Climate change

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Bioenergy > Issues > Environmental issues > Climate change

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Illustration of the many, complex issues involved in the international negotiations on climate change. Produced by the DiploFoundation; Version 2.0, January 2010.







See the past events section below for information and links about older events.


  • Recipes for Success: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Vegetable Oils by The Union of Concerned Scientists, March 2012."Global demand for vegetable oils has recently increased, which impacts not only the global economy, but also the atmosphere and ecosystems. Increasing demand for vegetable oils has traditionally translated into demand for more land to grow oil crops... Over the last decade much of that land has come at the expense of tropical forests, and this is particularly true for palm and soybean oil."
    • "Our report, Recipes for Success: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Vegetable Oils examines the vegetable oil market and details how businesses can produce and use vegetable oil without causing deforestation." [1]
  • Do Biofuel Subsidies Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions? (PDF File) by R. Quentin Grafton, Tom Kompas, and Mgo Van Long, 2001. "Biofuel subsidies can generate supply-side response by fossil fuel producers that accelerates their rate of extraction, even in the case where fossil fuel extraction costs are stock dependent. Thus, policies designed to reduce GHG emissions may, perversely, hasten climate change."[2]
  • Accounting Framework for Biogenic CO2 Emissions from Stationary Sources by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 27 September 2011. "The purpose of this study is to consider the scientific and technical issues associated with accounting for biogenic CO2 emitted from stationary sources and to develop a framework to account for those emissions. It presents a methodology for 'adjusting' estimates of onsite biogenic CO2 emissions on the basis of information about the carbon cycle."[3]
Chart from the 2007a IPCC climate change assessment report shows the contribution by sector to total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2004, in terms of CO2 equivalent. Heat trapping GHGs result in global temperature changes that effect our climate systems. The label "Forestry" in this breakdown includes global deforestation, which, combined with agriculture, accounts for nearly 1/3 of total annual GHG emissions. Source (PDF File)
  • The upfront carbon debt of bioenergy (PDF) by Joanneum Research, May 2010. When a raw material such as wood is burned, "the time needed to re-absorb the CO2 emitted in the atmosphere can be long, depending very much on the source of wood. This delay can create an upfront “carbon debt” that would substantially reduce the capability of bioenergy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the atmosphere in the short to medium term."
  • The Copenhagen Accord Fact Sheet (PDF) by the National Wildlife Federation, April 2010. This report highlights the outcomes of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Copenhagan in December of 2009.
    • "While the Copenhagen Accord falls short of this benchmark, it does represent a step forward by acquiring voluntary pledges from both developed and developing nations to make new commitments to address their emissions, allowing some third-party oversight of these actions, and providing crucial “fast start” financing to help the least developed countries that will be the most impacted by climate change. The Copenhagen Accord also marks the first time that major emitting developing countries such as China and India, have put forward pledges to the UN to reduce the future growth of their emissions."[4]
  • Financing the Response to Climate Change (PDF) IMF staff position note by Hugh Bredenkamp and Catherine Pattillo, 25 March 2010. "This note outlines a scheme for mobilizing financing to help developing countries confront the challenges posed by climate change. The idea is to create a “Green Fund” with the capacity to raise resources on a scale commensurate with the Copenhagen Accord ($100 billion a year by 2020)."
    • "By providing a unified resource mobilization framework, with up-front agreement on burden-sharing and the capacity to meet the financing needs identified at Copenhagen, the Green Fund could facilitate progress toward a binding global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and allow developing countries to begin scaling up their climate change responses without delay."[5]
  • Tool for calculating greenhouse gases (GHG) in solid waste management (SWM) (PDF file) by Institut für Energie (Germany), July 2009. "The objective of this 'Tool for Calculating GHG Emissions in Solid Waste Management' (SWM-GHG Calculator) is to aid in understanding the effects of proper waste management on GHG emissions. The SWM-GHG Calculator allows quantification and comparison of GHG emissions for different waste management strategies at an early stage in the decision making process."



  • Uncertainty still clouds future of EU biodiesel, 3 May 2012 by Reuters: "Senior European Union officials failed on Wednesday to agree on how to measure the full climate impact of biofuels, prolonging uncertainty in a debate that threatens to wipe out large parts of Europe's biodiesel industry...."
    • "The debate centred on a relatively new concept known as indirect land use change (ILUC)....
    • "By estimating the ILUC emissions associated with each specific crop, scientists concluded that most biodiesel currently used in Europe emits more carbon than conventional diesel...."
    • "The realisation that EU rules on ILUC could kill off much of Europe's estimated 13 billion euro biodiesel industry and undermine its climate goals led to paralysis within the Commission, while officials argued over whether current ILUC models were robust enough to warrant such drastic action."
    • "Biodiesel producers say there is too much uncertainty in the assumptions used to model ILUC emissions to justify immediate action, and that specific rules should be delayed for several years in favour of an indirect approach."[9]
  • Climate change, biofuels mandate would spike corn prices, 23 April 2012 by Brian Wallheimer for Drovers Cattle Network: "A study from Purdue and Stanford university researchers predicts that future climate scenarios may cause significantly greater volatility in corn prices, which would be intensified by the federal biofuels mandate."
    • "The findings, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, show that severely hot conditions in corn-growing regions and extreme climate events that are expected to impact supply would cause swings in corn prices."
    • "When coupled with federal mandates for biofuel production, the price volatility could increase by about 50 percent over the period from 2020-2040 as compared to recent history." [11]
  • EU report questions conventional biofuels' sustainability, 11 April 2012 by Euractiv: "Conventional biofuels like biodiesel increase carbon dioxide emissions and are too expensive to consider as a long-term alternative fuel, a draft EU report says."
    • "The study 'EU Transport GHG [greenhouse gases]: Routes to 2050' estimates that before indirect effects are counted, the abatement cost of reducing Europe’s emissions with biofuels is between €100-€300 per tonne of carbon."
    • "At current market prices, this would make their CO2 reduction potential up to 49 times more expensive than buying carbon credits on the open market at €6.14 a tonne."
    • "But the EU’s authors conclude that it 'it is not possible (and useful) to determine cost effectiveness figures for [conventional] biofuels' because their indirect effect - measured in cleared forests and grasslands ('ILUC') - make it a CO2-emitting technology."
    • "The latest report will feed a growing unease about the reasons for the EU's original biofuels policy - justified in environmental terms - and the way it has developed since...."
    • "Brussels is due to publish a proposal measuring the indirect emissions caused by biofuels later this year, distinguishing between low-emitting biofuels such as ethanol and high-emitting ones like biodiesel."
    • "But the EU’s decision-making process has been paralysed by the ongoing dispute between its energy directorate – which does not want ILUC factors considered – and its climate directorate, which does...."
    • "For now, the proposal remains stuck in the corridors of an EU that appears equally frightened of the political consequences of admitting a policy mistake and the environmental consequences of denying it."[12]
  • EU carbon target threatened by biomass 'insanity' 2 April 2012 by Arthur Neslen for EurActiv: "The EU's emissions reduction target for 2020 could be facing an unlikely but grave obstacle, according to a growing number of scientists, EU officials and NGOs: the contribution of biomass to the EU's renewable energy objectives for 2020."
    • "On 29 March, a call was launched at the European Parliament for Brussels to reconsider its carbon accounting rules for biomass emissions, and EurActiv has learned that the issue is provoking widespread alarm in policy-making circles."
    • "Around half of the EU's target for providing 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 will be made up by biomass energy from sources such as wood, waste and agricultural crops and residues, according to EU member states' national action plans... Wood makes up the bulk of this target and is counted by the EU as 'carbon neutral', giving it access to subsidies, feed-in tariffs and electricity premiums at national level."
    • "But because there is a time lag between the carbon debt that is created when a tree is cut down, transported and combusted – and the carbon credit that occurs when a new tree has grown to absorb as much carbon as the old one – biomass will increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the interim." [13]
  • Journal article explores hybridized life cycle analysis method by Kris Bevill for Ethanol Producer Magazine, 4 April 2012.
    • "A recently published article in the peer-reviewed Journal of the Royal Society Interface suggests that in order for life cycle analyses (LCA) of biomass-based products such as biofuels to be most accurately calculated, modelers should develop a hybridized methodology that considers both direct and indirect effects, to measure the carbon intensity of production. Further, the authors of the paper stressed the need for policymakers worldwide to develop methodologies that are compatible and comparable, rather than continue forward with the patchwork of individualized policies specific to country or region."
    • "Susan Tarka Sanchez served as lead author of the paper, titled 'Accounting for Indirect Land Use Change in the Life Cycle Assessment of Biofuel Supply Chains,' while working as the senior scientist at California-based business and environmental consulting firm Life Cycle Associates LLC, the company which developed the CA-GREET life cycle analyses model used by the California Air Resources Board in developing the state’s low carbon fuel standard. Sanchez admits that indirect land use change (ILUC) continues to be a controversial topic, but said the group of international experts that contributed to the journal paper feel it is essential to incorporate indirect effects into biofuels methodology in order to gauge the full effects of the product." [14]
    • Read the paper, Accounting for Indirect Land Use Change in the Life Cycle Assessment of Biofuel Supply Chains by Susan Tarka Sanchez, Jeremy Woods, Mark Akhurst, Matthew Brander, Michael O'Hare, Terence P. Dawson, Robert Edwards, Adam J. Liska and Rick Malpas.
  • Environmental burden shifting and sustainability criteria for biofuels by Anil Baral for ICCT blog: "Biofuels are here for three reasons – climate change mitigation, energy security and to increase rural incomes. The supposed climate change mitigation potential of biofuels comes with the idea that renewability implies carbon neutrality. However, with the introduction of the systems approach of analyzing environmental costs and benefits, it has emerged that biofuels, especially first generation biofuels, do not offer environmental and human health benefits on all fronts. The systems approach, such as life cycle analysis (LCA), looks into far ranging impacts including GHG emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC). We find that in many cases we may not expect to achieve net greenhouse gas reductions from biofuel policies – but also that even where climate change mitigation might be effective, there can be other tradeoffs in choosing biofuels, indicating a potential risk of environmental burden shifting for policies that solely focus on GHG mitigation." [15]
  • The rise and fall of biofuels and why they failed key test 20 March 2012 by George Wachira, for Business Daily Africa: "An energy expert asked me the other day if I still believed in biofuels as feasible alternative transport fuels for Kenya. We had met at a biofuels conference in Dar-es-Salaam about four years ago where I presented a paper. Around the same time I was the vice-chairman of the National Biofuels Committee at the Ministry of Energy. My hesitant answer was that emphasis on biofuels has reduced, globally and here in Kenya, as priorities have definitely changed."
