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ALEC Behind Recent Push For Mandatory Vaccination

By Brandon Turbeville | Activist Post |

Over the last several months, Americans have witnessed an increase in media propaganda regarding the “dangers” of “anti-vaxxers,” the “proven science of vaccines,” and the “tragedies” that ensue from the failure to vaccinate. That propaganda blitz has resulted in massive hysteria stemming from similar levels of ignorance.

Also resulting from the push by Big Pharma-funded corporate media outlets is the emotional and panicked campaign of pro-vaxxers, vaccine pushers, and adherents to the relatively recent new religion of “scientism” – the religious belief in anything labeled as science or scientific, regardless of whether or not that concept directly contradicts observable reality and experience or even regardless of whether or not it is actually scientific.

The so-called vaccine debate – which is not truly a debate since a debate requires the participation of two opposing sides – is generally nothing more than a shouting and shaming campaign against parents who have come to the conclusion that vaccines are not safe, effective, or neither.

Indeed, it is the unbridled emotion of the pro-vaccine camp that has been provoked and subsequently harnessed into a powerhouse of vitriol and social pressure that is then presented as a public health crisis. The howling of the trendy masses, glued to their televisions, sitcoms, and NPR, is then presented as an organic public outcry in the media, resulting in the conveniently timed response of politicians and lawmakers.

Of course, with the creation of the false debate, there is also the political polarization of the issue – the left must be pitted against the right – in a typical but tried and true method of divide and conquer strategy.

Originally, holding questions regarding the safety or effectiveness of vaccinations was something that bridged political boundaries. Granted, the individuals who held these views were a minority. However, those numbers were growing and could be found in the midst of liberals and conservatives, libertarians and socialists, and even those completely unaligned to any ideology.

Now, however, that is beginning to change. The Big Pharma companies that fund the mainstream media and the political parasites infecting the federal and state capitols have managed to turn this debate into a partisan issue.

The propaganda campaign has been successful among members of all political denominations, but particularly so among the left. This is because the left is made up of a population that is well-trained to believe anything presented to them under the guise of science in much the same way as the right who are designed to believe anything presented in a religious context.

The result of this massive absorption of indoctrination is that we have the passage of bills mandating that children be vaccinated by force of law in California and even the attempt to force adults to be vaccinated as well.

With mandates coming out of California, North Carolina, and Vermont, clearly there is a nationwide agenda at foot.

But while those on the left continue to attack Koch Industries and ALEC for funding a number of horrific economic policies and divisive domestic campaigns, painting any idea they oppose coming from the Republican camps as a “Koch-funded” program (it often is), the reality is that the leftists are the biggest dupes in the vaccine game.

This is because, while leftists hawk vaccines and pride themselves on their obedience to doctors and “scientists,” they are doing nothing more than falling into line with a massive Koch-funded and ALEC-facilitated propaganda campaign.

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) 

For those who may not be familiar with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the council is considered a “non-profit organization” made up of Conservative state legislators and corporate private sector “partners.” This mixture of government officials and corporate agents then meet regularly, replete with funding from major corporations all across the world to discuss, plan, write, and submit legislation that is beneficial to the corporations.

In one sense, ALEC is a massive corporate lobbying firm. In another, however, ALEC is much more, since much of the legislation submitted by the attentive congressman is actually written for the Senator or Representative by the agents of the organization. It is an organization that provides funding and direction (marching orders) for Congressmen, particularly those at the state level.

While slimy billionaires like George Soros act as the guiding force behind much of the American left, ALEC and KOCH Industries tend to fill the same void for the right; although, in truth, most of the corporations that make up ALEC are those who also fund Democratic candidates. Presentation, however, in a carefully crafted political theatre like the United States, is paramount.

As Alan Greenblatt describes the organization in his article for Governing,

For decades, the American Legislative Exchange Council has been a force in shaping conservative policies at the state level. Today, its impact is even more pervasive. Its legislative ideas are resonating in practically every area of state government, from education and health to energy, environment and tax policy. The group, which brings together legislators with representatives from corporations, think tanks and foundations to craft model bills, has rung up an impressive score. Roughly 1,000 bills based on ALEC language are introduced in an average year, with about 20 percent getting enacted.

