FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Truth Behind Michigan’s Proposal 3

by JEFF GIBBS

In Michigan right now ballot Proposal 3 known as “25 x 25” would require our state to get 25% of its electricity from “renewable” sources by the year 2025. “25 x 25” is being sold as all about solar panels and wind mills. It’s not. Far more than anyone suspects, it’s going to ramp up the dirtiest form of energy of all: biomass burning. Incinerating trees in the name of “green energy.” And it must be stopped if we care about climate change, clean air and thriving forests.

Yes that’s right, in the name of saving the planet and renewable energy we are about to make things worse. For those unfamiliar with biomass burning, it releases even more carbon dioxide and more harmful particulates than even coal. Logging for biomass can drastically reduce biodiversity and set back a forest’s ability to sequester carbon dioxide for centuries. Most environmentalists oppose it. Or used to.

Michigan environmental groups promoting “25 x 25,” whose goals such as stopping climate change I otherwise support, have insisted there will not be much biomass burning. Their campaign shows images of wind and solar exclusively.

Clean Water Action

Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs

Green Energy Future

But this is what we are actually going to get. I call it a bio-massacre:

Massachusetts logging for biomass

New Hampshire biomass plant

Michigan trees chipped for biomass

Don’t believe it? It was hard for me grasp as well. Still, there was that little word “biomass” in the definition of renewable energy. So I decided to check for myself.

Here was my first stunner: the national “25 x 25” Steering Committee seems to be 100% agribusiness and logging interests. Ethanol and biomass. On their bios are found the words cattle, corn, biomass and forestry, not solar or wind.

The national “25 x 25” mission statement reflects this commitment to biofuels and biomass:

25x’25 Vision:

By 2025, America’s farms, forests and ranches will provide 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States, while continuing to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed and fiber.

When questioned about national “25 x 25” being primarily big ag and big timber, Michigan “25 x 25” supporters responded saying they have little to do with the national organization. Really? That’s odd. Because the national “25 x 25” organization brags on their website  that they have influenced state laws and they include Michigan as a place where good things are happening.

And then the Michigan 25 x 25 Jobs and Energy Report was released. It was produced at Michigan State University, our state’s agricultural college. It was written not by the solar and wind department, but by faculty from the Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics Department with a huge vested interest in biomass and biofuels.

The report projects a nearly 300% increase in biomass. The red line on the chart below indicates the projected increase in biomass plant staffing.

The authors of the report also aren’t shy about describing the new opportunities for their friends:

… the impact to the agricultural and forestry sector is anticipated to be… significant. Accounting for direct and indirect impacts due to feed stock procurement, transportation, logistics, storage etc., it is expected that biomass generation under a 25% RPS will result in nearly 12,000 job years. 

(Please note: boosters of “25 x 25” routinely turn “job years” into “jobs” –  e.g. one job for 25 years is 25 “job years.” This means 75,000 “job years” gets turned into 75,000 “jobs” when it should be more like 3,000.)

And just what is the aforementioned “feedstock procurement?” In large part, logging. Ah, the wonderful green jobs! Logging, trucking, installing air quality control equipment, using bulldozers to move around giant piles of wood chips lest they spontaneously combust like this fire at Biomass One in Oregon, or this entire biomass plant that exploded in flames.

So widely known (except to the public) is this new opportunity for “green energy” that “Biomass Magazine” has already alerted its readers. The magazine cautions though, that making “25 x 25” a constitutional amendment might be a mistake because it could draw scrutiny and introduce more controversy than legislative action…” Yes that’s right, it’s easier to sell a bio-massacre beyond closed doors.

But there’s more. The burning of woody biomass isn’t all we’re going to get. The chart below reveals a big helping of biogas as well as biomass.

What are the other biogas and biomass sources besides trees and forests? Confined animal feed operations, landfill gases, burning garbage including old homes and tires, human and agricultural “waste.” All have serious issues and depend on enormous fossil fuel intensive systems. But those are not my main concerns –  it’s the burning of the source of our clean air and clean water as “green energy” that is my nightmare. Only two great planetary systems are capable of soaking up the CO2, our forests and our oceans. It makes no sense to destroy either one of them.

But alas the bio-massacre isn’t just in our future. It’s the reality of “renewable energy” right now:

Burlington, Vermont biomass plant. Note whole trees looking like matchsticks in this photo prior to chipping.

–In Vermont, the biggest single contributor to climate change and air pollution is their “green energy” facility. An enormous biomass burner that only produces a fraction of the energy of a fossil fuel plant.

–There is at least 15 times more biomass burning RIGHT NOW in Michigan than solar and wind combined. Given this, is it ethical for “Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs” to ONLY show solar and wind on its photo “tour” of Michigan renewable energy? Here is what they won’t show you:

Cadillac, Michigan biomass plant

Enjoying Michigan’s sustainable state forests.

–Michigan State University, the source of the “25 x 25” report, has no wind and almost no solar yet has already obtained a permit to toss 24,000 tons of trees annually into their coal plant to meet their “renewable energy” goals, a feat which will actually increase the CO2 coming from the smokestack.

–In Holland, Michigan the Sierra Club has been fighting to stop a coal plant expansion. But Holland’s “clean energy” plant is in large part biomass burning disguised as “combined heat and power.” (The word “biomass” isn’t mentioned until page 31 in the proposal. That’s not an accident.)

So why are we getting so much burning in the name of green if wind and solar are such miracles? That’s a story for another day. Suffice to say there are issues with solar and wind that cannot be wished away. One major problem is that right now wind supplies only about 0.3 percent of Michigan’s electrical energy. To ramp that up to provide a significant share of our electricity would take tens of billions of dollars and 50 times more wind turbines than currently exist. Anyone think that’s going to happen?

And so it all comes back to cutting and burning our forests for energy. They say we would never denude the land of trees, yet that is the most common way civilizations end. It doesn’t happen in a day or a year, but blow by blow, cut by cut. We went though this once before. The trees are now smaller, stressed, and far less in extent. We won’t survive doing it again.

Michigan logging scene from 120 years ago.

It makes no sense to stop the tar sands, fight fracking, or end the horror of mountaintop removal to protect the living planet, if we then incinerate the living planet for energy. Let’s get back to our “roots.” Save the trees. Stand with them against any “renewable energy” scheme like “25 x 25” that calls incinerating trees and forests “green energy.”

For more information about biomass burning go www.biofuelwatch.org.uk or to Partnership for Policy Integrity or this article I wrote.

Jeff Gibbs is a filmmaker who has produced films for Michael Moore, the Dixie Chicks, and about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He has lived in Michigan all his life. He is currently working on a film about the state of the planet and the fate of humanity.

More articles by:
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
Andrew Levine
Why Not Hillary?
Paul Street
Hillary Clinton’s Neocon Resumé
Chris Floyd
Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers
Eric Mann
How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools
Jason Hirthler
The West’s Needless Aggression
Dan Arel
Why Hillary Clinton’s Camp Should Be Scared
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Flunks Decontamination
David Rosen
The Privatization of the Public Sphere
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Civil Rights Hypocrisy
Chris Gilbert
Corruption in Latin American Governments
Pete Dolack
We Can Dream, or We Can Organize
Dan Kovalik
Colombia: the Displaced & Invisible Nation
Jeffrey St. Clair
Fat Man Earrings: a Nuclear Parable
Medea Benjamin
Israel and Saudi Arabia: Strange Bedfellows in the New Middle East
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail