FALSE SOLUTIONS: 2 Press Releases on Biofuels

The following two press releases were sent from the Global Justice Ecology
Project office this week:

International Biochar Conference Uses False Claims to Promote
Dangerous Technology in the name of Climate Change Mitigation

Joint Press Release by Global Forest Coalition, Biofuelwatch (UK) and
Global Justice Ecology Project

Campaigners today warn that an international conference on biochar,
which will be held in Newcastle, UK from 8 to 10 September, will be
misleading governments and the public with claims that biochar – a
by-product of second generation agrofuel production – can curb
climate change and improve soil fertility.

The International Biochar Initiative (IBI), which is organising the
conference, promotes the idea that disastrous climate change can be
prevented of we use enormous amounts of biomass for bioenergy, obtain
charcoal as a byproduct and use that charcoal as a fertilizer. They
claim this is a “carbon negative” process, and that the charcoal
improves soil fertility and carbon sequestration. Unfortunately,
their claims are unfounded and they fail to account for the fact that vast
areas of land would have to be turned over to monoculture plantations to
produce enough biomass. [1]

From New Zealand, Sandy Gauntlett with the Pacific Indigenous Peoples
Environmental Coalition and Global Forest Coalition warns: “Biochar
proponents are speaking about enormous amounts of biomass, which will
require hundreds of millions of hectares of land being converted
worldwide, as well as removing large amounts of agricultural residues
and forest produce which are essential for maintaining healthy soils
and biodiversity.  In the name of ‘climate change’ mitigation they
want to greatly speed up agrofuel expansion, which is already a
leading driver of deforestation, other ecosystem destruction and
forced removal of indigenous peoples.  This will accelerate global
warming. [2]  To suggest that any massive new demand for biomass
plantations will help stem climate change is a very dangerous false

Almuth Ernsting of Biofuelwatch adds: “The IBI board members are well
aware that science does not back their claims.  We were advised by
the chair of the board, Professor Lehmann, that there are no
long-term experiments to suggest that biochar actually sequesters any
carbon in the ground or that it makes soil more fertile.[3] Yet this
does not stop him and other board members from supporting
unsubstantiated claims and calling for carbon credits for biochar.”

Biochar proponents also claim that their technology will help rural
communities by raising soil fertility and by giving farmers a new
income source.  However, companies investing in this technology are
already taking out patents on biochar, and one of the firms
represented at the conference, BEST Energies, proclaims on their
website “We are well positioned to win the current land grab in
next-generation fuels” [4], blatantly disregarding the human rights
abuses that are occurring as a result of global expanded demand for

Dr. Rachel Smolker from Global Justice Ecology Project warns that
this is yet another scheme for profiteering off of the crisis of
climate change. The only ones who will benefit will be the
plantation, forestry and bioenergy companies, while people are
further displaced from their traditional lands. Amongst the first
companies to have participated in biochar research are three
Indonesian pulp and paper companies notorious for their destruction
of rain forests and for illegally appropriating land.  One of them is
implicated in 31 killings since 1998.” [5]

In the UK: Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, +0044-1224-324797, mobile
tel:  +44-(0)7530-406572

In North America: Orin Langelle, media coordinator, Global Forest
Coalition, office tel: +1-802-482-2689, mobile tel: +1.802.578.6980

In Paraguay: Dr Miguel Lovera, mobile tel: +595-971-201957 (English,
Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian)

[1] Biochar is charcoal which is a by-product of a form of bioenergy
production called pyrolysis.  This involves exposing biomass to high
temperatures in the absence of oxygen. It produces mainly bio-oil,
which can be used for heat and power, for ship engines and also as a
precursor to making synthetic biodiesel for cars.  Biochar has been
compared to ancient carbon rich soils in Amazonia, called terra
preta, however nobody knows how those soils were created, nor whether
or how they can be replicated. We do know that there are significant
differences between those soils and modern biochar which is highly
variable depending on how it is produced. Hence claims of its’
effectiveness are based on the success and knowledge of indigenous
Amazonians who disappeared thousands of years ago.