Brendan Greeley of Bloomberg Business describes ALEC in a similar fashion. He writes,

For three decades, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the meeting’s host, has brought together corporations (including Pfizer (PFE), AT&T (T), and ExxonMobil (XOM)) and state legislators to write what it calls model bills—pieces of legislation the industries would like to become law. Often this means protecting favored tax treatment or keeping regulations at bay. ALEC has also approved model bills on social issues, including gun control and voter registration. The bills then get passed around among the 1,800 mostly Republican legislators who are ALEC members. They introduce the model bills about 1,000 times a year in state capitols around the country, the group says. About 200 become law. ALEC pays for the meetings through membership fees (called donations) that corporations pay. The legislators receive travel stipends (called scholarships) to attend the meetings. ALEC is registered with the IRS as a nonprofit that provides a public service, not as a lobbyist that seeks to influence.

This offers two benefits: Corporate members can deduct yearly dues, which run up to $25,000—more if they want to sponsor meetings; and ALEC doesn’t have to disclose the names of legislators and executives who attend. That’s important, because if ALEC operated with complete openness it would have difficulty operating at all. ALEC has attracted a wide and wealthy range of supporters in part because it’s done its work behind closed doors. Membership lists were secret. The origins of the model bills were secret. Part of ALEC’s mission is to present industry-backed legislation as grass-roots work. If this were to become clear to everyone, there’d be no reason for corporations to use it.

While ALEC has pushed a number of bills regarding divisive wedge issues (it has to keep up its conservative veneer), it focuses mostly on economic issues promoting free market, Austrian school, deregulation, free trade, and other policies supported by major banks and corporations.

But ALEC is also a major pusher of laws regarding medical issues – not merely in the context of the American healthcare system, but also in the context of personal choice.

Despite all the rhetoric of ALEC and its puppets in Congress, the position of the organization and its puppets is not necessarily in favor of personal choice. This much has been made clear in the form of mandates and force of law, particularly in the area of vaccination.

This should not be surprising considering ALEC’s many Big Pharma members. While the organization is made up of a plethora of major corporations Big Pharma makes up a sizable portion of its ranks.

Below are a very small few of pharmaceutical companies that are part of ALEC’s operations.

  • Astellas Pharma Inc.
  • Bayer
  • Dupont (Dupont Merck Pharmaceuticals)
  • Eli Lilly
  • Endo Pharmaceuticals
  • Express Scripts
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Hoechst- Roussell Pharmaceutical Corporation
  • Hoffman La-Roche
  • Imperial Chemical Industries Pharmaceuticals
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Mylan Pharmaceuticals
  • Novo Nordisk
  • Pharmacia and UpJohn
  • Purdue Pharma
  • Pfizer
  • Solvay Pharmaceutical
  • Takeda Pharmaceutical
  • TEVA Pharmaceuticals
  • TogetherRX Access (made up of ABBVIE, GSK, Janssen, Lifescan, Pfizer, Stiefel, Viiv Healthcare, Vistakon Pharmaceuticals)
  • The UpJohn Co.

These names are only a small few of the myriad of pharmaceutical companies, vaccine manufacturers, and other interested parties who are listed as members of ALEC. Many of these companies are concealed even further by a veil of umbrella “organizations” acting as front operations.

ALEC And Vaccines

With such a massive list of major pharmaceutical companies amidst ALEC’s ranks, it should come as no real surprise that ALEC would be one of the driving forces behind the recent spate of “mandatory vaccine bills” popping up all across the country. Indeed, its motto should be “Personal Choice For Corporations. Government Enforced Mandates For People.”

Remember, it was ALEC that crafted the “model” legislation “Immunization of Minors On TANF,” legislation that would have required parents on TANF assistance to require proof that their children were fully vaccinated according to the “recommended” levels. If those families did not show proof of their child’s vaccination, those families would lose their TANF benefits.

While exemptions were left intact in this “model” legislation, ALEC has stepped up its attack on parental rights by going after the exemption status in later bills.

