Report finds ‘greenwashing’ covers false advertising

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Report finds ‘greenwashing’ covers false advertising

Postby Wilberforce » Tue Jul 29, 2014 7:49 pm

Report finds ‘greenwashing’ covers false advertising

Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 6:30 am

LAUREN BERG lberg@newsvirginian.com

“Going green” can be a confusing process, especially when it comes to choosing an energy source. Biomass power has become known as an environmentally friendly fuel, sold by many power plants around the country, but one organization took a closer look to see if biomass really is as “clean” as companies flaunt.

The Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) is a Massachusetts-based public interest environmental organization working to analyze the public health and environmental impacts of biomass power. The group wants to bring the attention of the Federal Trade Commission to biomass power and the companies that claim it is a better source of energy than coal or gas.
click here!

In a report conducted by PFPI titled “Climate of Deception: Why Electricity Consumers Who Care about Global Warming and Air Pollution Need FTC Protection from Biomass Industry Greenwashing,” companies including Dominion Power in Virginia, might be falsely advertising the benefits of biomass fuel while ignoring the potentially harmful effects.

The report defines “greenwashing” as marketing that emphasizes the environmental benefits or attributes of a product, where the advertised environmental benefits are overstated, unsubstantiated or false. This invites consumer deception when customers buy the product, but do not get the promised environmental benefits. Many companies use common green marketing terms like “eco,” “earth friendly,” “natural,” or “organic” to entice customers to buy their products.

“’Greenwashing’ is dressing something up to look like something it isn’t,” said Kelly Bitov, an attorney with PFPI.

She explained the importance of accurately researching the effects of biomass fuels to protect consumers and provide them with the most up-to-date research. States define biomass fuel independently, which can lead to many different types of materials being touted as “green energy” when they may be more harmful to the environment than traditional fuels.

“Biomass fuels can contain contaminated material,” Bitov said. “We’re concerned because of the potential for negative environmental and public health effects.”

Biomass power is harvested from burning biological materials in power plants. The PFPI report focused on wood as the main fuel for biomass power. Many power plants are eager to convert and market renewable energy sources due to incentive programs. This can be dangerous territory for customers who want to use renewable energy, but who may face false advertising from companies.

According to Bitov, “Biomass fuels have very high carbon contents and the technology [to harvest it] is inefficient right now.”

High carbon dioxide emissions contribute to climate change, while high emissions of conventional air pollutants worsen air quality and endanger public health. Harvesting biomass fuel can also damage forest ecosystems. According to the report, biomass power plants emit more carbon dioxide than coal and gas. Wood has a high carbon content and when it is burned, it releases more of that carbon into the atmosphere than gas or coal. The technology to harvest biomass fuel is also not efficient enough; less than a quarter of the fuel is actually converted to useful energy.

The report also found some myths about biomass fuel including the idea that using waste wood would not emit any more carbon than letting it decompose on its own. However, the rates of biomass power plant carbon emissions versus the more natural decomposing rate will not balance out for decades, if ever.

Another common idea is that trees are a renewable source because they will eventually grow back. This idea creates a false image of balancing the energy cycle, but trees do not grow quickly and would not balance out with the massive amount of wood needed for biomass fuel.

“It depends on what type of fuel, the facility’s technology and how fast forests grow back,” Bitov added. “There’s a lot of uncertainty right now.”

Companies that market biomass power claim that it is carbon neutral, but they don’t actually show consumers how it works. Some companies claim that biomass power does not pollute the air or even reduces air pollution, while many others claim it is a “clean” fuel because it is plant-based.

“Many people think if a product comes from a tree, it must be ‘clean,’ Bitov said. “Not necessarily, though.”

PFPI hopes to bring their report in front of the FTC for review and to substantiate their research. The organization wants to investigate whether any of the environmental claims made by the biomass power companies named in the report are deceptive under consumer protection law. With the help of the FTC, consumers can be protected from false advertising and harmful fuel sources.

“The FTC wants to ensure consumers interpret those green marketing terms correctly,” added Bitov.

At the moment, PFPI will focus on wood burning biomass fuels, but may look at other fuels in the future. Dr. Mary Booth, director of PFPI, said, “Wood is really the only fuel that is being burned right now. It’s certainly a possibility that we’ll look into other sources, but the science is very clear cut about the burning of wood. It may not be true for other sources of bio fuel, though. We will go where the data leads.”

Follow Lauren Berg on Twitter @LBergTNV

source
http://www.dailyprogress.com/newsvirgin ... b2370.html
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Carbon concerns over wood burning

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taxpayers may have been subsidising power stations to burn wood in a way that creates more emissions than burning coal, a government report will reveal.

The subsidies are designed to help meet renewable energy targets as new trees soak up CO2 emitted by burned trees.

But the document admits the policy fails to calculate that it could take 100 years for the CO2 to be recaptured.

Campaigners have called for new rules, but the government declined to comment.

The document will be published on Thursday at the same time as a high-profile report on nuclear waste.

Revised rules

The key error in the government's previous calculations was a failure to acknowledge the amount of time it takes trees to reabsorb CO2.


When we first saw this research we didn't believe it'


End Quote Senior goverment source

A paper by a US academic showed that burning whole trees would produce more emissions than burning coal by the time transport emissions are taken into account.

'When we first saw this research we didn't believe it,' a senior government source told BBC News. 'But we did the calculations and found that we had been wrong.'

'We clearly need a new set of rules,' Kenneth Richter, from Friends of the Earth, told BBC News.

'This is really embarrassing for the government - they have finally admitted what we have been saying for a very long time.

'Under the current rules there is no way of government knowing whether wood is being burned in a way that is beneficial to the climate or not.'

The UK's biggest power station, Drax, is switching half of its boilers from coal to wood pellets in a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is said to believe there is enough spare wood in US forests to supply current UK demand sustainably.

Pellet plant

Drax insists that it is using offcuts of wood that would otherwise be waste. But the issue is complex and disputed.

The firm showed me their wood pellet operations in the US, which collect thinnings and offcuts from trees. This is wood that might otherwise be burned at the roadside.

But I saw another wood pellet plant sending biomass to the UK using whole trees from endangered swamp forests.

So the DECC calculator may help government and industry determine exactly what sort of biomass it is useful to burn, but the evidence for policy will be scattered between multiple producers thousands of miles away.

Other knock-on effects are hard to calculate across an entire industry.

What is the effect of taking out all the wood from a felled forest so few nutrients or biomass are left behind to condition the soil?

What if the price for burnable wood outstrips the price for wood pulp, and forces the US to import wood from elsewhere to make its paper products?

Temporary solution

I understand Energy Secretary Ed Davey believes biomass burning is a temporary solution to get the UK through its demanding 2020 carbon reduction targets.

Drax's business plan depends on the continued burning of biomass. A spokesman told BBC News that the government's calculations of the benefits of wood-burning were technically poor. He pointed to other reports showing the benefits of burning American wood to keep the lights on in Europe.

Dorothy Thompson, the firm's chief executive, said: 'Sustainability has always been absolutely central to our biomass strategy. The academic study by DECC confirms what Drax has always argued, that there is a right way to source biomass and a wrong way.

'We welcome that it confirms the fact that where biomass is sourced sustainably major carbon savings can be delivered.'

Posted by Julie Preston at 9:38 AM

source
http://truthbehindthescience.blogspot.c ... rning.html
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