanto was even an early partner in the forest biotechnology venture that later became ArborGen.”

On Tuesday, May 28, over 200 activists from around the US descended upon the conference center during the largest protest to date against the GE tree industry. Citing concerns over the devastating impacts that GE eucalyptus, pine and poplar plantations would have on the biodiverse forests of the world, the crowd rallied for four hours outside of the conference, chanting slogans such as “GE trees—tear ‘em up, ArborGen—shut ‘em down!”

Linking the GE tree industry to controversial GMO seed companies like Monsanto could have a crippling effect on investment and public acceptance of field trials and commercial applications.

Industry in crisis 

As protests raged outside, FuturaGene, a Brazilian/Israeli company, held a panel discussion titled, “Forest Biotech at the Crossroads: What Does the Future Hold?” The panel was mired by debate around public opposition to the GE tree industry.

Adam Costanza of the Institute for Forest Biotechnology and formerly with International Paper explained his interpretation of the public’s opposition to GE trees. “Public perception is not awareness,” he argued. “Regarding those with ethical questions [about GE trees], facts are not useful for them,” adding that “concerns are not based on science.”

On Thursday, three demonstrators were brutally arrested after attempting to wrap a bus full of conference attendees in “GMO caution tape.” The buses were headed to a dinner at the Biltmore Estate, a pillar of modern industrial forestry in the US.

Johanna Anderson, a local organizer with Katuah Earth First!, was among those arrested. “Trees should not be burned for fuel. Those proposing bioenergy say it is a solution to climate change, which is a disturbing lie,” she said. “Monoculture plantations for bioenergy are already displacing Indigenous Peoples and local communities all over the world, and will have a major impact on rural livelihoods and biodiversity here in the US South.”

A grassroots campaign to prevent GE tree plantations from devastating the southern US was launched with the week of action against the Tree Biotechnology conference. Activists are committed to stopping all proposed applications of GE trees in the region.

For Asheville residents, the impacts of burning trees to create electricity are extremely relevant, as Progress Energy—the city’s major utility—has a deal pending to purchase electricity produced by Florida-based EcoGen. EcoGen plans to establish eucalyptus plantations in Florida to fuel twenty biomass incinerators and pellet facilities across the region. ArborGen’s cold-tolerant eucalyptus would enable the expansion of these plantations as far north as South Carolina.

After her arrest on Monday, Laura Sorenson said, “We know that GE trees are a disaster for forests and biodiversity. With predictions of worsening extreme weather in our region, the last thing we need are highly flammable and invasive plantations of water-hungry eucalyptus trees. As a grandmother, I see no future in this for my grandchildren.”

The Tree Biotechnology 2015 conference will take place in Florence, Italy.

The week of protests against the Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference was organized by the Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Katuah Earth First!, Croatan Earth First!, REAL Cooperative, Everglades Earth First!Global Forest CoalitionBiofuelwatch and Global Justice Ecology Project.

For more photos and coverage from the week of protests, visit treebiotech2013.org

To sign the petition demanding a ban on GE trees, visit globaljusticeecology.org/petition.php

Biomass Opponents Silenced by North Carolina Commission

– by Josh Schlossberg, August 31, 2012, The Biomass Monitor

Residents of six counties in North and South Carolina facing massive chicken and pig-manure burning biomass power incinerators, including a man dressed as a chicken [pictured below], were barred from giving testimony at a North Carolina Utilities Commission hearing over biomass electricity requirements on August 28 in Raleigh.

The hearing was in response to a request by Duke EnergyProgress EnergyDominion Power and others to hold off on the requirement that they provide a certain percentage of North Carolina’s electricity from poultry and pig feces, as had been mandated by the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard in 2007. Technical and financial issues have made it impossible for the companies to provide the required 170,000 megawatt hours from poultry waste in 2012.

“The principles of environmental justice require fairness, an open door and an open mind,” said William Frederick, Sr., who traveled over seventy miles from Sampson County to urge the Commission to do more than simply delay the requirements, but actually remove biomass electricity requirements altogether from the Renewable Portfolio Standards.

“We cannot allow the Commission to trample on our right to be heard.” Jimmy Bruce, who traveled more than 200 miles from his home in Chester County, South Carolina was also irked by the Commission’s refusal to allow public comment. “We got called a lot of bad names fighting that incinerator, but we sure had an open debate,” Bruce said, referring to his South Carolina community’s successful efforts to fend off a trash incinerator in 2010. “What has gone wrong with the Old North State?”

“Now is the time to end the set asides once and for all, and with the changes in North Carolina’s air toxics standards, these facilities will be dirtier than ever,” said Therese Vick, North Carolina Healthy and Sustainable Communities Coordinator for Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL). “Instead of pushing the stinky proposals, the utilities should focus on truly clean energy like solar power and wind.”

Although barred from speaking at the hearing, Vick vowed to expand BREDL’s ongoing, five-year-long campaign to halt waste-to-energy proposals wherever they appear.

Lou Zeller, Executive Director for BREDL—was allowed to testify before the Commission due to BREDL’s legal standing as an intervener in the case—focused on human health, climate change and economic impacts from biomass incineration.

Comparing data collected on a poultry waste incinerator based in England to a coal fired power plant in Spencer, North Carolina, Zeller determined that the “poultry litter fueled plant emitted 150% more total air pollution than the coal-fired electric plant.” His numbers also challenged the biomass industry’s “carbon neutrality” claims, while reminding the Commission that burning poultry waste “eliminates a valuable organic fertilizer” for growing food.

Zeller insisted that biomass power incinerators are a bad financial deal for communities, explaining that, “when approached by energy entrepreneurs, most rural county economic development boards and local governments have neither the experience nor the ability for the due diligence required to protect the economic interests of taxpayers.”

Dr. Michael Noll, executive director for Georgia-based Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy (WACE), echoed Zeller’s concerns in his testimony that “biomass plants are dirtier than coal firing plants,” referring to statements made by the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and medical associations across the country.

Noll also refuted the biomass industry’s “carbon neutrality” claims, while calculating the massive water withdrawals needed to cool the incinerators, particularly disconcerting during this summer’s widespread drought and crop losses. Economically, Noll said solar power was a much better deal than biomass, particularly when factoring in how dependent biomass incinerators are on “federal stimulus funds and tax credits.”

An employee of Duke Energy concurred with Noll’s economic assessment, according to BREDL’s Therese Vick. At the hearing, Emily Felt, Duke’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards compliance manager, agreed that the price of solar power was indeed cheaper than biomass.