For instance, consider the attempt to remove Vermont citizens’ rights to a philosophical exemption to vaccination known as SB 199, a bill that caught many in Vermont by complete surprise. Of course, when one takes a look at the key players and possible motivations, it becomes more obvious as to how this bill came to be and why.

SB 199 was submitted in the Senate by ALEC’s Vermont Chair Senator, Kevin Mullin, and in the House by a notorious vaccine pusher and vaccine damage denier. As Barbara Loe Fisher writes for National Vaccine Information Center,

S199 was introduced in the state Senate by Kevin Mullin, who is VT chair of the Pharma-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and was introduced in the state House by Representative George Till, M.D., at the request of Harry Chen, M.D., Vermont’s Health Commissioner. Dr. Chen, who was a Vermont state representative and former chair of the Vermont House Health Care Committee for four years, has publicly downplayed vaccine risks.

S199 was supported by the VT Dept. of Health and state government supported institutions, such as the University of Vermont, as well as medical trade associations that receive money from pharmaceutical corporations selling vaccines in the U.S., including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), March of Dimes, Every Child by Two and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Other organizations endorsing elimination of the philosophical exemption included the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians, Fletcher Allen, Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, Voices for VT Children, Vermont Pharmacists Association, Rutland Medical Center, and Vermont Medical Society.

Edward Kentish seconded Fisher’s criticism in his op-ed for VTDigger.com when he wrote,

Here ALEC’s Vermont chairman, Republican Sen. Kevin Mullin, introduced S.199, a bill seeking to end the “philosophical exemption” in the childhood vaccine laws. A Republican introducing a health care bill, one that removes a parent’s rights, one that obliges all children to participate in a health care plan. … An ugly duckling if ever there was one! Just doesn’t look like all the rest.

The duckling looks even uglier in the light of Vermont’s exemplary health statistics. We rank right up there on general health, low incidence of infectious diseases, and low child mortality. What’s the problem, what motivates such a bill? Well, several corporations have recently publicly cut their ties with ALEC over ALEC’s Stand Your Ground gun laws, underscoring the reality that ALEC is funded by corporations, and we may guess has their interests at heart more than your child’s well-being.

One might be tempted to argue that the vaccine bill submitted in Vermont was merely an anomaly. That is, one would be tempted to make this argument if the Vermont bill was the only such bill submitted and supported by ALEC and its members.

In California, the infamous and fascist SB 277 which unfortunately became law was introduced by another vaccine fanatic and high priest of the religion of scientism, Richard Pan. Ben Allen, however, the second State Senator to introduce the legislation into the California state Senate is himself connected to ALEC. As Maureen Cruise of LA Progressive wrote in regards to Allen’s funding,

Among other wealthy conservative donors are William E. Oberndorf, a California billionaire investor who funds conservative causes such as the privatization of education which he promotes via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). He has contributed to the Karl Rove PAC and to Jeb Bush and the GW Bush Foundation. The Fisher Family of Gap and a dozen other corporations are fans of privatization of the public sector and charter schools.

Oberndorf, the ALEC big wig, is a major donor of Allen.

Cruise also points out that a sizable portion of Allen’s campaign contributions come directly from pharmaceutical interests.

A similar story is discovered in North Carolina, where notoriously arrogant and corrupt Senator Jeff Tarte – in between fits of whining and rage – introduced a bill that would have removed all vaccine exemption rights (except for medical exemptions) from parents and children, including homeschool children.

As if his last name did not accurately describe his disposition, Senator Tarte was one of the main sponsors of the NC bill SB 346, a bill that would have eliminated the “religious exemption” clause in the recommended vaccine schedule for children entering NC public schools. He was also a main contender for the title of worst public relations interaction with a constituent in the state of North Carolina in the last several years.

In keeping with the trend of recent events, however, Tarte is also a member of the ALEC organization, a feather in his cap that he was not shy in advertising in his weekly newsletter. Tarte not only is a member, but an active participant taking part in speaking events and even a seat on the ALEC Education Council.

Conclusion

The goal of forced vaccination has been in existence for quite some time, going back to a number of elite think tanks decades ago and the halls of pharmaceutical companies. Major pharmaceutical companies, for many obvious (or should be obvious ) reasons would also like to mandate vaccination. Increased profits from the vaccine sales and the treatment of resulting disease, as well as the cover-up of vaccine risks by a population free of a control group are but a few of the reasons such corporations are supporting the vaccine mandates.