    • "So what caused a shift in biofuels emphasis? Globally, around 2008/09 the western world was experiencing serious economic downturn and economic survival may have become more urgent that the global warming subject. Downgraded commitment to global warming issues by the western nations was apparent at all subsequent global climate meetings (Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban)... About the same time, the sudden shift from food to biofuel crops was starting to negatively impact global food sufficiency. Food commodity prices shot up, prompting caution on biofuel production across the globe."
    • "Further, it was emerging across the world that other more effective green solutions (wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, afforestation) could deliver quicker and more effective carbon reduction solutions, and these have now been embraced on a massive scale. Thereafter, there has been less emphasis on biofuels to provide green energy."
    • "Kenya’s energy mix has plenty of green content and this is sufficient national contribution towards global warming mitigation efforts. The country has also opted to emphasise tree planting for both climate change reasons and also for reinforcing the country’s hydrology. With these measures and plans in place, we may not need to produce biofuels justified on global warming mitigation." [16]
  • Global Demand for Vegetable Oils Contributing to Deforestation: New Report Helps Businesses Become Deforestation-Free, 7 March 2012 by The Union of Concerned Scientists: “The global demand for vegetable oils is increasing at an unsustainable rate – more than 5 percent annually over the past decade – contributing to massive deforestation in tropical regions, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)... UCS’s report Recipes for Success: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Vegetable Oils, which was co-authored with Climate Advisers, offers solutions for businesses, governments and consumers on producing and using vegetable oil without causing deforestation.”
    • "“Deforestation results in a loss of biodiversity, destroys ecosystems and puts indigenous peoples at risk. Globally, the most damaging effect of deforestation is its contribution to global climate change, which account for about 15 percent of annual carbon emissions – more than the pollution from every car, truck, plane, ship, and train on Earth.”
    • “‘It’s important for consumers to insist that companies ensure the products they sell are deforestation-free,’ said Calen May-Tobin, policy analyst and advocate for UCS’s Tropical Forests and Climate Initiative. ‘If leading companies commit to using deforestation-free vegetable oil in their products, others will follow suit, curbing the rate of deforestation and climate change.’ ”
  • Biodiesel doubts threaten EU green transport targets, 5 March 2012 by Reuters: "The European Union will almost certainly miss its 2020 targets for cutting transport fuel emissions if policymakers act on scientific warnings about the climate impact of biofuels."
    • "Several EU studies have questioned the climate benefits of biodiesel made from European rapeseed and imported palm oil and soybeans, and some have warned that it releases as many climate-warming emissions as conventional diesel...."
    • "If the EU penalises crop-specific biofuels for their estimated ILUC emissions, any incentive for governments and oil firms to promote biodiesel from rapeseed, palm oil and soybeans would disappear...."
    • "The Commission has already drafted two compromise proposals on ILUC without reaching an agreement on either, reflecting deep internal divisions on the issue."
    • "The deal now under discussion would penalise biofuels for their crop-specific ILUC emissions in the fuel quality law but not the renewable energy directive, removing the incentive for oil companies to buy biodiesel without excluding it entirely...."[17]
  • Biomass Supply and Carbon Accounting for Southeastern Forests , 14 February 2012 by National Wildlife Federation: "A new study of southeastern forests in the U.S. finds that in the long run, burning wood instead of fossil fuels to make electricity can reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but not soon enough to prevent worsening the conditions leading to global climate change."
    • "...[T]he southeastern United States has seen recent interest in significantly expanding the biomass energy sector, including building new power plants, co-firing with coal power in existing plants, pellet manufacture for export to Europe, and producing cellulosic ethanol. While some look to these developments and see promise, others look with great concern at pressures on the region’s forests, implications for forest health and sustainable wood supply, and impacts on cumulative greenhouse gas emissions...."
    • "...[T]his study seeks to address two key questions relevant to the biomass electric power sector in this region of the country:
"How much biomass (primarily wood) is available on a sustainable basis to source the expanding southeastern biomass electric power sector? And, what is the potential of public policy to create demands that exceed sustainable supply levels?"
How will the increased use of forest biomass for electric power generation in the Southeast affect atmospheric carbon over time, and how does biomass energy compare to several fossil fuel energy alternatives in terms of cumulative GHG emissions over time?"[18]


  • ‘Carbon debt’ created by some biofuels must be considered in sustainability debate, new study shows, 30 November 2011 by CIFOR: "Despite being heralded as a green alternative to fossil fuels, a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has found that carbon emissions generated from land conversion for biodiesel production may take decades to hundreds of years to reverse in some cases, raising serious questions about biodiesel sustainability."
    • "'It really matters how you produce biofuels and what land you grow it on as to whether you are going to get climate change benefits,' said Louis Verchot, CIFOR scientist and co-author of Implications of Biodiesel-Induced Land-Use Changes for CO2 Emissions: Case Studies in Tropical America, Africa, and Southeast Asia published in a special feature of Ecology and Society."
    • "Fluctuating oil prices and growing concerns about climate change have led to a renewed commitment to renewable energy, with demand for biofuels such as those produced from palm oil, jatropha and soy increasing in recent years."
    • "The strength of this work is in the comparisons between different feed stocks and different settings. 'The take-home message,' says Verchot, 'is not that biofuels are bad for the atmosphere. Rather, the results point to important considerations that must be taken into account to make biofuels sustainable.'"[19]
  • Sustainable palm oil initiative falters, 20 November 2011 by Mail & Guardian Online: "Environmentalists have warned that an effort to encourage the sustainable production of palm oil launched several years ago has not kept pace with expanding cultivation driven by rising demand."
    • "The issue will loom large this week at the annual meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil from November 22 to 24 in key producer Malaysia."
    • "Despite some progress, major users of palm oil are not making enough effort to source and buy sustainably produced oil, while incentives for green production remain inadequate, green groups say."
    • "Growers produced 5.2-million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) -- accounting for about 10% of world supply -- last year but only about 56% of it was purchased."
    • "Environmentalists say the consequences for rainforests in major producers Malaysia and Indonesia -- which account for 85% of world production -- and other producing nations will be dire unless the situation changes."
    • "The forest loss contributes to climate change and further imperils threatened species like the orangutan while land disputes between local communities and large palm producers seeking to expand cultivation are rising."[20]
  • Large differences in the climate impact of biofuels, 15 November 2011 by EurekAlert: "The use of bioenergy may affect ecosystem carbon stocks, and it can take anything from 2 to 100 years for different biofuels to achieve carbon dioxide neutrality."
    • "The use of bioenergy affects ecosystem carbon stocks over time in either a positive or negative way. Biofuels where the combustion related emissions are compensated rapidly have a lower climate impact than fuels for which it takes a long time for the emissions to be compensated."
    • "Despite this, the difference in climate impacts between slow and rapid biofuels is rarely highlighted in political contexts. Emissions from bioenergy are, for example, not included in countries' commitments under the Kyoto Protocol."
    • "If environmental legislation, for instance the EU renewables directive, requires that climate benefits of biofuels are calculated over a 20 year period, biofuels that need longer time to reach carbon neutrality may be regarded as not renewable."[21]
  • US must stop promoting biofuels to tackle world hunger, says thinktank, 11 October 2011 by The Guardian: "A new report, the Global Hunger Index, warned that US government support for corn ethanol was a major factor behind this year's food price spikes – and was projected to fuel further volatility in food prices over the next decade."
    • "Although the report noted some improvements over the past 20 years, 26 countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, are still at extreme risk of hunger including Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Eritrea."
    • "But the report also suggested that efforts to reduce world hunger would be constrained without action on climate change and changes in US and European government policies promoting the use of food stocks as fuel."
    • "In practical terms, this means countries that import food – especially those in sub-Saharan Africa which import a greater share of their food – are at the mercy of US domestic policies governing corn ethanol."
    • "US policies encouraging corn ethanol production, such as subsidies and mandates, ensure more corn is grown for fuel rather than food – especially when oil prices are high."[22]
  • EPA Biogenic Carbon Emissions Panel to Begin Work, 3 October 2011 by EESI: "Do bioenergy systems (biofuel, biopower, bioheat) contribute to or mitigate climate change?"
    • "The prevailing assumption in federal policies, up until this point, has been that bioenergy systems are, more or less, as climate-friendly and renewable as other renewable energy sources, and, thus, bioenergy is a suitable substitute for climate-damaging fossil fuels."
    • "However, this assumption has been questioned in recent years, and the EPA has proposed an 'accounting framework for biogenic CO2 emissions from stationary sources.'"
    • "The EPA announced October 3 the formation of the Science Advisory Board Biogenic Carbon Emissions Panel which will conduct the peer review."[24]
  • Carbon credits tarnished by human rights 'disgrace', 3 October 2011 by EurActiv: "The reported killing of 23 Honduran farmers in a dispute with the owners of UN-accredited palm oil plantations in Honduras is forcing the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) executive board to reconsider its stakeholder consultation processes."
    • "In Brussels, the Green MEP Bas Eickhout called the alleged human rights abuses 'a disgrace', and told EurActiv he would be pushing the European Commission to bar carbon credits from the plantations from being traded under the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)."
    • "But because they took place after the CDM's stakeholder consultations had been held, and fell outside the board's primary remit to investigate emissions reductions and environmental impacts, it had been powerless to block project registrations."
    • "Last week, proposals were submitted to a CDM board meeting in Quito, Ecuador, addressing the time-lag between project consultations and registrations. But carbon credits from the plantations can still be freely traded on the EU ETS, which allows polluters to offset their carbon emissions by nominally clean energy investments."[25]
  • Brussels slammed for bad science on biofuels, 27 September 2011 by Euractiv: "Several environmental NGOs have written to the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, demanding action on five scientific studies that question the clean energy benefits of biofuels, as a row over a land use report by the EU's scientific advisors escalates."
    • "...[T]he letter cites five world-class studies for the EU which, it says, all agree that the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) effects of biofuels 'could not only negate the expected carbon savings, but even lead to an increase in emissions.'"
    • The most recent, a report by the scientific committee of the European Environment Agency (EEA) slammed the official EU policy that biofuels are 'carbon neutral' as a 'serious accounting error' with 'immense' potential consequences."
    • "The letter's signatories include ActionAid, Birdlife, ClientEarth, European Environmental Bureau, Oxfam, Transport and Environment and Wetlands International."
    • "The science involved in the report is of crucial importance. On Page 8, the EEA report cites the IEA as saying that biofuels could provide 20% of the world’s energy by 2050, and the UNFCCC claiming that bioenergy could supply 800 exajoules of energy per year (EJ/yr)."
