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Refinery Communities Speak Out on Just Transition Reports

By Ann Alexander - Natural Resources Defense Council, February 9, 2021

Governor Newsom’s executive order mandating all-electric passenger cars and trucks by 2035 got quite a bit of deserved nationwide buzz last fall. What got less notice was that, buried toward the end of the order, were several mandates for action on the supply side of our fossil fuel problem—that is, California’s oil extraction and refining industry. 

We noted at the time that these mandates were not, unlike the pretty well thought out electric vehicles mandate, given much attention in the order. We expressed concern that the Governor was basically throwing a bone to people concerned about the human and environmental damage being wrought on an ongoing basis by the state’s oil production industry.

Two of those mandates, however, stood out from the beginning as critically important—both having to do with the issue of just transition for workers and communities to new economic opportunities as California phases out its oil industry. The first mandate was a directive to two California agencies—the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency—to develop and implement a “Just Transition Roadmap” for the state, consistent with recommendations developed pursuant to Assembly Bill 398 in 2017. The second is a directive to two other California agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency and the Natural Resources Agency—to “expedite regulatory processes to repurpose and transition . . . oil production facilities,” and produce an “action plan” reporting on their progress, in order “[t]o support the transition away from fossil fuels.” Both reports—the Roadmap and the action plan—are required to be completed by July of this year. 

Among the missing specifics is anything about how the public and key stakeholders are to be involved in the preparation of these reports; or any clear guidelines about the required scope and depth of the reports. But what we already know is that just transition is a critically important topic for the public as the oil industry continues its slide into eventual oblivion, and merits sustained and robust attention. Not only has oil extraction been in steady decline since the mid-1980s (plunging nearly 60 percent since 1985), but California’s oil refineries are now on the brink as well—two of them announced conversions to biofuel production over the summer, while refineries around the nation and the world are increasingly becoming unprofitable and shutting down

Earth Minute: Biden-Harris Inauguration and Climate Action

By Theresa Church - Global Justice Ecology Project, January 20, 2021

Bloomberg has reported that the COVID relief bill passed last month included a provision to give companies tax breaks for capturing carbon. 

While this may sound positive, it was denounced by Indigenous Environmental Network, as it paves the way for ongoing fossil fuel burning. Rachel Smolker of Biofuelwatch points out most of the captured carbon is bought by oil companies that use it to help pump out oil hard to reach oil, thereby extending the life of old wells. 

Far from changing course, the Biden Administration is expected to roll out plans for climate action that include false solutions widely debunked by U.S. and international climate justice communities—from burning trees for electricity to using forests and oceans as carbon sinks. The purpose of these schemes? Continue business as usual.

Real, just climate action must address the roots of the climate crisis and transform the system that drives it, not subsidize and enable the very same people causing catastrophic climate change to pursue enhanced profits under a green veneer.

For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project.

Moore’s Boorish "Planet of The Humans": An Annotated Collection

By admin - Get Energy Smart Now, April-June 2020

Web Editor's Commentary: We'll just cut right to the chase: Planet of the Humans is an unequivocally horrid film (the fact that it was really the brainchild of that Malthusian quack, Ozzie Zehner, whose dishonesty and bad faith arguments were the target of one of our very earliest commentaries, should be an immediate clue to anyone with any knowledge on the subject of energy transition) and an insult to green anti-capitalists worldwide.

We had originally intended to write a commentary of our own about it, however, as this very extensive bibliography demonstrates, the topic has been covered quite extensively. While this bibliography--for which we've been granted permission to copy on our own site by its author--is extensive, even exhaustive, it is unfortunately not especially well organized (we lack the time and bandwidth to engage in such an effort, and we suspect its author has better things to do as well, so we don't hold it against them).

That said, it is still extremely useful, and in it you'll find ample evidence against the arguments made in the film.

With that in mind, we offer one other addition to this extensive bibliography, and that is a podcast from The Energy Transition Show, specifically Episode 125: Beyond the Planet of the Humans, in which show host, Chris Nelder, and guest, Auke Hoekstra, deconstruct the film's producers' motivations and clearly show that they're making their arguments in bad faith out of a place of bitterness that energy transition, while quite possible, is nevertheless challenging.


For Earth Day 2020, Michael Moore announced 30 days of YouTube access of the Jeff Gibbs written/directed and Michael Moore ‘executive produced’ Planet of the Humans. This free mass release sparked viewership and a discovery that, sigh, this was mediocre propaganda. Like Robert Bryce’s work, this film has the same fundamental flaws:

  • too error-filled for non-educated/knowledgeable people to watch due to misdirection & embedded deceit that might not be evident as the viewer has to be knowledgeable to see the truthiness and deceit.
  • tedious and painful for those already knowledgeable as the core thematics/points aren’t news and it just takes so much effort to wade through the falsehoods and truthiness for having thoughts/perspective that are already out there in discussion.  

