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Biofuels: Making the climate crisis worse, not better

Agrofuels (biofuels from intensive agriculture) are increasingly being burned as a supposedly 'green' alternative to fossil fuels. However, because of emissions from deforestation and intensive agriculture, they can be at least as damaging to the climate as coal, oil and gas. Find out more about biofuels and climate change here and find the latest Biofuel-Watch report here


Object to RWE’s plans to burn millions of tonnes of wood a year long-term at Tilbury

RWE states that sourcing wood from South USA will be 'sustainable'; yet forest campaigners in the US warn that Southern US forests are shrinking at a faster rate than ever and are under a new threat: European demand for woody biomass. Photo courtesy of Dogwood Alliance

In January this year, RWE converted the formerly coal-fired Tilbury B plant to become the world’s biggest biomass power station.  So far, they only have permission to run the power station for a limited number of hours, probably until late 2013  and the amount of wood burnt there so far has been limited due to a severe fire in February.  This could soon change: RWE have applied to Thurrock Council for a long-term planning permission which would allow them to burn millions of tonnes of imported wood every year for the next 12-15 years. If permission is refused then Tilbury B would be closed down entirely.  If it is granted, then it will cause biodiverse and carbon-rich forests in the southern US and Canada to be devastated.

Campaigners from US conservation NGO Dogwood Alliance and Greenpeace Canada recently visited RWE’s mega pellet plant in Georgia as well as forests threatened by it.  They reported: “What was most striking was the sheer volume of trees from fully loaded log trucks entering the gate and being unloaded into giant piles to be processed.  We watched countless trucks enter the facility…Despite all of the claims that pellet and bioenergy companies make about sustainability, it was clear that this is a voracious industry that will swallow up as many trees as it can get.”  Southern US forests are home to 130 species of trees, 595 species of birds, 246 species of mammals (including black bears and bobcats) 197 species of reptiles and 170 species of amphibians.  Yet for decades they have been logged and converted to plantations for the paper industry.  Now RWE and other big European energy companies threaten to destroy much of what remains.

Far from being climate friendly, scientists, including the European Environment Agency’s Scientific Committee, have warned that cutting down trees for electricity will increase carbon emissions even compared to coal for at least a generation.

For people in and around Tilbury, RWE’s plans would mean 12-15 years more pollution – with legal air quality limits already being exceeded.

Please go on the biofuelwatch website to email the Thurrock Council’s planning officer to object to the application. 

If you would like to read the planning documents, please click here and here.
 


Forests are Not Fuel: The Limits of Bioenergy in Climate Mitigation
Tuesday 9th October, 9.00am – 1pm, Quakers at Westminster, Friends Meeting House, London

A morning workshop with keynote speakers and group discussions to learn about and explore the environmental and social impacts of burning large-scale biomass and biofuels for power generation.

This plantation, belonging to Veracel is FSC certified. Does this look like a sustainable landscape to you? Picture courtesy of Chris Lang

Why attend?

Whilst government and industry herald biomass and biofuels as the low-carbon solution to our energy needs which can provide a stable source of baseline electricity, others warn that bioenergy can speed up global warming, cause deforestation, and lead to land-grabbing and human rights abuses in developing countries.

This summer, the Government announced it would continue to rapidly increase the amount of biomass being burned in power stations through heavy subsidies – but on the proviso that biomass and biofuels meet a set of ‘sustainability’ standards. This could see the UK burn up to 89 million tonnes of woody biomass and biofuels each year. But what do these sustainability standards really mean? Can they offer a guarantee to really protect environmental and human rights norms? Will they guarantee real climate benefits from replacing fossil fuels with biomass?

Please register your attendance before 1st October by sending an email marked for the attention of Emilia at biofuelwatch@ymail.com.

More info on the Biofuel-Watch website.

 

Protest against biofuels fuelling climate meltdown
Saturday 22nd October 2011, DECC – Department of Energy & Climate Change

Protesters gathered outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change offices calling for the end of subsidies for bioenergy, in a demonstration organised by Biofuelwatch with the support of Campaign against Climate Change.

As a public consultation on the financing of renewable electricity launched last week, campaigners warn that government proposals to prioritise bioenergy over wind and solar will speed up global warming and cause human suffering across the globe. Campaigners travelled from as far as the Isle of Wight, Scotland, Bristol, Port Talbot in Wales, and Manchester to unite in a common call.

See more here.

 

National demonstration against Agrofuels
25 September 2010

On 25 September 2010, the Campaign against Climate Change organised a national demonstration against agrofuels near a power station planned to burn palm oil in Portland, Dorset. This is only one of at least 15 biofuel power stations being proposed in the UK, encouraged by government subsidies (see below) have led to Experience in Germany and Italy, where large numbers of power plants are run on biofuels, have shown that those are almost always run on palm oil, the cheapest vegetable oil,and the one whose production is most damaging to the climate.  Running power stations on other types of biofuels, particularly on a large scale, has not been shown to be economically viable so far.
 

Agrofuels don't ROC(k)
12 October 2009

The Campaign against Climate Change, Biofuelwatch and Food not Fuel joined together to tell the Department for Energy and Climate Change that Agrofuels don't ROC(k). As well as speakers from UK groups, the demonstration was joined by representatives from Coordinadora Latinoamericana as part of a day of actions in solidarity with indigenous people.

Energy companies now have to generate a minimum of 10% of their electricity output from sources classed as sustainable or buy Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) from companies who have. This is a subsidy paid to renewable energy producers from other energy companies. Biofuels are included in this subsidy scheme, despite strong evidence of their negative climate impact.
 

Protests against the RTFO
15 April 2008

The Campaign against Climate Change joined forces with Biofuelwatch to protest against the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) and the devastating impacts caused by a massive increase in biofuels. The protest, staged outside Downing Street at 6.00 pm, was the largest demonstration yet against biofuels and was widely reported on the day.

Earlier demonstration outside the Department for Transport:

 

The European Union biofuels directive sets targets for all EU countries for biofuel usage of 2% by the end of 2005 and 5.75% by the end of 2010. To fulfil this, in the UK, the RTFO requires transport fuel suppliers to ensure that a certain proportion road vehicle fuel is biofuel. The amount of biofuel that must be supplied increases annually until April 2013 when it will reach 5%.

Biofuels and climate change: the facts 

 
 

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