    • "But today's entire global cultivatable land for food, feed, fibre and wood only has a chemical energy value of 230 (EJ/yr), just over a quarter of that figure."[26]
    • Download the NGO letter (PDF file)
  • Biofuels May Push 120 Million Into Hunger, Qatar’s Shah Says, 26 September 2011 by Bloomberg: "Biofuel policies in countries from Australia to the U.S. may push 120 million people into hunger by 2050 while doing little to halt climate change, said Mahendra Shah, an advisor to Qatar’s food security program."
    • "World food output will have to rise by at least 70 percent by 2050 to feed a growing world population, according to Shah."
    • "The use of crops for biofuels is forecast to raise food prices by 30 percent to 50 percent in that period, Shah said, citing a study by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Fund for International Development, or OFID."
    • "Government plans to boost ethanol and biodiesel production and mandates on using them in transport fuel will increase deforestation by between 20 million and 24 million hectares (49 milion to 59 million acres) by 2050 and increase fertilizer use by 10 million tons, the OFID study showed, according to Shah."
    • "Growing crops for biofuels to reduce reliance on oil may result in 6 percent to 12 percent transport-fuel security in 2030 and 2050, according to Shah."[27]
  • S.C. group fighting biomass pollution, 20 September 2011 by The State: "The S.C. Coastal Conservation League, one of the state’s largest environmental groups, says the federal government should not exempt biomass plants from pending carbon dioxide rules."
    • "Also Monday, the Dogwood Alliance of western North Carolina said it will join the challenge against exempting biomass plants, which are growing in popularity as alternative sources of energy."
    • "Many biomass plants burn wood to make energy."
    • "South Carolina has 28 facilities that burn wood, according to a 2010 S.C. Energy Office report. At least seven more biomass facilities are proposed in the state, the league says."
    • "Black said the league doesn’t oppose biomass plants, but believes major facilities should be monitored until they can show that carbon emissions are not a problem."
    • "The Dogwood Alliance says the exemption could encourage a rush to build biomass plants — and that could take a toll on southern forests."[28]
  • European biofuels given reprieve, report suggests, 12 September 2011 by Farmers Guardian: "THE European Union’s top climate and energy officials have agreed to delay rules which would penalise individual biofuels for their indirect climate impacts, Reuters news agency is reporting."
    • "The political compromise is designed to protect EU farmers’ incomes and existing investments in the biofuel sector, while discouraging new investments in biofuels which do nothing to fight climate change."
    • "At issue is indirect land use change (ILUC), which states if you divert food crops to biofuel production, someone, somewhere, will go hungry unless those missing metric tons of grain are grown elsewhere."
    • "If the crops to make up the shortfall are grown on new farmland created by cutting down rainforests or draining peat land, this can release enough climate-warming emissions to cancel out any theoretical emission savings from biofuels."
    • "The July agreement would delay crop-specific rules on ILUC in favor of an indirect approach that penalises all biofuels equally.This involves raising the carbon-savings threshold that all biofuels must meet compared with conventional fossil fuel to count toward the EU’s target, which aims to raise the share of biofuel in road transport fuels to about 10 percent in 2020."[29]
  • EU to delay action on biofuels' indirect impact, 8 September 2011 by Reuters: "The European Union's top climate and energy officials have agreed to delay by up to seven years rules that would penalize individual biofuels for their indirect climate impacts, details of the deal showed."
    • "The political compromise is designed to protect EU farmers' incomes and existing investments in the bloc's 17 billion euro-a-year ($24 billion) biofuel sector, while discouraging new investments in biofuels that do nothing to fight climate change."
    • "At issue is an emerging concept known as indirect land use change (ILUC), which states that if you divert food crops to biofuel production, someone, somewhere, will go hungry unless those missing metric tons of grain are grown elsewhere."
    • "If the crops to make up the shortfall are grown on new farmland created by cutting down rainforests or draining peat land, this can release enough climate-warming emissions to cancel out any theoretical emission savings from biofuels."[30]
  • First EU sustainability schemes for biofuels get the go-ahead, 19 July 2011 press release by the European Commission: "In order to receive government support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, biofuels used in the EU, whether locally produced or imported, have to comply with sustainability criteria. These criteria aim at preventing the conversion of areas of high biodiversity and high carbon stock for the production of raw materials for biofuels. In practice this means that biofuels made of crops that have been grown on land that used to be rainforest or natural grassland with a unique ecosystem cannot be considered as sustainable. In addition, the greenhouse gas emissions over the whole production chain need to be at least 35% lower compared to fossil fuels. That threshold will increase over time."
    • "Companies can choose whether to demonstrate compliance with these sustainability requirements through national systems or by joining a voluntary scheme which is recognised by the Commission."
    • "After a detailed assessment made by the Commission and various improvements the following schemes were recognised:
      • ISCC (German (government financed) scheme covering all types of biofuels)
      • Bonsucro EU (Roundtable initiative for sugarcane based biofuels, focus on Brazil)
      • RTRS EU RED (Roundtable initiative for soy based biofuels, focus on Argentina and Brazil)
      • RSB EU RED (Roundtable initiative covering all types of biofuels)
      • 2BSvs (French industry scheme covering all types of biofuels)
      • RSBA (Industry scheme for Abengoa covering their supply chain)
      • Greenergy (Industry scheme for Greenergy covering sugar cane ethanol from Brazil)
    • "The Commission is currently discussing with other voluntary schemes how these can also improve their standard in order to meet the sustainability requirements for biofuels."[31]
  • Analysis: EU cushions biodiesel from damning carbon research, 15 July 2011 by Reuters: "The EU will protect existing investment in its $13 billion biodiesel sector even as it acts on new evidence that suggests making the fuel from food crops can do more harm than good in fighting climate change."
    • "The reports said using Asian palm oil, South American soybeans and EU rapeseed to make biodiesel has a bigger overall impact than conventional diesel on climate change, partly due to forests or wetlands being destroyed to grow replacement food."
    • "European Union policymakers are preparing a political compromise that will safeguard existing biodiesel investments, having baulked at penalizing individual biofuel crops."
    • "With biodiesel representing about 80 percent of Europe's estimated $17 billion market for biofuels and the bloc dependent on diesel imports to meet rising demand, the officials agreed to delay any action that could kill off the biodiesel sector."
    • "The dilemma facing EU policymakers concerns a relatively new concept known as indirect land-use change (ILUC), which challenges the notion that biofuels only emit as much carbon when burned as they absorbed during growth."[32]
  • MIT study: Biofuels not necessarily greenest choice, 12 May 2011 by Cnet News: "Biomass used to make biofuels must be carefully sourced, or the biofuels they produce may be no greener than conventional jet fuel."
    • "For the nearly four-year study, researchers conducted a life cycle analysis on 14 diesel and jet fuel sources made from feedstocks, and identified the key factors that make a difference in whether a biofuel is truly an environmental improvement over conventional jet fuel."
    • "Biofuels made from jatropha oil, for example, can have a low carbon footprint because the byproduct husks, shells, and meal from jatropha plants can be used for fertilizer, animal feed, and electricity generation."
    • "But the study found that many biofuel carbon footprints are based on where and how it's grown."
    • "The study suggested that easy-to-grow algae or salicornia, neither of which requires nutrient-rich soil, might be more effective biomass options for biofuels than crops requiring acres and acres of farmland."[33]
  • Wanted by EPA: Scientists for controversial climate mission, 26 April 2011 by The Hill: "The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking experts to help unwrap a wonky but politically charged question: How to measure the carbon footprint of using biomass for energy."
    • "EPA in January backed off applying greenhouse gas permitting rules to power plants and other facilities that use plant matter to make energy."
    • "EPA said it would use the three-year delay to improve methods for accounting for the carbon footprint of using various types of forest and other plant materials. On Wednesday, the agency is slated to publish a request for nominations to serve on a panel of EPA’s Science Advisory Board that will weigh the matter."
    • "A key question is how to track carbon released from land-use changes related to harvesting plant matter."[34]
  • Biofuels need a $ 13-trillion investment - I.E.A report, 25 April 2011 by EcoSeed: "Biofuels play an important role in slashing carbon dioxide emissions if produced via the right technology and method, but this entails an investment worth as much as $13 trillion, a report from the International Energy Agency showed."
    • "The I.E.A. report presented the sustainability issues surrounding biofuel production, as the agency deemed biofuels a key solution to the rising demand for transport fuel along with the growing transport sector."
    • "Biofuels, which are mainly composed of bioethanol from either maize or sugarcane and biodiesel from palm or rape seed oil, currently provide around 2 percent of the global demand for fuel."
    • "Citing the negative impacts of biofuel expansion on food security as one of the pressing issues, the report stressed the importance of supporting research and development to explore ways of efficiently using biomass."
    • "I.E.A. director Bo Diczfalusy said both private investments and government support through policies, which can increase business confidence in the industry, are seen as essential means to pull the required financial resources over the next 40 years."[35]
  • Palm Oil Lobby Fights World Bank's Environmental Initiatives in Indonesia, Malaysia, 20 April 2011 by Treehugger: "We know how destructive the palm oil industry in Indonesia and Malaysia, so it was great news when the World Bank announced that social and environmental safeguards would serve as guiding principles in its lending to the palm oil sector."
    • "The World Bank said it would try to 'support smallholders and foster benefit sharing with rural communities,' but that palm oil lobbying groups World Growth International and the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA) attacked the Bank for doing so."
    • "The latter group issued a press release saying: 'The Bank's new framework for palm oil engagement elevates radical ideological opposition to agriculture development above the needs of the poor and hungry in Africa'—a position some are spinning as the Bank saying the environment is more important than African farmers."
    • "What that fails to recognize is the precise link between climate change, degradation of the environment, and increased vulnerability for already impoverished people, specifically in Africa."[36]
  • Sugarcane Cools Climate, Study Finds, 17 April 2011 by Science Daily: "Brazilians are world leaders in using biofuels for gasoline. About a quarter of their automobile fuel consumption comes from sugarcane, which significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions that otherwise would be emitted from using gasoline. Now scientists from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology have found that sugarcane has a double benefit. Expansion of the crop in areas previously occupied by other Brazilian crops cools the local climate. It does so by reflecting sunlight back into space and by lowering the temperature of the surrounding air as the plants 'exhale' cooler water."
    • "The scientists found that converting from natural vegetation to crop/pasture on average warmed the cerrado by 2.79 °F (1.55 °C), but that subsequent conversion to sugarcane, on average, cooled the surrounding air by 1.67 °F (0.93°C)."
