Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Scientists Confirm Burning Biofuels is Not Carbon Neutral

Many in the paper industry have been touting their business as environmentally friendly because they assert that they use a carbon neutral source of energy: residuals from forest harvest and the byproducts of pulp production, particularly black liquor.

However, as many environmental organizations have been quick to point out, burning biomass is far from carbon neutral as it immediately releases carbon from land-based stores to the atmosphere. And of course burning land-based stores of carbon, whether they be locked in fossil fuels below ground or in biomass above ground, is precisely the major cause of climate change.

While environmental organizations have been making this rather commonsense point for some time, an October article in Science has confirmed this glaring accounting error. As reported in the New York Times, "The accounting error even gives the impression that clearing the world’s forests, which absorb and thereby diminish heat-trapping carbon dioxide, is good for the climate, the scientists write." They also state the critical fact quite succinctly, "If an existing stand of forest land is cleared for fuel, its ability to absorb carbon dioxide is lost, and the net balance of the gas in the atmosphere goes up."

And Princeton University, who led the study, had this to say in their report:

"Tim Searchinger, a research scholar in the Princeton Environmental Institute and a fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, is lead author of the study. Michael Oppenheimer, director of the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy and professor of geosciences and international affairs in the Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, is a co-author.

In the study, "Fixing a Critical Climate Accounting Error," the authors contend that across-the-board exemption of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from bioenergy -- the use of plant materials known as biomass for the production of renewable fuels -- is improper in greenhouse gas regulations if emissions due to land-use changes also are not included. This, they assert, erroneously treats all uses of bioenergy as carbon-neutral, renewable energy regardless of the source of the biomass, and could create strong economic incentives for large-scale land conversion as countries around the world tighten carbon caps."

To read the full article from Princeton University, click here.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Mohawk Quits over Climate Bill, and US House Closing Black Liquor Loopholes in the Health Care Bill

Lots of action today for the paper industry in an emerging storyline of how it will fit into the new, low-carbon economy, and who will lead.

First, news that Mohawk Fine Papers is quitting the US Chamber of Commerce over its radical position against the cap and trade climate bills working through Congress. See article here.

Second, there is news in the story of the "Son of Black Liquor" tax loophole in the 2008 Farm Bill. (Read about it in the blog: Dead Tree Edition) Representative Van Hollen (D-Maryland) has apparently had his recently introduced stand alone legislation (H.R. 3895) inserted into the Manager's Amendment to the health care bill that will hit the floor at the end of this week.

The estimated $24 billion in tax credit savings could be used to offset costs of the health care bill, Van Hollen said.

"In addition to supporting homegrown renewable energy, it is my hope that this legislation will be added to the manager's amendment for the House health care reform package making its way to the floor this week so that the savings generated by these improvements can help pay for health care for all Americans," said Representative Van Hollen in a statement.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fashion Industry to Protect Indonesia’s Rainforests - New Commitments from Gucci, Tiffany and H&M

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has been successfully urging the fashion world to more closely examine their paper supply chains and to sever any connection with paper suppliers like Asia Pulp and Paper who are actively destroying Indonesia’s rainforests.

Gucci Group has decided to eliminate all paper made from Indonesian rainforests and plantations and by controversial suppliers like Asia Pulp and Paper. The move is a first step in implementing an industry-leading paper policy and a continuation of the Gucci Group’s interest in stemming climate change, about twenty percent of which stems from forest loss.

Gucci Group’s new policy puts them at the front of a growing list of major companies, including Tiffany & Co., H&M Group, Staples and Unisource who are taking concrete action to clean their supply chains of rainforest paper and severing relationships with companies who continue to destroy rainforests in Indonesia or elsewhere.

“Standing rainforests are not a luxury, they’re a necessity if the world wants to stop climate change,” said Mimma Viglezio, Executive VP Global Communications at the Group. “Our actions are lowering our own carbon footprint, but we hope that they will also raise awareness inside the fashion industry that it’s possible for our industry to make a difference for rainforests and for the climate.”

The Gucci Group’s move commits some of fashion’s most famous brands, including Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Balenciaga to perhaps the luxury industry’s strongest paper policy. With its new policy, the Gucci Group has pledged to reduce the amount of paper it uses, eliminate fiber from high conservation value forests, and only to purchase recycled products or those certified by the Forest Stewardship Council by December 2010. With this policy, they are ensuring that all paper categories used by the group, from copy paper to shopping bags, do not come from endangered forests like those in Indonesia.

“The Gucci Group’s actions and commitments confirm its place as an industry leader,” said Lafcadio Cortesi, RAN’s Forest Campaign Director. “This move sets a bar for others in fashion and retail and demonstrates the foresight our society needs for our children and grandchildren to have standing rainforests and a stable climate.”

Worldwide, the degradation and destruction of tropical rainforests is responsible for twenty percent of all annual greenhouse emissions. The carbon emissions resulting from Indonesia’s rapid deforestation account for around eight percent of global emissions: more than the combined emissions from all the cars, planes, trucks, buses and trains in United States. This huge carbon footprint from forest destruction has made non-industrialized Indonesia the third-largest global greenhouse gas emitter, behind only the U.S. and China.