This post will provide an updated discussion of some of the better discussions of this boorishly propagandistic mocku-mentary.

We Are Mother Earth’s Red Line: Frontline Communities Lead the Climate Justice Fight Beyond the Paris Agreement

By staff - It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm - January 2016

The Paris Climate Agreement of December 2015 is a dangerous distraction that threatens all of us. Marked by the heavy influence of the fossil fuel industry, the deal reached at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) never mentions the need to curb extractive energy, and sets goals far below those needed to avert a global catastrophe. The agreement signed by 196 countries does acknowledge the global urgency of the climate crisis, and reflects the strength of the climate movement. But the accord ignores the roots of the crisis, and the very people who have the experience and determination to solve it.

Around the world, negotiators use the term “red line” to signify a figurative point of no return or a limit past which safety can no longer be guaranteed. Our communities, whose very survival is most directly impacted by climate change, have become a living red line. We have been facing the reality of the climate crisis for decades. Our air and water are being poisoned by fossil fuel extraction, our livelihoods are threatened by floods and drought, our communities are the hardest hit and the least protected in extreme weather events—and our demands for our survival and for the rights of future generations are pushing local, national, and global leaders towards real solutions to the climate crisis.

We brought these demands to the UNFCCC 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) as members of the delegation called “It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm.” Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ), the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), and the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) organized the delegation, which included leaders and organizers from more than 100 US and Canadian grassroots and Indigenous groups. We helped to mobilize the thousands of people who took to the streets of Paris during the COP21, despite a ban on public protest—and amplified the pressure that Indigenous Peoples, civil society, and grassroots movements have built throughout the 21 years of UN climate talks.

The Paris Agreement coming out of the COP21 allows emissions from fossil fuels to continue at levels that endanger life on the planet, demonstrating just how strongly world leaders are tied to the fossil fuel industry and policies of economic globalization. The emphasis within the UNFCCC process on the strategies of carbon markets consisting of offsets and pollution trading created an atmosphere within the COP21 of business more than regulation. The result is a Paris Agreement that lets developed countries continue to emit dangerously high levels of greenhouse gasses; relies on imaginary technofixes and pollution cap-and-trade schemes that allow big polluters to continue polluting at the source, and results in land grabs and violations of human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our analysis of the Paris Agreement echoes critiques from social movements around the world, led by those most impacted by both climate disruption and the false promises that governments and corporate interests promote in its wake.

“Frontline communities” are the peoples living directly alongside fossil-fuel pollution and extraction—overwhelmingly Indigenous Peoples, Black, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander peoples in working class, poor, and peasant communities in the US and around the world. In climate disruption and extreme weather events, we are hit first and worst.

We are Mother Earth’s red line. We don’t have the luxury of settling for industry or politicians’ hype or half measures. We know it takes roots to weather the storm and that’s why we are building a people’s climate movement rooted in our communities. We are the frontlines of the solution: keeping fossil fuels in the ground and transforming the economy with innovative, community-led solutions.

Mississippi Man Killed in Accident at Drax Biomass Plant in Morehouse Parish

Staff report - MyArkLaMiss.Com, October 21, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

October 21, 2014 - One worker is dead after officials say an accident happened at the Drax Biomass plant in Morehouse Parish.According to the Morehouse Parish Sheriff's Department, around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night, a 911 call came from the Drax Biomass plant off Highway 425 in Morehouse Parish, about 12 miles north of Bastrop.Deputies say two sub-contractors were conducting tests at the plant, which is still undergoing final construction.

According to authorities, an accident happened, but authorities couldn't specify exactly what and how it happened.

One out-of-state worker suffered fatal injuries and was flown to St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, where they were pronounced dead.

The other worker suffered minor injuries and is being treated at Morehouse General Hospital.

Morehouse Parish Sheriff Mike Tubbs says OSHA will be investigating the accident in the coming days.

October 22 - The worker who died after an accident at a Drax Biomass plant in Morehouse Parish has been identified as 32-year old Christopher Erving of West, Mississippi.

