The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Anne Petermann,
+1.802.578.0477 (in Bonn, Germany)

Orin Langelle,
+1.802.578.6980 (in the

New Report Reveals Major Threats to Forests and Communities from Bioenergy

Forest Advocacy groups from three continents released a new report today that reveals the threat bioenergy poses to forests and forest-dependent peoples. The report warns that U.S. plans for wood-based bioenergy, biochar and genetically engineered trees (GE trees) will worsen a dangerous situation.

BONN, Germany

Global Justice Ecology
Project, Global Forest Coalition and Biofuelwatch [1] released Wood-based
Bioenergy: The Green Lie
, [2] at the UN climate talks today in
Bonn, Germany. The report shows that increased support for the burning
of wood to produce energy (bioenergy) is triggering increased logging
and expansion of industrial tree plantations in the U.S., Ghana, the
Congo, Brazil and West Papua. U.S. plans for large-scale expansion of
bioenergy and the U.S. Climate Bill promotion of biochar [3], combined
with the recent USDA approval of a large-scale release of GE trees in
the U.S. South, threaten to devastate forests and communities.

The demand for trees for so-called "renewable energy" from wood in the
form of wood-fired power stations as well as the co-firing of wood with
coal is massively increasing. It will further escalate with an entirely
new market for biochar through subsidies and carbon offsets. It
coincides with a USDA decision to allow the planting of over a quarter
of a million GE eucalyptus trees across seven states in the U.S. South.

"In spite of global opposition to GE trees, the USDA has approved
planting of 260,000 cold-tolerant eucalyptus trees in the southern
U.S.," stated Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project.
"Eucalyptus is invasive, flammable, and depletes water. This will set a
dangerous precedent that could lead to large-scale releases of GE
versions of native trees like poplars-which would contaminate native
forests. Trees spread pollen and seeds for hundreds of miles and once
contamination occurs it is irreversible."

Wood is projected to become the main source of renewable energy in the
U.S., and is already intensifying logging in U.S. forests. GE tree
plantations are being promoted on the pretense that they can help meet
the fast growing demand for wood, but they pose unacceptable risks
including the destruction of native forests to make room for new GE tree
plantations. Biochar is also a threat.

"The Senate version of the U.S. climate bill, the American Power Act has
alarming provisions that will dramatically increase production of
biochar," explained Rachel Smolker, of Biofuelwatch in the U.S. "The
idea that we can heal the climate by burning trees and burying charcoal
is unfounded, untested and dangerous. A letter to Congress from 90 top
scientists this past week challenged industry claims that burning trees
for energy is 'carbon neutral.'"

Fiu Elisara Mata'ese, Director of the Samoan NGO Ole Siosiomaga Society
expressed his concerns about the impacts that this new demand for wood
will have on Indigenous Peoples: "Large scale demand from the North will
have serious impacts on Indigenous communities, that will lose their
forests to legal and illegal logging, as well as conversion to tree
plantations. The argument that these plantations will be on 'marginal'
lands, and will not compete with peoples' livelihoods or food production
is false. So-called 'Marginal' lands play a vital role in rural
people's livelihoods, providing medicinal plants, grazing, food and

"As the U.S. and other nations turn to burning plants for energy,
changing use of land will have global ramifications," stated Simone
Lovera, Executive Director of Global Forest Coalition. "For example,
agricultural lands are shifting to grow bioenergy crops instead of
food. New agricultural lands come at the expense of forests. The
process ends with displacement of forest dependent Indigenous Peoples
and massive land grabs. Wood-based bioenergy is an absolutely false
solution to climate change."


[1] Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) is a U.S.-based group working nationally
and globally to explore and expose the intertwined root causes of social
injustice, ecological destruction and economic domination.

GJEP coordinates the STOP GE Trees Campaign .

Biofuelwatch campaigns against industrial bioenergy in
the U.S. and Europe.

Global Forest Coalition: is
a worldwide network of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples' Organizations from
over 35 countries on 6 continents, working on rights-based forest

[2] To download the report "Wood Based Bioenergy: The Green Lie" go to:
For more information on bioenergy:

[3] Biochar is
fine-grained charcoal added to soils. It is a byproduct of a form of
bioenergy production called pyrolysis. Advocates claim that biochar can
help raise soil fertility and mitigate climate change, but there is no
clear evidence to back up these claims. There is evidence, however,
that biochar could damage soils and climate, accelerate logging and
increase demand for industrial tree plantations.

[4] For more information on the USDA approval of genetically engineered
eucalyptus trees:

What differentiates Global Justice Ecology Project from most groups is our holistic approach to organizing. We believe that the compartmentalization of issues is enabling corporations and conservative forces to keep movements for change divided and powerless. We strive to identify and address the common roots to the issues of social injustice, ecological destruction and economic domination as a means to achieve a fundamental transformation toward a society based on egalitarian ideals and grounded in ecology.