After all, as Bertrand Russell stated as far back as 1953,

Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible. . . .

But, while the push to mandate vaccines for children and adults is by no means an ALEC-centric conspiracy, this recent push for such laws was indeed formulated in ALEC councils.

For this reason, it is highly ironic that the political left should be the half of the paradigm that takes up the charge for mandatory vaccination laws. After all, it is the left (at the lower levels) who seems to live by the motto “If ALEC supports it, we oppose it.” This time, all it took was some clever propaganda, trendy nudging, and social shaming and the left was marching right behind ALEC as militantly as if they were Republicans all along.

The entire vaccine debate can scarcely even be labeled a debate. It is an exercise in social shaming, shouting down opposing views, and religious devotion to television and anyone wearing a lab coat or claiming to be an expert.

With the culprit behind the recent mandatory vaccine/eliminate exemption push now revealed, it is time to begin working toward repealing these laws and making sure that no similar bill is ever politically viable.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 500 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com. 

May 10, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Vermont Yankee future in question again

NRC asked to investigate recent pattern of failures

By Lucas W Hixson | Enformable | March 16, 2012

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is operating at reduced power due to problems with the condenser tubes, which are reported to be leaking.  Most nuclear power plants replace their condenser at between 20 and 30 years of continued operation, while  Vermont Yankee’s condenser has been in operation over 39-years.

Condenser leaks adversely affect reliability and the water quality of the water that is used inside the nuclear plant as the primary reactor coolant.  Cooling for the plant’s steam condenser is provided from the adjacent Connecticut river.  At the beginning of February, nuclear engineers at the plant discovered that the condenser was not operating efficiently.  There have been a string of outages in recent months that Yankee has had to reduce power because of problems with the condenser.

Condensers have been known to fail catastrophically, as occurred at Entergy’s Grand Gulf Plant, shutting down the plant for several months.  Thus failure of the Condenser would have a tremendous impact upon Vermont Yankee’s ability to operate within cost-effective margins.  The condenser has thousands of small tubes, that are made out of admiralty metal, copper, stainless steel, or titanium.  The Condenser has two major functions:

  • Condense and recover the steam that passes through the turbine (Condensers are used in all power plants that use steam as the driving force)
  • Maintain a vacuum to optimize the efficiency of the turbine.

A regional spokesman for the NRC said the plastic coating Entergy used on the condenser tubes has caused the system to run less efficiently.  If the epoxy is the source of the issue, the plant will have to run at 50 percent power levels while workers strip epoxy off of the tubing in each of the sections of the condenser.  Vermont Yankee spokesman said the condenser has been upgraded over time and the tubes were “re-sleeved” several years ago.

The cause of the “reduced performance” of the condenser isn’t clear at this point.  Last week the back pressure level went up to 4.5 pounds per square inch. The maximum level for the plant is 5 psi, according to Sarah Hofmann, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service. At 7 psi, the plant is designed to SCRAM.

The state says Yankee technicians made a mistake and left a metal plate inside the component as they were trying to troubleshoot the issue last week.  The plate was a piece of metal large enough for workers to stand on.  Neil Sheehan is a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the agency is aware of the incident, adding, “ It’s an issue that’s affected not only Vermont Yankee but numerous other plants over the years where there’s foreign material that’s left behind when a job is completed. We don’t think that’s acceptable and we certainly had that discussion with them and our inspectors will certainly be addressing that in an upcoming inspection report.”

Entergy is unlikely to replace the condenser until a decision is made in its favor to extend the plants current operating license in Vermont, which expires on March 21st, 2012, but the NRC issued a new operating license last year allowing the plant to continue operating until 2032.

In testimony, Fairewinds Associates noted that rather than invest $200,000,000 (in 2016 dollars) in a new condenser, Entergy may choose instead to shut down the plant as it would be difficult to recoup such a large investment during the final years of the plants life.  Especially if Entergy is losing more than it is profiting for extended periods, which may then cause the licensee to make drastic economic decisions in the face of mounting pressure to block the extension of the plants operating license.  Entergy has admitted Vermont Yankee is a minimal profit producer and additional costs may prove too expensive, especially with the added costs of post-Fukushima upgrades, and conditions imposed after the NRC issued its 20-year extended license.