Erving was a contracted employee of the Jacksonville, Florida based Haskell Corporation. Drax Biomass has released a statement on the incident:

"It is with deep regret that we confirm the death of a contractor involved in an incident at the Morehouse Pellet Plant construction site near Bastrop Louisiana in the early evening of Tuesday, October 21st Site emergency plans were enacted immediately and the injured person was air-lifted to hospital by the emergency services where he later died The incident is now the subject of a full and thorough investigation by ourselves, the contractor's firm, and the authorities  We are unable to give any details of that investigation until it has been concluded Our thoughts and sympathy are with his family"

Trees, Trash, and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal

By Mary Booth and Edward Miller - Partnership for Policy Integrity, April 2, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

New Report: “Green” Biomass Electricity More Polluting Than Coal - Renewable energy biomass plants are avoiding regulation, burning contaminated fuels, and threatening air quality

Pelham, MA. -  Biomass electricity generation, a heavily subsidized form of “green” energy that relies primarily on the burning of wood, is more polluting and worse for the climate than coal, according to a new analysis of 88 pollution permits for biomass power plants in 25 states.

Trees, Trash, and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal, released today and delivered to the EPA by the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI), concludes that biomass power plants across the country are permitted to emit more pollution than comparable coal plants or commercial waste incinerators, even as they are subsidized by state and federal renewable energy dollars.  It contains detailed emissions and fuel specifications for a number of facilities, including plants in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

“The biomass power industry portrays their facilities as ‘clean,’ said Mary Booth, Director of PFPI and author of the report.  “But we found that even the newest biomass plants are allowed to pollute more than modern coal- and gas-fired plants, and that pollution from bioenergy is increasingly unregulated.”

The report found that biomass power is given special treatment and held to lax pollution control standards, compared to fossil-fueled power plants.

Biomass plants are dirty because they are markedly inefficient.  The report found that per megawatt-hour, a biomass power plant employing “best available control technology” (BACT) emits more nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide than a modern coal plant of the same size. 

Almost half the facilities analyzed, however, avoided using BACT by claiming to be “minor” sources of pollution that skim under the triggering threshold for stricter pollution controls.  Minor source permits are issued by the states and contain none of the protective measures required under federal air pollution permitting.  

"The American Lung Association has opposed granting renewable energy subsidies for biomass combustion precisely because it is so polluting,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.  “Why we are using taxpayer dollars to subsidize power plants that are more polluting than coal?”

The analysis also found that although wood-burning power plants are often promoted as being good for the climate and carbon neutral, the low efficiency of plants means that they emit almost 50% more CO2 than coal per unit of energy produced.  Current science shows that while emissions of CO2 from biomass burning can theoretically be offset over time by forest regrowth and other means, such offsets typically take several decades to fully compensate for the CO2 emitted during plant operation.  None of the permits analyzed in the report required proof that carbon emissions would be offset. 

EPA rules also allow biomass plants to emit more hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) than both coal plants and industrial waste incinerators, including heavy metals and dioxins.  Even with these weak rules, most biomass plants avoid restrictions on the amount of toxic air pollution they can emit by claiming to be minor sources, and permits usually require little testing for proof of actual emissions.  When regulated as a minor source, a facility is not required to meet any limitations on emissions of hazardous air pollutants. 

The potential for biomass power plants to emit heavy metals and other air toxics is increasing, because new EPA rules allow burning more demolition debris and other contaminated wastes in biomass power plants, including, EPA says, materials that are as contaminated as coal.  A majority of the facilities reviewed in the report allowed burning demolition debris and other waste wood.

Trees, Trash, and Toxins: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal

By Mary S. Booth, PhD - Partnership for Policy Integrity, April 2, 2014

The biomass power industry is undergoing a new surge of growth in the United States. While bioenergy has traditionally been used by certain sectors such as the paper-making industry, more than 70 new wood-burning plants have been built or are underway since 2005, and another 75 proposed and in various stages of development, fueled by renewable energy subsidies and federal tax credits. In most states, biomass power is subsidized along with solar and wind as green, renewable energy, and biomass plant developers routinely tell host communities that biomass power is “clean energy.”

But this first-ever detailed analysis of the bioenergy industry reveals that the rebooted industry is still a major polluter. Comparison of permits from modern coal,biomass, and gas plants shows that a even the “cleanest” biomass plants can emit > 150% the nitrogen oxides, > 600% the volatile organic compounds, > 190% the particulate matter, and > 125% the carbon monoxide of a coal plant per megawatt-hour, although coal produces more sulfur dioxide (SO2). Emissions from a biomass plant exceed those from a natural gas plant by more than 800% for every major pollutant.

Biomass power plants are also a danger to the climate, emitting nearly 50 percent more CO2 per megawatt generated than the next biggest carbon polluter, coal. Emissions ofCO2from biomass burning can theoretically be offset over time, but such offsets typically take decades to fully compensate for the CO2rapidly injected into the atmosphere during plant operation.

Compounding the problem, bioenergy facilities take advantage of gaping loopholes in the Clean Air Actand lax regulation by the EPAand state permitting agencies, which allow them to emit even more pollution. Electricity generation that worsens air pollution and climate change is not what the public expects for its scarce renewable energy dollars.

Read the report (PDF).

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