    • "The researchers emphasize that the beneficial effects are contingent on the fact sugarcane is grown on areas previously occupied by crops or pastureland, and not in areas converted from natural vegetation. It is also important that other crops and pastureland do not move to natural vegetation areas, which would contribute to deforestation."[37]
    • See the full study in the journal Nature Climate Change, "Direct impacts on local climate of sugar-cane expansion in Brazil"
  • Biofuels targets are 'unethical', says Nuffield report, 13 April 2011 by BBC News (U.K.): "EU biofuels targets are unethical, according to a report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics."
    • "Its authors recommend the targets should be lifted temporarily until new safeguards are put in place for biofuels grown in Europe or imported."
    • "The Council is an independent body that was set up 20 years ago to ponder ethical issues raised by developments in biology and medicine."
    • "It has been studying biofuels for 18 months - specifically relating to the EU Renewable Energy Directive target that biofuels should account for 10% of transport fuel by 2020, a much-criticised mandate originally designed as part of Europe's strategy to combat climate change."
    • "Based on what it says is a set of ethical values which will be widely shared, the report says biofuels should:
      • not be at the expense of human rights;
      • be environmentally sustainable;
      • contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gases (some currently increase greenhouse gases);
      • adhere to fair trade principles;
      • have costs and benefits that can be distributed in an equitable way."
    • "These principles would be backed by a mandatory - and strictly enforced - EU certification scheme, a little like the Fairtrade scheme."[38]
  • Jatropha biofuel success could drive air travel go green Jatropha biofuel success could drive air travel go green, 12 April 2011 by "Media reports say that biofuel produced from seeds of Jatropha, a non-edible plant, can be sucessfully used for fueling aircrafts."
    • "According to Business Matchmaking, Inc., many airlines, including Japan Airlines, Air New Zealand, Continental, Brazil's TAM Airlines and most recently the Mexican carrier Interjet, in cooperation with European manufacturer Airbus, successfully tested the oil produced from Jatropha seeds as a potential substitute for traditional jet fuel."
    • "Mexico is one of the few countries pursuing the production of bio-fuel from Jatropha for a couple of years now. As the weed widely became known for producing oil that could be used to fuel jet planes, the Mexican government wanted farmers to grow entire fields of it to turn into biodiesel."
    • "The United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization has established the goal of reducing aviation-related carbon-dioxide emissions and the use of renewable fuels."[39]
  • Biofuels Policy May Kill 200,000 Per Year in the Third World, 28 March 2011 by PR Newswire: "U.S. and European policy to increase production of ethanol and other biofuels to displace fossil fuels is supposed to help human health by reducing 'global warming.' Instead it has added to the global burden of death and disease."
    • "Increased production of biofuels increases the price of food worldwide by diverting crops and cropland from feeding people to feeding motor vehicles. Higher food prices, in turn, condemn more people to chronic hunger and 'absolute poverty'".
    • "Research by the World Bank indicates that the increase in biofuels production over 2004 levels would push more than 35 million additional people into absolute poverty in 2010 in developing countries. Using statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Indur Goklany estimates that this would lead to at least 192,000 excess deaths per year, plus disease resulting in the loss of 6.7 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) per year. These exceed the estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs that the World Health Organization attributes to global warming....Goklany also notes that death and disease from poverty are a fact, whereas death and disease from global warming are hypothetical.
    • "His analysis is published in the spring 2011 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons".[40]
    • Download the paper, Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries? (PDF file).
  • Google funds company producing biofuel from grass, 21 March 2011 by the Guardian: "Google has again beefed up its position as one of the world's leading investors in innovative renewable energy technologies, shelling out an undisclosed sum as part of the latest funding round for California-based start-up CoolPlanetBiofuels."
    • "The investment will support CoolPlanetBiofuels efforts to produce a biofuel made from biomass such as grass and wood chips, which the company claims will result in a "negative carbon fuel" that removes carbon from the atmosphere."
    • "According to CoolPlanetBiofuels, its N100 fuel technology utilises a "revolutionary thermal/mechanical processor" to turn non-food crops such as grasses and crop residues to produce gas streams that can then be upgraded using catalytic processes to produce a hydrocarbon fuel suitable for use in conventional vehicles."
    • "Significantly, this turns excess carbon into a high purity solid that can then be buried as a soil enhancer, sequestering the carbon for hundreds of years."[42]
  • CO2 emissions from biomass combustion, 16 March 2011 by EurekAlert: "An article in the current issue of Global Change Biology Bioenergy proposes a new method to account for CO2 emissions from biomass combustion in bioenergy systems."
    • "CO2 emissions resulting from bioenergy production have traditionally been excluded from most emission inventories and environmental impact studies because bioenergy is carbon- and climate- neutral as long as CO2 emissions from biofuel combustion are sequestered by growing biomass."
    • "The authors propose that CO2 emissions from biomass combustion for bioenergy should no longer be excluded from Life Cycle Assessment studies or be assumed to have the same global warming potential as anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide is emitted when biomass is burnt and the sequestration in the new vegetation can be spread for up to several decades in the case of slow-growing biomass, like forests."
    • "The authors believe that the global warming potential of CO2 emissions from bioenergy production depends on the interactions with the full carbon cycle and its sinks, the oceans and the terrestrial biosphere, which work on different time scales."[43]
  • Bioenergy crops could lower surface temperatures, 11 March 2011 by R&D Magazine: "Converting large swaths of farmland to perennial grasses for biofuels could lower regional surface temperatures, according to a recent Stanford [University] study."
    • "The study, published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), comes on the heels of federal initiatives to wean the United States off fossil fuels by mandating significant increases in ethanol production. The Department of Agriculture forecasts that by 2018, more than one-third of the country's corn harvest will be used to produce ethanol."
    • "But concerns about the impact of corn ethanol on food prices, deforestation, and global warming have raised interest in the cultivation of perennial grasses—such as switchgrass—as alternative sources of biofuel."
    • "'We've shown that planting perennial bioenergy crops can lower surface temperatures by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit locally, averaged over the entire growing season,' said study co-author David Lobell, assistant professor of environmental Earth system science and a center fellow at Stanford's Program on Food Security and the Environment."
    • "In the study, Lobell and his colleagues used a computer simulation to forecast the climatic effects of converting farmland in the Midwest from annual crops—like corn and soybeans—to perennial grasses. The results showed that large-scale perennial cultivation in the 12-state area would pump significantly more water from the soil to the atmosphere, producing enough water vapor to cool the local surface temperature by 1.8 F."[44]
  • Climate change, biofuels threaten food security-FAO, 7 March 2011 by Scientific American: "Climate change bringing floods and drought, growing biofuel demand and national policies to protect domestic markets could drive up global food prices and threaten long-term food security, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization said."
    • "The Rome-based FAO has already warned food-producing countries against introducing export curbs to protect local markets as world food prices push further above the levels that triggered deadly riots in 2007/2008."
    • "The number of hungry people could fall by 100-150 million people if women farmers were given the same access to production and financial resources as men, the agency said."
    • "Farm output in developing countries could rise by 2.5-4.0 percent if yields on the land farmed by women increased to the levels achieved by men. That in turn would reduce the global number of undernourished people by 12-17 percent."[45]
  • Counting the carbon cost of peatland conversion, 7 March 2011 by Nature News: "Up to 6% of carbon-rich peat-swamp forests had been cleared in Peninsular Malaysia and on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra to make way for oil-palm plantations by the early 2000s, according to a study published today. The clearances, a response to rising demand for food and biofuel, released as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the entire UK transport sector does in a year."
    • "Like most forests, peat-swamp forests store large amounts of carbon above ground as biomass, and this is lost when the forest is cleared. They also store large amounts of carbon in their soils, as dead organic matter decomposes slowly under marshy conditions. Draining peatlands to create agricultural land oxidizes the soil and releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere."
    • "For the first 25 years after an oil-palm plantation is established in a peat-swamp forest, about 60 tonnes of carbon dioxide are released per hectare every year, according to recent research."[46]
  • Chaos at the Pumps - German Consumers Are Wary of New E10 Biofuel, 4 March 2011 by Der Spiegel: "Germany recently began introducing gasoline containing a higher percentage of biofuels. But consumers have so far been skittish, leading to production chaos and shortages of traditional gasoline. Some politicians have called for laws mandating that biofuels be scrapped altogether."
    • "It began as a plan to reduce the amount of CO2 being pumped into European skies. But a European Union directive requiring gas stations to sell fuel with 10 percent ethanol content has hit a snag in Germany, where consumers are avoiding the new petrol -- known as E10 -- because it is harmful to some cars."
    • "The controversy looks set to trigger yet another debate over the feasibility of using biofuels on a large scale....Not only is significant energy used in the production of the fuel, but it isn't uncommon for forestland -- a natural absorber of CO2 -- to be clear-cut for the planting of biofuels crops. Critics have also questioned the use of farmland for automobile fuel in an age of skyrocketing food prices."[47]
  • New FAO study shows integrated food and energy crops work for poor farmers, 17 February 2011 by Food and Agriculture Organization: "Producing food and energy side-by-side may offer one of the best formulas for boosting countries' food and energy security while simultaneously reducing poverty, according to a new FAO report."
    • "'Farming systems that combine food and energy crops present numerous benefits to poor rural communities,' said Alexander Müller, FAO Assistant Director-General for Natural Resources."
    • "'With these integrated systems farmers can save money because they don't have to buy costly fossil fuel, nor chemical fertilizer if they use the slurry from biogas production. They can then use the savings to buy necessary inputs to increase agricultural productivity, such as seeds adapted to changing climatic conditions — an important factor given that a significant increase in food production in the next decades will have to be carried out under conditions of climate change.'"
    • "Integrating food and energy production can also be an effective approach to mitigating climate change, especially emissions stemming from land use change."[48]
    • "To see the full report, go to Making Integrated Food-Energy Systems (IFES) Work for People and Climate - An Overview(PDF File)"
  • Palm oil giant vows to spare most valuable Indonesian rainforest, 9 February 2011 by The Guardian: "Golden Agri-Resources Limited has committed itself to protecting forests and peatlands with a high level of biodiversity, or which provide major carbon sinks, as part of an agreement with conservation group the Forest Trust."
    • "However, the agreement announced on Wednesday will still leave GAR free to exploit other areas of forest, and land that is judged to be of lower conservation value."
    • "Scott Poynton, executive director of the Forest Trust, said 'It's about going to the root causes of deforestation – we have shown that the destruction of forests is anchored deeply in the supply chains of the products we consume in industrialised nations, and we are showing we can do something about that.'"
    • He said pressure from Nestlé, which last year drew up a set of sustainability guidelines and signalled that it would not accept palm oil from sources connected to deforestation, had been instrumental in bringing GAR to the table."