The NRC recently released an annual report on Yankee that cited a number of what it called non-safety issues at the plant.  Since Louisiana-based Entergy Corporation purchased Vermont Yankee from state utility companies in 2002, the plant has had a string of physical plant problems including a water tower collapse in 2007 and a transformer fire.  In January 2010, the company revealed that underground pipes at the plant were leaking tritium into soil on the compound, which is located on the banks of the Connecticut River.

The recent incident prompted the Shumlin Administration to ask federal regulators about a recent series of human errors at the plant.  Public Service Commissioner Elizabeth Miller wrote Thursday to the head of the NRC’s Northeast region to say she’s concerned about what she called a pattern of human errors at the Vernon reactor during the past 15 months.

Commissioner Miller says the most recent incident of the metal plate left inside the condenser raised questions about whether Yankee was experiencing a pattern of human errors. “In looking at the reports I had a concern that there had been a number of incidents and felt it was appropriate to ask the NRC to explain why that pattern of incidents didn’t deserve further attention or further action by the NRC and so that’s why we sent the letter.”

Miller lists five errors, ranging from failure to remove a plastic cover from a pump before it was installed to inaccurately measuring the dose rate from a shipment of radioactive waste.  Miller’s letter to the NRC cites other mistakes, including a case last fall when Yankee technicians misread a work order and shut down a breaker which resulted in a brief loss of the shutdown cooling system, and another case in December when workers mistakenly tripped the wrong diesel back-up generator.

The NRC labeled all five incidents as minor, but Miller is questioning why they aren’t being considered as part of a pattern.  Yankee spokesman Larry Smith said he could not comment on Miller’s letter. The NRC said it would review it.  In addition to conducting two reviews in 2012 — at mid-cycle and end-of-cycle — the NRC will also review Yankee’s implementation of an industry initiative meant to control degradation of underground piping.

In 2009, the Vermont Senate voted to deny permission for Entergy to obtain a certificate of public good from the Public Service Board for re-licensure of the plant.  In February 2010, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 against re-licensing of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant after 2012, citing radioactive tritium leaks, misstatements in testimony by plant officials, and other documented on-site events.  Entergy sued the state over several statutes, including one that gives Vermont jurisdiction over the continued operation of the plant past the 40-year deadline and a say in the long-term storage of nuclear waste on site.

A state law that prevents the plant from storing spent fuel at Vermont Yankee after that date without approval from the Public Service Board.  Last week the board questioned whether it had the ability to let Vermont Yankee keep producing spent fuel and pushed Entergy attorneys on why they hadn’t addressed the impending issue earlier. Federal district court Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled the Atomic Energy Act pre-empted the two state laws, but his decision left the Public Service Board’s discretion intact.  The Public Service Board held a status conference March 9 at which they would not guarantee that the plant would keep operating, and briefs are due Friday.

When the board reopened the proceeding and asked whether the plant could continue to operate, Entergy fired off an immediate request to the court asking it to let the plant operate after March 21, implying it might continue operating, even if the board says it should not.

“[O]n March 9, 2012, the PSB made clear that it does not necessarily agree with the AG’s and the DPS’s view. In the event that the PSB ultimately disagrees, Plaintiffs will be forced either to cease operating or, if they defy the PSB by continuing to operate, to face the prospect of a diminished credit rating, a loss of crucial employees, and a demerit in the PSB’s consideration of Plaintiffs’ petition for a new CPG.”

Entergy has a track record of deferring maintenance, exampled by the 2007 collapse of the cooling towers, was found to be caused by corrosion in steel bolts and rotting of lumber.  Some still think that a corporation that buys an aged nuclear plant fully aware of the pending decommissioning agreement with the state, ought to be bound to decommission it. However, right in the middle of the Fukushima disaster the NRC grants another 20 years to an old, trouble ridden plant, doesn’t that just beat all…

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Nuclear Power | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Vermont Yankee future in question again

Up in Smoke

Why Biomass Wood Energy is Not the Answer

By George Wuerthner | January 12, 2010

After the Smurfit-Stone Container Corp.’s linerboard plant in Missoula Montana announced that it was closing permanently, there have been many people including Montana Governor Switzer, Missoula mayor and Senator Jon Tester, among others who advocate turning the mill into a biomass energy plant. Northwestern Energy, a company which has expressed interest in using the plant for energy production has already indicated that it would expect more wood from national forests to make the plant economically viable.

