A huge climate/environmental justice issue is looming over Sonoma County and the rest of California. A hungry monster is currently chomping up our trees and forests and burning them for power generation, converting them into fuel pellets for shipping overseas to European and Asian markets for burning, or turning them into biofuels for aviation. Exported fuel pellets are also burned for energy generation. Biomass energy (“bioenergy”) is being called “renewable energy.” It is taking away critical funds for real renewables like solar and wind energy.
Biofuels and biomass energy are not clean, not carbon neutral, and not sustainable. In fact, they are highly polluting, emitting tons of carbon dioxide, carcinogens and toxins which are damaging to human health and the environment – and impact low income communities the most. Biomass energy facilities process and burn mature trees and wood – carbon that is being sequestered and stored in forests that take decades to centuries to grow.
This form of energy is not renewable because trees that have taken decades to grow are being cut down and replaced by seedlings. Soil is destroyed and carbon stored in the soil is lost during the logging process. The top climate and fire scientists are saying that harvesting mature trees to supposedly save them from fire increases carbon emissions rather than preventing them. In many locations, seedlings do not survive when they are replanted in severely damaged soils.
Biomass energy is not carbon neutral because the largest, mature trees sequester and store the most carbon. Cutting them down releases carbon into the atmosphere and prevents future carbon storage and sequestration. Billions of dollars of federal, state and county money, including our tax dollars, are going into the clearing of forests and to heavily subsidizing the creation of the biomass industry. It is an expensive source of non-renewable energy, and our climate is directly impacted. There are plans to capture the carbon dioxide and pump it underground, but that is a false climate solution.
DRAX is a huge company in the UK. The wood has mostly been coming from the US. It is rapidly becoming a more local issue too. Greenpeace has released a short video on Youtube about this environmental racism called Drax accused of driving environmental racism after more pollution claims against its US pellet mills.
An August 2020 article in Mendocino Voice presents reactions of Calpella residents to a forest products pellet plant in Mendocino: Calpella area residents protest Mendocino Forest Products pellet plant. Fuel pellet plants are also being planned in Lassen and Tuolomne Counties which rely on exporting wood from California forests to be burned for energy in Asia.
“Forests regulate temperature, create oxygen, create soil, purify air and water, provide wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, and store and sequester carbon. Our well-being depends on these forests,” says Maya Khosla, forest biologist and SoCoCAN! activist.
SoCoCAN! has newly released our Biomass Basics Resource Sheet. For more information contact Sonoma County Climate Activist Network (SoCoCAN!) at SonomaCountyCAN.org or email us at SonomaCountyCAN@gmail.com.
The Sonoma County Climate Activist Network (SoCoCAN!) is a strong and active network of 50+ local climate activist groups, over 200 individuals, and hundreds of local group members working together to address and reverse climate change.