    • "Experts in Indonesia will be asked to judge whether GAR forests have "high conservation value" under guidance from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a coalition of the palm oil industry and conservation groups."[49]
  • Failure to act on crop shortages fuelling political instability, experts warn, 7 February 2011 by The Guardian: "World leaders are ignoring potentially disastrous shortages of key crops, and their failures are fuelling political instability in key regions, food experts have warned."
    • "Food prices have hit record levels in recent weeks, according to the United Nations, and soaring prices for staples such as grains over the past few months are thought to have been one of the factors contributing to an explosive mix of popular unrest in Egypt and Tunisia."
    • "Water scarcity, combined with soil erosion, climate change, the diversion of food crops to make biofuels, and a growing population, were all putting unprecedented pressure on the world's ability to feed itself, according to [Lester] Brown" of the Earth Policy Institute.[50]
  • Inhofe's new allies on ethanol issue surprising, 30 January 2011 by Tulsa World: "WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's efforts on ethanol have provided unlikely allies for the Oklahoma Republican perhaps best known to such groups for calling man-made global warming a hoax."
    • "Kate McMahon, the biofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, was not reticent about discussing the matter publicly and even complimented Inhofe for having a good staff to work on such issues."
    • "'Simply put, in this city, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies,' McMahon said."[51]
  • IEA Bioenergy Releases Report on Bioenergy and Land Use Change, January 2011 by International Institute for Sustainable Development: "International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Bioenergy Task has published a report for policy makers titled 'Bioenergy, Land Use Change and Climate Change Mitigation,' which addresses how the climate change mitigation from the use of bioenergy can be influenced by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from land-use change."
    • "It discusses ways to avoid the need to include land use within emissions calculations by using of post-consumer organic residues and by-products from the agricultural and forest industries as bioenergy feedstock."
    • "The report further provides that the use of second generation technologies, as well as marginal or degraded lands, can mitigate climate-related effects of land use change."[53]
    • To read the report, go to Bioenergy, Land Use Change and Climate Change Mitigation


  • New Wikileaks show biofuel food impacts were underestimated, 14 December 2010 by Kenneth Richter of Friends of the Earth UK: "I found out today that biofuels and GM crops now have their very own Wikileak."
    • "The secret cables reveal some yet more evidence about US attempts to push GM crops onto Africa. The cables also contain notes from an international meeting called by Gordon Brown on biofuels and the food crises in 2008."
    • "In that meeting Joachim Von Braun, Director General of the [International] Food Policy Institute Research (IFPRI) suggested a moratorium on maize for biofuels. Their modelling showed it would immediately slash maize prices by 20 per cent and wheat prices by 10 per cent, with further reductions because it would discourage speculation."
    • "But this idea was dismissed by other participants. Cargill's Ruth Rawling predicted that wheat prices would come down quite quickly without the moratorium. The Overseas Development Institute estimated that prices would fall back from their 2008 peak to roughly what they had been in the early 1990s."
    • "How wrong they were."
    • "Wheat has now risen in price by nearly two-thirds in the past six months. Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilever's chief supply chain officer acknowledges: 'The world is losing arable land at a rate of about 40,000 square miles a year. That is land being used for biofuel production, while climate change is eroding away topsoil.'"
    • "As a result the FAO now predicts another major global food crisis for 2011."[54]
  • Deforestation 'not so important for climate change' , 8 December 2010 by New Scientist: "Climate negotiations were dealt a bombshell at the weekend when ecologists reported that carbon emissions from the destruction of tropical forests are probably only half previous estimates."
    • "[T]he findings seriously question the only success so far of the UN negotiations on curbing climate change under way in Cancún, Mexico. If cutting down trees emits far less CO2 than we thought, where's the incentive to stop chopping?"
    • "Four years ago, the UN's Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change estimated that deforestation was responsible for up to 20 per cent of CO2 emissions. A more recent study...revised that down to 15 per cent for the period 2000 to 2005."
    • "But now ecologists at Winrock International, a respected US consultancy based in Arlington, Virginia, whose work was funded by the World Bank and the Norwegian government, says a more detailed analysis puts the figure for 2000 to 2005 at around 8 per cent, with a possible range between 5 and 12 per cent."
    • "The analysis, which has yet to be formally published, used...a laser-radar satellite measurement technique known as lidar and 4000 carbon inventories from forest plots on the ground."[55]
  • Biofuel worse for climate than fossil fuel - study, 7 November 2010 by Reuters: "European plans to promote biofuels will drive farmers to convert 69,000 square km of wild land into fields and plantations, depriving the poor of food and accelerating climate change, a report warned on Monday."
    • "As a result, the extra biofuels that Europe will use over the next decade will generate between 81 and 167 percent more carbon dioxide than fossil fuels, says the report."
    • "Nine environmental groups reached the conclusion after analysing official data on the European Union's goal of getting 10 percent of transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020."
    • "But the European Commission's energy team, which originally formulated the goal, countered that the bulk of the land needed would be found by recultivating abandoned farmland in Europe and Asia, minimising the impact."
    • "The debate centres on a new concept known as "indirect land-use change."
    • "In essence, that means that if you take a field of grain and switch the crop to biofuel, somebody, somewhere, will go hungry unless those missing tonnes of grain are grown elsewhere."
    • "The report was compiled by ActionAid, Birdlife International, ClientEarth, European Environment Bureau, FERN, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, Transport & Environment, Wetlands International."[58]
  • Scientists Spar With Defender of Palm Oil and Pulp Firms, 29 October 2010 by New York Times' Dot Earth Blog: "A dozen scientists focused on the diversity and health of tropical forests released a letter this week describing what they say are deceptive statements made by two groups working on behalf of palm oil, timber and pulp interests. In the document, 'An Open Letter about Scientific Credibility and the Conservation of Tropical Forests,' the scientists strongly criticize the groups, World Growth International (WGI), a nonprofit organization, and International Trade Strategies Global (ITS), a consultancy on international trade issues. Here are a couple of their complaints:"
    • "A recent technical report by ITS concluded that 'There is no evidence of substantial deforestation' in Papua New Guinea, a conclusion strongly at variance with quantitative, remote-sensing studies of forest conversion published in the refereed scientific literature. Reports from WGI and ITS routinely claim that newly established oil palm plantations sequester carbon more rapidly than do old-growth rainforests."
    • "This claim, while technically correct, is a distraction from the reality that mature oil palm plantations store much less carbon than do old-growth rainforests (plantations store just 40-80 tons of biomass aboveground, half of which is carbon, compared to 200-400 tons of aboveground biomass in old-growth rainforests)."[60]
  • Bioenergy’s Carbon Neutrality Dismissed by Coalition of NGOs, 20 October 2010 by the Energy Collective: "A coalition of environmental organizations has warned that bioenergy is far from being carbon neutral and that related carbon accounting systems currently in place are deceptive."
    • "According to Ecosystems Climate Alliance, an alliance of NGOs committed to 'keeping natural terrestrial ecosystems intact and their carbon out of the atmosphere', zero-emission bioenergy is a myth. It blames the loopholes in LULUCF’s (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) accounting rules for the misconception."
    • "ECA says" that nations "with renewable energy targets allow biomass burners to stay out of emissions accounting, backed by the 'deceptive assumption that prior sequestration is sufficient to neutralize the problem', and give them generous financial incentives for generating 'green energy'. This way they act as serious competition for real renewables like wind and solar, which have much higher unit cost of production."
    • "The fact that emissions from logging and burning of biomass are left out of Kyoto Protocol accounting systems, ECA says, creates an 'attractive but misleading way for industrialized countries to appear to be achieving their national emissions reduction targets under the Protocol through substituting bioenergy for fossil fuels. In reality, such substitution results in higher emissions than those from fossil fuel for the same amount of useable energy.'"[61]
  • Royal Society issues new climate change guide that admits there are 'uncertainties' about the science, 30 September 2010 by The Daily Mail: "The UK’s leading scientific body has been forced to rewrite its guide on climate change and admit that it is not known how much warmer the Earth will become."
    • "The Royal Society has updated its guide after 43 of its members complained that the previous version failed to take into account the opinion of climate change sceptics."
    • "Now the new guide, called 'Climate change: a summary of the science', admits that there are some 'uncertainties' regarding the science behind climate change."
    • "The 19-page guide says: 'It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future, but careful estimates of potential changes and associated uncertainties have been made.'"
    • "The new guidance still makes it clear that human activity is one of the likely causes for climate change but now does so in a more considered way."[62]
  • Greens Warn World Bank Over Palm Oil Funding, 5 September 2010 by Jakarta Globe: "Environmental groups Greenpeace and Sawit Watch have called on the World Bank to extend its international suspension of financing for the palm oil sector unless producers meet environmental criteria."
    • "Jefri Saragih, head of Sawit’s campaign in Indonesia, said on Sunday that the World Bank must provide palm oil makers with clear guidelines on what they must do to reduce their industry’s impact on global warming."
    • "Since 1965, the World Bank has channeled nearly $2 billion for 45 projects in the palm oil sector in 12 nations across Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia."
    • "Indonesia has been a major focus of the financing, receiving $618.8 million of the total funding. The World Bank suspended the financing in September 2009 over environmental concerns."[64]
  • UK biofuels 'falling short' on environmental standards, 31 August 2010 by BBC: "The Renewable Fuels Agency says it is disappointed that the vast majority of biofuels sold on UK forecourts do not conform to environmental standards."
    • "The body said fuel suppliers were meeting legally binding volume targets but some were falling 'well short' on achieving voluntary green standards."
    • "Currently under the RTFO, only the volume target is mandatory; the carbon savings and environmental standards goals were voluntary."
    • "However, this is set to change when the EU Renewable Fuel Directive (RED) comes into force at the end of the year, which will expect member states to ensure the biofuels meet both environmental and carbon saving criteria."[65]
  • Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels adopts 50% GHG Threshold for Compliant Fuel Blends, 23 July 2010 by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels: As reported in the Summary Report of the RSB Steering Board Meeting held 15-17 June 2010 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the RSB Steering Board adopted a “significant and ambitious” decision regarding the GHG Emissions Threshold (Criterion 3c) that should be established for RSB-qualifying biofuels.
    • The decision adopted by consensus was that "[T]he blend obtained by a retailer/blender by mixing RSB compliant biofuels from various sources, shall have 50% lower GHG emissions than fossil fuel on average. Such blend of biofuels or a neat biofuel (i.e. pure biofuel sold unblended) cannot make any claim of compliance if it does not reduce GHG emissions by 50%."
    • In addition, 'all individual RSB compliant biofuels shall have lower GHG emissions over their life cycle, compared to the fossil fuel baseline".[68]
  • New CBO Report Examines Biofuels Tax Incentives, 16 July 2010 by Mackinnon Lawrence: "CBO releases report this week assessing biofuel incentives. Study finds that biofuel subsidies, costs associated with reducing petroleum use and GHG emissions vary by fuel."