[2] Recent peer-reviewed studies by Timothy Searchinger et al
(tinyurl.com/2blteq) and by Fargione et al (tinyurl.com/2dhfss) show
that all agrofuel production results in land-use change and that the
carbon emissions from this will be far higher than any ‘savings’ from
burning less fossil fuels over a period of decades and in many cases

[3] Email by Professor Lehmann to Biofuelwatch, 27th March 2008

[4] http://www.bestenergies.com/companies/bestaustralia.html

[5] The Indonesian pulp and paper companies PT Perhutani, PT Musi
Hutan Persada and PT Tenjung Enim Lestari were involved in biochar
studies  (tinyurl.com/6mn8hz and tinyurl.com/6mfvqq).  Two of the
companies have been subject of strong national and international
protest over deforestation and over evicting thousands of people,
(tinyurl.com/5vdhtv) whilst the third, PT Perhutani has been
implicated in serious human rights abuses, including killings

PRESS RELEASE                        SEPTEMBER 10, 2008

Biotech Industry Designs Nightmare Biofuels
Vancouver conference to promote genetically engineered trees for fuel

Vancouver, BC, Canada – Today in Vancouver, major biotechnology
corporations are meeting at the Biotechnology Industry Organization
(BIO) conference to chart the use of genetically engineered (GE)
crops and trees, as well as synthetic biology and nanotechnology, for
fuel. The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) and the STOP
GE Trees Campaign are here with Greenpeace and the Society for a GE
Free BC to oppose these “nightmare biofuels”. [1]

“The biotechnology industry has pounced on the tremendous hype over
biofuels to push out all of their nightmarish technologies, even
pushing the use of genetically engineered trees for transport fuel,”
said conference attendee Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of CBAN and
member of the North American STOP GE Trees Campaign.[2]  “This
industry conference lays bare the corporate agenda behind biofuels.
The conference exposes new collaboration between the most powerful
oil, biotech, seed chemical and forestry corporations.”

Corn ethanol and similar “first generation” biofuels are now widely
seen as a failure because they do not reduce greenhouse gases but
are, according to the World Bank, the major cause of the food crisis.
Industry is promising so-called “second generation” biofuels that
critics say promise to be an even greater danger to the environment.

“Corporations are taking this chance to portray their technologies as
a solution to global warming and the energy crisis,” said Sharratt.
“Monsanto is using the food crisis to re-hash their old, false
promises to feed the world.” [3]

U.S. based ArborGen, the world’s leading GE tree company, will
present at the conference today.

“The use of crops and trees for biofuel will quickly exacerbate
global warming,” said Josh Brandon, Greenpeace agriculture
campaigner. “Already there are more forests around the world being
destroyed to make way for monoculture plantations of trees and crops
for fuel.”

CBAN claims this corporate push to use GE trees for biofuels is the
main reason why Canada pushed to stop an international moratorium on
GE tree plantings at the UN this year. There is a strong
international movement to ban GE trees, which are projected to
increase deforestation of native forests through expanded monoculture
tree plantations.

“We want no part of this nightmarish future where trees are
genetically engineered to fill our gas tanks,” said Tony Beck of the
Society for a GE Free BC. “The B.C. government should immediately
legislate a ban on planting genetically engineered trees on crown

The BC Ministry of Forests currently states that, “the Branch has
ensured that no genetically modified tree seed has been registered or
used in operational forest planting on crown land.” [4]

Forty-seven groups in Canada signed a letter to the Environment
Minister asking for an end to field trials of GE trees. There is
currently one field trial of GE poplar in Quebec, run by a federal
government research station.

Tonight Lucy Sharratt, Josh Brandon and other conference attendees
will report to the public at 7:30 p.m. at Heritage Hall, 3102 Main
Street in Vancouver.

For more information, please contact:

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action
Network/STOP GE Trees Campaign, 613-263-4708
Josh Brandon, Greenpeace agriculture campaigner, 604-721-7493
Tony Beck, Society for a GE Free BC, 604-671-2106

Notes to Editor:

[1] Biofuels are more commonly referred to as “agrofuels” by critics.

[2] see “GE Trees, Cellulosic Biofuels & Destruction of Forest
Biological Diversity”:

Click to access GE%20Trees=%20Cell%20Eth-comp.pdf

[3] Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world and about 90%
of all GE acres are planted with Monsanto’s seeds. Monsanto and a
handful of agricultural corporations including John Deere and Dupont
have set up the new industry lobby group “Alliance for Abundant Food
and Fuel” to promote the use of GE crops for both food and fuel.

[4] http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hti/grm/generesource.htm

Global Justice Ecology Project
PO Box 412
Hinesburg, VT 05461



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