The Smurfit Stone conversion to biomass is not alone. There have been a spate of new proposals for new wood burning biomass energy plants sprouting across the country like mushrooms after a rain. Currently there are plans and/or proposals for new biomass power plants in Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Idaho, Oregon and elsewhere. In every instance, these plants are being promoted as “green” technology.

Part of the reason for this “boom” is that taxpayers are providing substantial financial incentives, including tax breaks, government grants, and loan guarantees. The rationale for these taxpayer subsidies is the presumption that biomass is “green” energy. But like other “quick fixes” there has been very little serious scrutiny of  real costs and environmental impacts of biomass. Whether commercial biomass is a viable alternative to traditional fossil fuels can be questioned.

Before I get into this discussion, I want to state right up front, that coal and other fossil fuels that now provide much of our electrical energy need to be reduced and effectively replaced. But biomass energy is not the way to accomplish this end goal.

BIOMASS BURNING IS POLLUTION

First and foremost, biomass burning isn’t green. Burning wood produces huge amounts of pollution. Especially in valleys like Missoula where temperature inversions are common, pollution from a biomass burner will be the source of numerous health ailments. Because of the air pollution and human health concerns, the Oregon Chapter of the American Lung Association, the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Florida Medical Association, have all established policies opposing large-scale biomass plants.

The reason for this medical concern is that even with the best pollution control devises, biomass energy is extremely dirty. For instance, one of the biggest biomass burners now in operation, the McNeil biomass plant in Burlington, Vermont is the number one pollution source in the state, emitting 79 classified pollutants. Biomass releases dioxins, and as much particulates as coal burning, plus carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and contributes to ozone formation. […]

BIOMASS ENERGY IS INEFFICIENT

Wood is not nearly as concentrated a heat source as coal, gas, oil, or any other fossil fuel. Most biomass energy operations are only able to capture 20-25% of the latent energy by burning wood. That means one needs to gather and burn more wood to get the same energy value as a more concentrated fuel like coal. That is not to suggest that coal is a good alternative, rather wood is a worse alternative. Especially when you consider the energy used to gather the rather dispersed source of wood and the energy costs of trucking it to a central energy plant. If the entire carbon footprint of wood is considered, biomass creates far more CO2 with far less energy output than other energy sources.

The McNeil Biomass Plant in Burlington Vermont seldom runs full time because wood, even with all the subsidies (and Vermonters made huge and repeated subsidies to the plant—not counting the “hidden subsidies” like air pollution) wood energy can’t compete with other energy sources, even in the Northeast where energy costs are among the highest in the nation. Even though the plant was also retrofitted so it could burn natural gas to increase its competitiveness with other energy sources, the plant still does not operate competitively. It generally is only used to off- set peak energy loads.

One could argue, of course, that other energy sources like coal are greatly subsidized as well, especially if all environmental costs were considered. But at the very least, all energy sources must be “standardized” so that consumers can make informed decisions about energy—and biomass energy appears to be no more green than other energy sources.

BIOMASS SANITIZES AND MINES OUR FORESTS

The dispersed nature of wood as a fuel source combined with its low energy value means any sizable energy plant must burn a lot of wood. For instance, the McNeil 50 megawatt biomass plant in Burlington, Vermont would require roughly 32,500 acres of forest each year if running at near full capacity and entirely on wood. Wood for the McNeil Plant is trucked and even shipped on trains from as far away as Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Quebec and Maine.

