Trump to gut protections in Alaska’s Tongass forest, the ‘lungs of the country’

Trump to gut protections in Alaska’s Tongass forest, the ‘lungs of the country’

SOURCE: The Guardian and Live Science DATE: October 28, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration has announced it will lift protections in Alaska’s Tongass national forest, permitting logging in the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest. Experts call the Tongass the “lungs of the country” and one of nation’s last remaining bulwarks against climate change. Located on the southern coast of Alaska, it is made up of centuries-old western cedar, hemlock and Sitka spruce trees, and is home to immense biodiversity, including the largest-known concentration of bald eagles. The administration’s decision ignores overwhelming public support for keeping protections in place on the Tongass, including resolutions from six south-east Alaska tribes and six south-east Alaska city councils against lifting protections. Of the public comments solicited on the plan, 96% were in favor of keeping protections in place. Tribes also petitioned the government to protect customary cultural use areas of the Tongass. “All other avenues to protect our homelands have been exhausted, to little avail,” they wrote in their petition. The Tongass has been safeguarded since 2001 by a “roadless rule”, which prohibits road construction, road reconstruction and timber harvesting in designated areas of national forests. It barred the construction of roads on some 58.5m acres, and in addition to the environmental benefits, the rule was motivated to protect US taxpayers from the costs of maintaining a web of US Forest Service roads “long enough to go to the moon and most of the way back with no way to maintain them”, said Ken Rait, project director of the Pew Charitable Trust, who two decades ago helped win the protections that Donald Trump...
Indonesia readies its green diesel. These are the likely social and environmental impacts

Indonesia readies its green diesel. These are the likely social and environmental impacts

SOURCE: Phys.org DATE: October 23, 2020 SNIP: In July, Indonesia’s state-owned oil company, Pertamina, produced its first batch of biofuel made entirely from palm oil. Called D100, this “green diesel” is part of Indonesia’s strategy to promote what is claimed to be environmentally friendly fuel. Indonesia began mandating a 30% mix of biofuel in gasoline in January 2020. The plan is to increase the amount of biofuel used in the country. The policy will increase demand for palm oil—the country’s number one agricultural export. The government has positioned the program as a way to lower fossil fuel imports and greenhouse gas emissions. But it will worsen deforestation, increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to a loss of biodiversity. It will also lead to more social conflicts. Research shows the palm oil industry is a major driver of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and loss of biodiversity. Palm oil plantations produce more oil per unit of land than alternative crops. A report by the European Union concluded palm oil is associated with higher levels of deforestation than other biofuels. In any event, the biodiesel policies aim to replace fossil fuels. Thus, the comparison should be with fossil fuels, not other kinds of vegetable oil. Studies have found palm oil-based biodiesel creates more carbon emissions than fossil fuels. Indonesia’s 94.1 million hectares of forests are particularly rich in both biodiversity and carbon content. Peatlands are also very rich in carbon. When land is converted to palm oil plantations, carbon is released into the air. In 2014, more than half of Indonesia’s carbon emissions came from forest and land-use changes. As production of...
B.C. gives Pacific BioEnergy green light to log rare inland rainforest for wood pellets

B.C. gives Pacific BioEnergy green light to log rare inland rainforest for wood pellets

SOURCE: The Narwhal DATE: October 9, 2020 SNIP: Sean O’Rourke was hiking in B.C.’s globally rare inland rainforest this spring when pink flagging tape indicating a planned cutblock caught his eye. Finding flagging tape is nothing new, but when he looked closer, he realized the tape had the name of a nearby pellet company on it — Pacific BioEnergy. The company operates a plant in Prince George where it turns waste wood products — sawdust from mills, tree bark, wood shavings and clippings — into pellets to be burned to produce heat or electricity, replacing coal and fossil fuels. More than 90 per cent of Canadian wood pellets are shipped overseas to Europe and Asia, according to the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. But the ancient cedars and hemlocks in the rainforest in Lheidli T’enneh First Nation territory, about 60 kilometres east of Prince George, are most certainly not waste wood. O’Rourke, a field scout with Conservation North, a grassroots organization advocating for the protection of old-growth forests in northern B.C., took photos of the flagging tape to show his colleagues. He later combed through the publicly available harvest data to confirm the province had indeed issued permits to Pacific BioEnergy to log the old-growth forest. While wood pellets are often touted as a renewable energy source, Conservation North director and ecologist Michelle Connolly challenges that claim. “If the raw material for harvested wood products or pellets is coming from primary and old-growth forest, it is not clean or green or renewable in any way, shape or form,” she said in an interview. “Destroying wildlife habitat to grind forest...
Trump administration advances plan to cut protections for largest national forest

Trump administration advances plan to cut protections for largest national forest

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 24, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration has announced it will move forward with a plan to roll back regulations protecting millions of acres in America’s largest national forest from logging, sparking an outcry from environmental advocacy organizations, Alaskan tribal nations, and fishermen. More than half of the Tongass national forest – a 16.7m-acre old-growth temperate rainforest in south-east Alaska – has been protected for the last two decades by the so-called “roadless area conservation rule”, which prohibits development in designated wild areas. The US Forest Service released a final environmental impact statement on Friday which would allow for the Tongass to be exempt from the rule, moving one step closer to ending the protections entirely. Supporters of the exemption see it as increasing access to federal lands for such things as timber harvests and development of minerals and energy projects. Republican leaders in Alaska have lobbied the federal government to reverse the rule over the last two years. In a Washington Post op-ed published last year, the Republican senator Lisa Murkowski wrote that the regulations were “an unnecessary layer of paralyzing regulation that should never have been applied to Alaska”. Under the former governor Bill Walker, the state asked the federal government to consider the exemption in 2018, and members of Alaska’s congressional delegation last fall supported a draft proposal that listed an exemption as a preferred alternative. Development could also have a devastating impact on the native people who call the area home. Critics say the move could also adversely affect wildlife, fuel the climate crisis and hurt tourism and recreation opportunities. The...
The Wood Pellet Business is Booming. Scientists Say That’s Not Good for the Climate.

The Wood Pellet Business is Booming. Scientists Say That’s Not Good for the Climate.

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: July 13, 2020 SNIP: In rural Southern towns from Virginia to Texas, mill workers are churning out wood pellets from nearby forests as fast as European power plants, thousands of miles away, can burn them. On this side of the Atlantic, new pellet plants are being proposed in South Carolina, Arkansas and other southern states. And Southern coastal shipping ports are expanding along with the pellet industry, vying to increase deliveries to Asia. While the United States has fallen into a coronavirus-induced recession that dealt a blow to oil, gas, and petrochemical companies, for biomass production across the South, it’s still boom time. The industry has exploded, driven largely by European climate policies and subsidies that reward burning wood, even as an increasing number of scientists call out what they see as a dangerous carbon accounting loophole that threatens the 2050 goals of the Paris climate agreement. This month, the Environmental Protection Agency, acting at the direction of the U.S. Congress, is expected to propose securing that loophole with a new rule that details how burning biomass from forests can be considered carbon neutral, at least in the United States. The industry wants to see regulations that will keep their businesses growing, including expanding U.S. energy markets that now barely exist. But some scientists and environmental groups argue that new EPA rules that are favorable to the industry would put the climate at further risk, along with forest ecosystems across biologically rich landscapes. “Burning wood puts more carbon dioxide in the air right now, today, with certainty, than the fossil fuels you were burning,”...