    • "First, after making adjustments for the different energy contents of the various biofuels and the petroleum fuel used to produce them, the report finds that producers of ethanol made from corn receive 73 cents to provide an amount of biofuel with the energy equivalent to that in one gallon of gasoline. On a similar basis, producers of cellulosic ethanol receive $1.62, and producers of biodiesel receive $1.08."
    • "Second, the report finds reducing petroleum use costs taxpayers anywhere from $1.78 – 3.00 per one gallon of gasoline, again, depending on the type of fuel."
    • "Third, the costs to taxpayers of reducing greenhouse gas emissions varies from $275 per metric ton of CO2e for cellulosic, $300 per metric ton for CO2e for biodiesel, and about $750 per metric ton of CO2e for ethanol . NOTE: the CBO estimates do not reflect any emissions associated with land use change (direct or indirect)."
    • "Domestic Fuel reports this week that the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) asserts the report provides no comparison to other technologies or types of biofuels against the destruction that goes hand in hand with fossil fuel production."[69]
  • Klobuchar bill: trojan horse for bad biofuels, 14 July 2010, Nathanael Greene’s Blog/NRDC: "It should come as no surprise that the first copy of the full text of Sen Klobuchar's energy bill was found on a corn ethanol industry association website; the bill reads like the industry's wish list."
    • "Today's corn ethanol is mature and mainstream and, unfortunately, generally causes more global warming pollution than gasoline."
    • "Here are some of laundry list of bad biofuel provisions:
  • New Rules May Cloud the Outlook for Biomass, 9 July 2010 by New York Times: "An energy technology that has long been viewed as a clean and climate-friendly alternative to fossil fuels is facing tough new regulatory hurdles that could ultimately hamper its ability to compete with renewable power sources like wind and solar."
    • "[A] long-simmering debate in Massachusetts questioning the environmental benefits of biomass has culminated in new rules that will limit what sorts of projects will qualify for renewable energy incentives there....The new proposals would, among other things, require the projects to provide 'significant near-term greenhouse gas dividends.'"
    • "[M]any environmental groups say that the benefits of biomass power — and all forms of energy derived from organic sources, including biofuels — are realized only in carefully controlled circumstances. The cycle of carbon emission and absorption also unfolds over long periods of time that need to be carefully monitored."[71]
  • Magically carbon neutral biomass, evil EPA rules and other myths, 18 June 2010 by Nathanael Greene on the NRDC Switchboard blog: "The [biomass] industry has convinced policymakers that no matter how much carbon is 'spent' when biomass is burned for energy, there will magically be enough income in the form of regrowth to cover all expenses. Because of this magic, the industry would have us categorically exclude their emissions when we do our carbon accounting."
    • A recent Massachusetts report "makes it very clear that most forest biomass is not carbon neutral."
    • "The ultimate solution is a comprehensive climate and energy bill that requires careful accounting of all carbon, including the carbon released and absorbed by biomass."[73]
  • Mass. study: Wood power worse polluter than coal, 10 June 2010 by Associated Press: "A new study has found that wood-burning power plants using trees and other 'biomass' from New England forests releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than coal over time."
    • "The report, conducted by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, concludes that the net cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases from replacing coal-fired plants with biomass would be 3 percent greater by 2050 than from using coal to generate electricity."
    • "Researchers arrived at the figure by comparing how much carbon is emitted into the atmosphere through the burning of wood — what they termed 'carbon debt' — with the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere from the regrowth of forests, or 'carbon dividends.'"[75]
  • Big Meat: Fueling Change or Greenwashing Fuel?, 3 June 2010 by Anna Lappé in The Atlantic: "On January 13, 2009, Tyson—one of the world's largest processors of chicken, beef, and pork—and the fuel company Syntroleum broke ground in Geismar, Louisiana, on a 'renewable' diesel plant."
    • "Tyson claims these facilities produce eco-friendly, cleaner-burning fuels from scraps that would otherwise be wasted. But critics beg to differ....They charge that this fuel is renewable only in the narrowest sense, if you ignore the complete life cycle of its production. The fuels depend on energy-intensive, greenhouse-gas-emitting confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which require feed raised with methods that deplete topsoil and overuse synthetic fertilizer, contributing to carbon dioxide emissions."[76]
  • Indonesia puts moratorium on new forest clearing, 27 May 2010 by Reuters: "Indonesia will place a two-year moratorium on new concessions to clear natural forests and peatlands under a deal signed with Norway aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, the government said in a statement."
    • Under a bilateral agreement, "Norway will invest $1 billion in forest conservation projects in Indonesia."
    • "The suspension would encourage the development of new plantations 'on degraded lands rather than vulnerable forests and peatlands'."
    • "Palm oil firms such as Wilmar and Indofood Agri Resources have big expansion plans in Indonesia, already the largest producer of an oil used to make everything from biscuits to soap."
    • "Part of Norway's $1 billion will be spent on creating monitoring systems and pilot projects under a U.N.-backed forest preservation scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)."
    • "REDD allows developing nations to earn money by not chopping down their trees and preserving carbon-rich peatlands, seen as key to slowing climate change because forests soak up huge amounts of greenhouse gases."[77]
  • Scientists to Congress & Obama: count the carbon in biomass, 24 May 2010 blog post by Nathanael Greene at the Natural Resource Defense Council: "Today a group of leading scientists from across the country sent a letter to congressional leaders and Obama officials urging them to carefully count the carbon from biomass burned for energy as part of a comprehensive climate bill or any other legislation or regulation. The letter makes abundantly clear that failing to do so risks sacrificing forests around the globe and putting more pollution into the atmosphere, not less."
    • "[T]he American Power Act (APA) proposed by Senators Kerry and Lieberman provides a solid framework for reducing our global warming pollution and investing in a cleaner economy. Unfortunately, as proposed, the bill would turn a blind eye towards emissions from biomass combustion, threatening to significantly undermine the bills carbon reduction goals."[78]
  • Rainforests Lose Out in Senate's New Climate Bill, 18 May 2010 by Time: "The climate bill passed by the House of Representatives last June set an ambitious goal of conserving the carbon trapped in forests equal to 10% of U.S. emissions, and in doing so, set aside 5% of total emissions allowance value from carbon auctions, which could bring $3 to $5 billion a year, to the protection of forests in developing nations."
    • "But while the Kerry-Lieberman bill in the Senate has the same broad goal for conserving forests, it devotes no specific funds to stopping deforestation."
    • "Although the Senate bill does give the President the authority to designate up to 5% of carbon revenue to deforestation or other international aims within the context of a global deal, which is meaningful, it's not as effective as specifically dedicating money to stop deforestation. Further, limiting REDD in a U.S. climate bill could make getting a global deal — already a near impossible challenge — even tougher. REDD was one of the few areas that showed glimmers of promise at the chaotic U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen last December....But as the Senate bill stands now, REDD could end up dead."[80]
  • Biofuels: Airplane fuel of the future?, 5 April by Arthur Max, Associated Press: "Within a decade, passenger planes will be flying on jet fuel largely made from plants — flax, marsh grass, even food waste — as airlines seek to break away from the volatile oil market and do their part to fight climate change, aviation experts say."
    • "Dependency on agrofuels 'will lead to faster deforestation and climate change and spells disaster for indigenous peoples, other forest-dependent communities and small farmers, says a statement from the Global Forest Coalition, an alliance of environmental groups."
    • "A Swiss-based organization, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, has drawn up standards for certifying the entire chain of production."
    • "The European Union has decided that by 2012 all flights into and from European airports will be subject to the European carbon trading program. That means airlines will be given a limit on how much carbon dioxide they can emit, and they can buy or sell carbon credits depending on whether they are over or under their targets."[84]
  • UN ‘exaggerated’ meat impact on climate change, 25 March 2010 by Farmer's Guardian: "A leading scientist has accused the UN of exaggerating the impact of meat and dairy production on climate change."
    • "A 2006 UN report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation claimed meat production was responsible for 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions....The report, titled 'Livestock’s Long Shadow', added agriculture had a greater impact on global warming than transport."
    • "But Professor Frank Mitloehner, an air quality specialist from the University of California at Davis (UCD), said agriculture’s impact had been exaggerated....He said the UN figures totted up emissions from farm to table – including the impact of growing the feed, from livestock and from processing....However, transport emissions only considered emissions from fossil fuels burned while driving."
    • "He said leading authorities in the US agreed raising cattle and pigs for food accounted for about 3 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation created an estimated 26 percent."[85]
  • 'Black Carbon' Crackdown Offers Fast-Action Solution to Slow Warming, 17 March 2010 blog post by Stacy Feldman: "Lawmakers, scientists and advocates in the U.S. intensified calls Tuesday to immediately cut emissions from climate-warming soot — also known as black carbon — as deadlock continues in Congress over far more complicated regulation of carbon dioxide."
    • "Black carbon causes up to 600 times the warming of CO2 and lasts just a few weeks in the atmosphere, whereas CO2 lingers for a century or more. Because of black carbon's short lifespan, the impact of efforts to knock out the potent, heat-absorbing particle would be near immediate."
    • "The U.S. contributes 5.5 percent to that global total, estimates say, mainly from diesel engines. Advocates argue the nation could easily shrink that number down to almost nothing, starting now. The filters to trap up to 90 percent of diesel pollution, for instance, are ready to go."[87]
  • Black Carbon a Significant Factor in Melting of Himalayan Glaciers, 4 February 2010 by Science Daily: "[A]irborne black carbon aerosols, or soot, from India is a major contributor to the decline in snow and ice cover on the glaciers."
    • "'Our simulations showed greenhouse gases alone are not nearly enough to be responsible for the snow melt,' says Menon, a physicist and staff scientist in Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division. 'Most of the change in snow and ice cover -- about 90 percent -- is from aerosols. Black carbon alone contributes at least 30 percent of this sum.'"
    • "'Carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for 100 years, but black carbon doesn't stay in the atmosphere for more than a few weeks, so the effects of controlling black carbon are much faster,' Menon says. 'If you control black carbon now, you're going to see an immediate effect.'"[88]
  • Global deal on climate change in 2010 'all but impossible', 1 February 2010 by The Guardian: "A global deal to tackle climate change is all but impossible in 2010, leaving the scale and pace of action to slow global warming in coming decades uncertain, according to senior figures across the world involved in the negotiations."
    • "'The forces trying to tackle climate change are in disarray, wandering in small groups around the battlefield like a beaten army,' said a senior British diplomat."
