This post was written by Ananda Lee Tan at GAIA.
Between the pollution trading markets and increasing public handouts for bad corporate behavior, U.S. energy corporations have been laughing all the way to the bank.
Hence it comes as no surprise that some of the most polluting and risky power companies have banded together, once again, to lobby DC for more subsidies and incentives to help finance their plans for more dirty power plants.
This time they have crafted a shrewd and conniving scheme to:
- Seek cover under the aegis of Renewable Energy such as wind and solar.
- Get large logging firms and waste industries to rally behind the concept of burning biomass.
A new report released yesterday by the Biomass Accountability Project exposes the billions of taxpayer dollars being handed out for biomass electricity projects. The report highlights the range of subsidies being sought as well as the huge public health and climate impacts that result from burning biomass.
Contrary to the biomass industry’s claims of “carbon neutrality”, biomass burners actually produce more climate pollution per unit of electricity than coal power. Even the US EPA was forced to retract public statements supporting such misleading claims, after strong criticism from scientists about false carbon accounting and legal challenges targeting the integrity of biogenic carbon data on EPA web pages.
While biomass carbon-intensity underscores how federal and state renewable energy designations constitute perverse subsidies, the actual potential of burning biomass is what illustrates the insanity of this option. According to Harper’s Index of January 2006, if every standing tree in the U.S. were to be burned for energy production, we would generate only 1 year’s-worth of energy for the entire country — hardly an attribute that qualifies as being renewable.
Alongside warnings from various medical associations, the proliferation of biomass and waste incinerators is being recognized as a major infraction of civil rights and environmental justice. The vast majority of these polluting facilities are built in poor, people of color communities around the country — often communities that suffer a disproportionate share of health impacts from industrial pollution and waste. According to Robert Bullard, author of Dismantling Energy Apartheid in the United States , in the State of Georgia, 7 of the 12 existing biomass incinerators are in counties where the African American population far exceeds the state average, and 6 of the 9 new incinerators are being sited and constructed in majority black counties.
However, the new biomass subsidies report also highlights hope — a vast number of new incinerator proposals are being defeated by community activists and grassroots groups across the nation. From Springfield, Massachusetts to Valdosta, Georgia, average citizens have been stepping up to protect their communities where lawmakers are failing, forcing elected officials to turn down these polluting smokestacks in their backyards.
So while the biomass burners lobby federal and state policymakers for the corporate welfare historically provided to Big Oil, King Coal and Wall Street, the average American is not so easily fooled. Almost every week, another community stands up to stop these expensive, toxic smokestacks from being built in their backyard.
A number of DC greens are starting to take notice of the biomass threat as well, after being alerted by frontline communities of climate subsidies outside the beltway.
Now, we simply need to work together to keep the pollution peddlers away from the public purse, and protect our communities for the future of the planet.