Biomass proponents often suggest that wood [gathered] as a consequence of forest thinning to improve “forest health” (logging a forest to improve health of a forest ecosystem is an oxymoron) will provide the fuel for plant operations. For instance, one of the assumptions of Senator Tester’s Montana Forest Jobs bill is that thinned forests will provide a ready source of biomass for energy production. But in many cases, there are limits on the economic viability of trucking wood any distance to a central energy plant. Again without huge subsidies, this simply does not make economic sense. Biomass forest harvesting is even worse for forest ecosystems than clear-cutting. Biomass energy tends to utilize the entire tree, including the bole, crown, and branches. This robs a forest of nutrients, and disrupts energy cycles.

Worse yet, such biomass removal ignores the important role of dead trees to sustain the forest ecosystems. Dead trees are not a “wasted” resource. They provide home and food for thousands of species, including 45% of all bird species in the Nation. Dead trees that fall to the ground are used by insects, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles for shelter and even potentially food. Dead trees that fall into streams are important physical components of aquatic ecosystems and provide critical habitat for many fish and other aquatic species. Removal of dead wood is mining the forest. Keep in mind that logging activities are not benign. Logging typically requires some kind of access, often roads which are a major source of sedimentation in streams, and disrupt natural subsurface water flow. Logging can disturb sensitive wildlife like grizzly bear and even elk are known to abandon locations with active logging. Logging can spread weeds. And finally since large amounts of forest carbon are actually tied up in the soils, soil disturbance from logging is especially damaging, often releasing substantial additional amounts of carbon over and above what is released up a smoke stack.

BIOMASS ENERGY USES LARGE AMOUNTS OF WATER

A large-scale biomass plant (50 MW) uses close to a million gallons of water a day for cooling. Most of that water is lost from the watershed since approximately 85% is lost as steam. Water channeled back into a river or stream typically has a pollution cost as well, including higher water temperatures that negatively impact fisheries, especially trout. Since cooling need is greatest in warm weather, removal of water from rivers occurs just when flows are lowest, and fish are most susceptible to temperature stress.

BIOMASS ENERGY SAPS FUNDS FROM OTHER TRULY GREEN ENERGY SOURCES LIKE SOLAR

Since biomass energy is eligible for state renewable portfolio standards (RPS), it has captured the bulk of funding intended to move the country away from fossil fuels. For example, in Vermont, 90% of the RPS is from “smokestack” sources—mostly biomass incineration. This pattern holds throughout many other parts of the country. Biomass energy is thus burning up funds that could and should be going into other energy programs like energy conservation, solar and insulation of buildings.

PUBLIC FORESTS WILL BE LOGGED FOR BIOMASS ENERGY

Many of the climate bills now circulating in Congress, as well as Montana Senator Jon Tester’s Montana Jobs and Wilderness bill target public forests. Some of these proposals even include roadless lands and proposed wilderness as a source for wood biomass. One federal study suggests that 368 million tons of wood could be removed from our national forests every year—of course this study did not include the ecological costs that physical removal of this much would have on forest ecosystems.

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program, or BCAP, which was quietly put into the 2008 farm bill has so far given away more than a half billion dollars in a matching payment program for businesses that cut and collect biomass from national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands. And according to a recent Washington Post story, the Obama administration has already sent $23 million to biomass energy companies, and is poised to send another half billion.

And it is not only federal forests that are in jeopardy. Many states are eying their own state forests for biomass energy. For instance, Maine recently unveiled a new plan known as the Great Maine Forest Initiative which will pay timber companies to grow trees for biomass energy.

JOB LOSSES

Ironically one of the main justifications for biomass energy is the creation of jobs, yet the wood biomass rush is having unintended consequences for other forest products industries. Companies that rely upon surplus wood chips to produce fiberboard, cabinet makers, and furniture are scrambling to find wood fiber for their products. Considering that these industries are secondary producers of products, the biomass rush could threaten more jobs than it may create.

BOTTOM LINE

Large scale wood biomass energy is neither green, nor truly economical. It is also not ecologically sustainable and jeopardizes our forest ecosystems. It is a distraction that funnels funds and attention away from other more truly worthwhile energy options, in particular, the need for a massive energy conservation program, and changes in our lifestyles that will in the end provide truly green alternatives to coal and other fossil fuels.

George Wuerthner is a wildlife biologist and a former Montana hunting guide. His latest book is Plundering Appalachia.

Source

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , , , | 7 Comments