    • "Many of those contacted say only a legally binding deal setting "top-down" global limits on emissions can ultimately avoid the worst impacts of rising temperatures. But a global deal at the next major climate summit in Mexico is impossible, says the former deputy prime minister John Prescott".[89]


  • Copenhagen: Non-binding political accord under discussion as talks near an end, 18 December 2009 by Yale Environment 360: "With time running out in at the climate summit, negotiators are considering issuing a political statement, 'The Copenhagen Accord,' that would not lead to a binding climate agreement next year but rather set a goal of halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050."
    • "The accord would delay formal consideration of a treaty reducing greenhouse gas emissions until 2012, and in the meantime set a goal for industrialized nations to slash their greenhouse emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with emissions from all nations being cut by 50 percent by 2050."
  • Biofuels Take Center Stage in Copenhagen, 17 December 2009 by 25x'25 REsource Blog: Copenhagen climate summit events "highlighted the critically important role biofuels can play in addressing the multiple challenges that must be addressed in a rapidly changing world. Specifically, the events and discussions underscored how renewable, clean fuels sustainably created from current and next generation bioenergy feedstocks can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), improve food security, stimulate economic development and reduce global poverty."
    • "The sustainable production of cleaner-burning biofuels is among several agricultural practices that offer readily available and cost-effective options for reducing and avoiding the emission of greenhouse gases and stemming climate change."[90]
  • In Copenhagen's Dark Mood, a Ray of Light for Forests 17 December 2009 by TIME: "there has been progress on ...REDD, which would allow developed nations to pay countries to preserve their rain forests and earn carbon credits. A draft text presented to the delegations on Wednesday had most, if not all, of the major issues ironed out."
    • "REDD got another boost on Wednesday when U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. would commit $1 billion over the next three years to help protect tropical forests."
    • "Negotiators of the draft text say far more will eventually be needed, somewhere north of $20 billion, but the U.S. pledge is a good start and perhaps the first of many others."
  • USDA Makes a Move on Methane, 12 December 2009 by CQ Politics: "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a conference call from Copenhagen that his department and the dairy industry have reached an agreement to accelerate efforts to reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. The announcement is part of the Obama administration’s continuing campaign to convince farmers they can benefit from an international agreement on climate change."
    • "USDA will provide technical assistance and grants to dairy farmers for anaerobic digesters and generators used to compost manure, extract gases and burn them to produce electricity. Manure emits methane, a major greenhouse gas."[91]
  • CLIMATE CHANGE: Brazil Defends Biofuels, 9 December 2009 by IPS/TerraViva: "Being the world’s largest producer and exporter of ethanol it is natural for the Brazilian government and its partners to push biofuels as the only real alternative for a world trying wean itself away from fossil fuels that contribute to global warming."
    • "Brazilian authorities were ready with their arguments at the United Nations climate change summit"...."at pains to show that not only is biofuel production the best way to reduce greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions but can also combat poverty as exemplified by the country’s scheme to promote micro-distilleries to provide additional income for rural families."
    • "While admitting that "biofuels are no silver bullet," Brazilian authorities insist that biofuels are the best way forward for developing countries."[92]
  • Indonesia could double oil palm plantation area, 2 December 2009 by Mongabay: "Indonesia has 18 million hectares of land suitable for oil palm cultivation, nearly twice the 9.7 million hectares that have already been allocated for plantations, said Agriculture Minister the opening of the 5th Indonesian Palm Oil Conference in Bali."
    • "[E]conomic returns from oil palm plantations could soon face competition under a scheme (known as REDD for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) that would compensate countries for protecting carbon sinks, notably tropical forests and possibly peatlands. Under some circumstances carbon conservation could outperform palm oil production....Indonesia's recent announcements about oil palm expansion across peatlands may in fact be posturing to win more compensation under a REDD mechanism."[94]
  • DOE and USDA Award $24 Million in Biomass Grants, 18 November 2009 by EERE News: "DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on November 12 more than $24 million in grants for the research and development (R&D) of biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products. The grants will support a dozen projects aimed at increasing the availability of biofuels and other products produced from biomass."
    • "[T]hree awards will support analyses of future biofuels production. Purdue University will analyze the global impacts of second-generation biofuels within the context of other energy technologies, as well as alternative economic and climate change policy options".[95]
Deforestation for slash-and-burn agriculture in the tropics.
  • UN's forest protection scheme at risk from organised crime, experts warn, 5 October 2009 by "International police, politicians and conservationists warn that the UN's programme to cut carbon emissions by paying poor countries to preserve their forests is 'open to wide abuse'".
    • "...academics and environment groups with long experience working with the logging industry and indigenous communities said that both government and private schemes are being set up with no guarantees to protect communities who depend on the forests. 'Decisions are being rushed, communities are not consulted or compensated and the lure of money from cutting emissions is overiding everything,' says Rosalind Reeve of forestry watchdog group Global Witness."
  • Giants in Cattle Industry Agree to Help Fight Deforestation, 6 October 2009 by The New York Times: "At a conference...organized by Greenpeace, the four cattle companies — Bertin, JBS-Friboi, Marfrig and Minerva — agreed to support Greenpeace’s call for an end to the deforestation."
    • "Blairo Maggi, the governor of Mato Grosso, the Brazilian state with the highest rate of deforestation in the Amazon and the country’s largest cattle herd, said Monday that he would support efforts to protect the Amazon and provide high-resolution satellite imagery to help monitor the region."
    • "Conspicuously missing from Monday’s announcement was the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil. The government is struggling to reconcile its social and development goals in the Amazon with its desire to be a major player in global climate change talks."
  • The Other Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis in Global Land Use, 5 October 2009 by Yale Environment 360: "Our use of land, particularly for agriculture, is absolutely essential to the success of the human race. We depend on agriculture to supply us with food, feed, fiber, and, increasingly, biofuels. Without a highly efficient, productive, and resilient agricultural system, our society would collapse almost overnight."
    • "[L]and use is also one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Of the three most important man-made greenhouse gasses — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — land use and agricultural practices, including tropical deforestation, emit 30 percent of the total. That’s more than the emissions from all the world’s passenger cars, trucks, trains and planes, or the emissions from all electricity generation or manufacturing. Compared to any other human activity, land use and agriculture are the greatest emitters of greenhouse gasses. The vast majority comes from deforestation, methane emissions from animals and rice fields, and nitrous oxide emissions from heavily fertilized fields. Yet, for some reason, agriculture has been largely able to avoid the attention of emissions reductions policies."[96]
  • Africa's burning charcoal problem, 25 September 2009 by BBC: "[A]ccording to the Tanzania Association of Oil Marketing Companies, 20,000 bags of charcoal enter the capital Dar es Salaam every 24 hours....But the impact of this is chilling."
    • "Aid agency Christian Aid estimates that 182 million people in Africa are at risk of dying as a consequence of climate change by the end of the century....One adaptation option for Africa is to keep her forests standing so that they provide essential environmental services such as carbon sinks".
    • "But Africa has not been very good at this....According to the UN the continent is losing forest twice as fast as the rest of the world."
    • "Wood and its by-product charcoal are, unless radical steps are taken, likely to remain the primary energy source for decades....Additionally, charcoal is a lucrative business..."[97]
  • UN's Ban calls deforestation summit, 3 September 2009 by AFP: "UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he planned to bring together leaders of the world's most forested nations, including Brazil and Indonesia, for a meeting this month to discuss deforestation" on 22 September.
    • "The UN Environment Programme recently underlined that since trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), stemming deforestation could be a tried and tested method in tackling climate change instead of more ambitious carbon capture projects."
    • The proposed meeting in New York would coincide with the UN summit on climate change."[98]
  • Can Dirt Really Save Us From Global Warming?, 3 September 2009 by NPR: "This month the Senate is set to take up the climate and energy bill that Congress began work on last spring. One provision will likely set up a system to pay farmers for something called 'no-till farming.'"
    • "The concept: When crops are planted without tilling, the soil holds more carbon, which means less goes up into the atmosphere."
    • "But scientists aren't sure no-till really sequesters carbon any better than conventional farming....Researchers have discovered that when you dig down three feet or so, plowed fields hold just as much — if not more — carbon than no-till."
    • "There's a possible conflict brewing here, though. Federal law and the energy bill encourage farmers to remove crop residue — the remains of the previous season's crop — to make ethanol."
    • "'That's a no-no,'" soil scientist Rattan Lal says. "'The moment you take the crop residue away the benefit of no-till farming on erosion control, water conservation and on carbon sequestration will not be realized.'"(Audio also available)
  • Tasmania gets Australia's first REDD deal, 27 July 2009 by "A forest conservation project in Tasmania has become Australia's first Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) project to meet Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards."
    • "'The goal is to protect half a million hectares across Australia within the next 5 years...'"
    • "Recent biomass surveys have found that some old-growth forests in Tasmania store more than 650 tons of carbon per hectare, exceeding the amount of carbon stored in the vegetation of most tropical rainforests. Plantations established in place of old-growth forests after clearing store considerable less carbon." [99]
  • Climate bill a farm income boost, USDA estimates, 22 July 2009 by Reuters: "U.S. farmers and foresters could earn more money from carbon contracts than they pay in higher costs from legislation to control greenhouse gases, the Agriculture Department estimated on Wednesday."
    • "USDA's "preliminary analysis" was one of the first attempts at a broad-spectrum examination of the House-passed climate bill."
    • "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the House climate bill would increase farm expenses by $700 million, or 0.3 percent, from 2012-18. That would be offset by revenue from a carbon offset market, estimated by USDA at $1 billion a year in the near term and $15 billion in 2040. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said offsets would be worth nearly $3 billion a year in 2020 for farms, ranches and forests."
    • "Beyond that, said Vilsack, is income from biofuels, worth a net return of at least $600 million a year."
    • "The EPA estimates U.S. cropland accounts for 6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions but growing vegetation removes 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."[100]
  • House Committee on Small Business Takes Notice of Biochar, 21 July 2009 by re:char (with video): "On Thursday, May 21 University of Georgia Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering K.C. Das testified before the house Committee on Small Business. The hearing’s purpose was to discuss 'the impacts of outstanding regulatory policy on small biofuels producers and family farmers including biochar carbon sequestration.'"
    • Das stated: "'From what I see there is very little discussion at the national level, at the federal agencies, or within the existing legislature or outstanding legislature legislations that discuss biochar as a means of addressing the excessive carbon levels already in the atmosphere], and I’d like to bring that to your attention."[101]
  • Exxon Sinks $600M Into Algae-Based Biofuels in Major Strategy Shift, 15 July 2009 by The New York Times: "Exxon is joining a biotech company, Synthetic Genomics Inc., to research and develop next-generation biofuels produced from sunlight, water and waste carbon dioxide by photosynthetic pond scum."
    • "Next-wave biofuels that could reduce carbon emissions and displace oil imports are politically popular but have not moved into commercial production as fast as supporters would have hoped. Biofuels overall got a boost through a 2007 law that expands the national renewable fuels standard, or RFS, to reach 36 billion gallons by 2022."
    • "Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said the RFS expansion is too restrictive and could freeze out emerging technologies -- including algae-based biofuels....'despite having characteristics superior to any renewable fuels in commercial production today, [algae-based fuels] have no home in the RFS'".
  • Carbon Offsets and the Emerging Climate Coalition, 9 July 2009 by the Brookings Institution: "In the context of a cap-and-trade program — the centerpiece of the Waxman-Markey bill and probably any Senate package — farm-state concerns largely boil down to concerns about the treatment of carbon offsets, credits that could be awarded for activities outside of capped sectors, like sequestration of carbon in managed forests or in agricultural soils. Such credits could potentially provide a steady stream of revenue back to regions of the country that have historically been slower to warm to the idea of cap-and-trade."
    • "Keep in mind that, in practice, any number of problems could threaten the integrity of an offset project. For example, carbon could physically leak out if attention to a given project lets up in the future (a problem referred to as 'non-permanence') or the project could shift carbon-intensive activities elsewhere (a problem referred to as economic 'leakage')."[102]
  • Palm oil could scuttle forest carbon plan: experts, 29 May 2009 by Reuters: "Carbon credits derived from a fledgling forest conservation scheme for developing nations will struggle to compete with palm oil as an investment...”
    • "...REDD allows developing countries to raise potentially billions of dollars in carbon credits in exchange for conserving and rehabilitating forests...However, profits from palm oil plantations could, in some cases, out-compete revenue from selling REDD credits…"
    • "...REDD credits arising from 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of conserved forest sold over a 30-year period -- where payments were front-loaded so that most of the money was delivered within the first eight years -- could fetch about $118 million if those credits could be used to meet emissions obligations for rich nations."
    • "The same credits would fetch only $14 million if their purchase was voluntary...'Whereas high-yield palm oil would get about $96 million'..."
  • Here comes the latest utopian catastrophe: the plan to solve climate change with biochar, 24 March 2009 by George Monbiot, columnist for The Guardian: "Biomass is suddenly the universal answer to our climate and energy problems."
    • "The idea is that wood and crop wastes are cooked to release the volatile components (which can be used as fuel), then the residue - the charcoal - is buried in the soil. According to the magical thinkers who promote it, the new miracle stops climate breakdown, replaces gas and petroleum, improves the fertility of the soil, reduces deforestation, cuts labour, creates employment," etc.
    • "This miracle solution has suckered people who ought to know better....At the UN climate negotiations beginning in Bonn on Sunday, several national governments will demand that biochar is eligible for carbon credits".
    • "The energy lecturer Peter Read proposes new biomass plantations of trees and sugar covering 1.4 billion ha....Were we to follow Read's plan, we would either have to replace all the world's crops with biomass plantations, causing instant global famine, or we would have to double the cropped area of the planet, trashing most of its remaining natural habitats."[106]


  • U.S. will fail to meet biofuels mandate -EIA, 17 December 2008 by Reuters: "The United States will fall well short of biofuels mandates on the uncertain development of next-generation fuels made from grasses and wood chips, the government's top energy forecasting agency said on Wednesday."
    • "The country, the world's top producer of the main biofuel ethanol, will only blend about 30 billion gallons of fuels like corn-based ethanol and the advanced fuels into gasoline by 2022. That is about 17 percent short of the U.S. mandate of 36 billion gallons by that year, the [Energy Information Agency (EIA)] said in the forecast."
    • "It calls for corn ethanol, but also an increasing amount cellulosic ethanol made from fast-growing grasses and trees, and biodiesel made from non-food sources. Cellulosic is not yet made commercially."
    • "For the moment U.S. ethanol capacity is too high, which is helping to make distilling ethanol barely profitable. U.S. capacity to make ethanol is slightly above the 2009 mandate for blending of 11.1 billion gallons of biofuels into gasoline."[109]
  • Sustainable biofuels can provide 10% of world's energy 16, December 2008 by Biofuel Review:
    • "In the medium term around 10% of the world’s energy needs could be met by sustainable bioenergy from biogenic residues and energy crops, according to a report from the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). However, the report, 'Future Bioenergy and Sustainable Land Use', also warns that utilization of this potential should only be pursued if risks to food security as well as to nature conservation and climate change mitigation targets can be excluded. For this to happen, binding sustainability standards need to be introduced at national and international level."
    • "There are some 50 developing countries in which traditional bioenergy, involving the burning of wood, dung or crop residues for cooking and heating, still accounts for more than 90% of energy use. As a result, more than 1.5 million people die each year of indoor air pollution. The more widespread use of improved wood or charcoal stoves or of micro biogas systems, and the production of vegetable oils from oil plants such as jatropha, represent an important and as yet insufficiently exploited lever for tackling poverty." [111]
  • Scientist says ancient technique cuts greenhouse gas, 5 December 2008 by Reuters: "An ancient technique of plowing charred plants into the ground to revive soil may also trap greenhouse gases for thousands of years and forestall global warming, scientists said on Friday."
    • "Heating plants such as farm waste or wood in airtight conditions produces a high-carbon substance called biochar, which can store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and enhance nutrients in the soil.
    • "'I feel confident that the (carbon storage) time of stable biochar is from high hundreds to a few thousand years,' said Cornell University's Johannes Lehmann, at an event on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in the Polish city of Poznan."
    • "Lehmann estimated that under ambitious scenarios biochar could store 1 billion tons of carbon annually -- equivalent to more than 10 percent of global carbon emissions, which amounted to 8.5 billion tons in 2007."
    • "The technique rings alarm bells among some environmentalists worried it could spur deforestation, but its chief problem may be that it is barely proven on a commercial scale."[112]
  • Biofuel Plantations on Tropical Forestlands Are Bad for the Climate and Biodiversity, Study Finds, 1 December 2008, by Business Wire: A study in the journal Conservation Biology found that converting tropical rainforests to biofuel plantations will significantly increase carbon emissions and threaten biodiversity.
    • "The study reveals that it would take at least 75 years for the carbon emissions saved through the use of biofuels to compensate for the carbon lost through forest conversion. And if the original habitat was carbon-rich peatland, the carbon balance would take more than 600 years. On the other hand, planting biofuels on degraded Imperata grasslands instead of tropical rain forests would lead to a net removal of carbon in 10 years, the authors found." [113]
    • "'It’s a huge contradiction to clear tropical rain forests to grow crops for so-called "environmentally friendly" fuels,' said co-author Faizal Parish of the Global Environment Center, Malaysia. 'This is not only an issue in South East Asia – in Latin America forests are being cleared for soy production which is even less efficient at biofuel production compared to oil palm. Reducing deforestation is a much more effective way for countries to reduce climate change while also meeting their obligations to protect biodiversity.'" [114]
  • Climate Geo-engineering with ‘Carbon Negative’ Bioenergy: Climate saviour or climate endgame?, November 2008 by Biofuelwatch: Critical report on "carbon negative" biofuels and biochar released by biofuelwatch.
    • Investigates whether proposed "bio-geoengineering ‘solutions’" such as "large-scale use of biomass as a substitute for fossil fuels, whilst simultaneously drawing down atmospheric CO2 by sequestering some of the carbon in the biomass, either underground or as charcoal to be added to soil" will in fact "help to stabilise climate."
    • The report concludes that such "proposals are almost certain to exacerbate biodiversity loss, ecosystem destruction and significantly increase GHG emissions. As such they will accelerate the rate and scale at which our life support systems, including climate, are collapsing." (Executive Summary (PDF file))
  • Algae-based oil would save 160m tonnes CO2, 24 October 2008 by "Algae-based transportation fuel could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by over 160 million tonnes, according to the Carbon Trust."
    • "It has set up the Algae Biofuels Challenge, which it will fund with up to £6 million and will also have the backing and funding of the (U.K.) Department of Transport.
    • "According to the Carbon Trust, algae could produce between six and ten times more energy per hectare than conventional biofuel feedstocks, while generating just 20 per cent of the carbon emissions of fossil fuels."[115]
"Unfortunately, mainstream media coverage of the studies failed to report that they also identified ways to avoid these problems and insure that future biofuels give us both a new renewable energy source and greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The 25x'25 Alliance and its partners are one in their agreement that environmentally sensitive lands should not be exploited in pursuit of renewable fuels...."
"The current generation of biofuels is leading to a new stage of cellulosic biofuel development that will not only minimize land use changes, but will actually enhance the environment...."
"Biofuels provide a much-needed and environmentally sounder alternative to petroleum fuels....Ethanol and second generation biofuels remain the only fuel options available that address our need to enhance our national security and improve our environment."[116]
  • More Bad News for Ethanol, by Energy Roundup (the Wall Street Journal's energy blog): "Another brick in the wall against ethanol. Academics tasked with plotting California’s transition to a low-carbon fuel have delivered more bad news: Ethanol appears to come with a higher greenhouse-gas price tag than previously thought — higher, indeed, than fossil fuel."
    • This article reported on a 12 January report by the University of California at Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center for the California Air Resources Board.
    • "'Simply said, ethanol production today using U.S. corn contributes to the conversion of grasslands and rainforest to agriculture, causing very large GHG emissions,” according to Berkeley professors Alex Farrell and Michael O’Hare.
    • “Even if only a small fraction of the emissions calculated in this crude way [through land use change] are added to estimates of direct emissions for corn ethanol, total emissions for corn ethanol are higher than for fossil fuels.”


Useful climate-related websites include:

  • Forest Footprint Disclosure "The Forest Footprint Disclosure Project (FFD Project) is a new UK government-supported initiative, created to help investors identify how an organisation’s activities and supply chains contribute to deforestation, and link this 'forest footprint' to their value."
  • Forest Carbon Portal Forest Carbon Portal is an "information clearinghouse on terrestrial carbon. The Forest Carbon Portal tracks news, resources, events and nearly 100 forest carbon projects around the world. This new version offers a more interactive site where users can create profiles in the member directory; join discussions in ‘Carbon Connections’; comment on articles; as well as upload projects, resources, events and job opportunities."
  • Climate Central (U.S.-based) - "Climate Central bridges the scientific community and the public" with "creative, easily understood, and graphically rich" presentations.[119]
  • Solve Climate (U.S.-based) - Provides "Daily Climate News and Analysis" and information on actions by a range of "Climate Players"

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