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W4B’s new application to allow them to burn diesel from tyres could bring their palm oil power plans one step closer: Please object today!

May 15, 2013

fat cat 2

W4B has had planning permission to build a biofuel – likely palm oil – power station in Portland since January 2010. So far they have been unable to finance such a plant – perhaps because investors have been scared off by the level of local opposition and the bad publicity about W4B.

Now, W4B have come up with a new idea: They have applied to have their original planning consent extended to allow them to do several new things. First, to import rubber crumb made from old tyres, involving 26 HGV movements per week – all the way from Bristol. Secondly to process this tyre waste on site using a new untested type of machine into synthetic diesel. Thirdly to transport this diesel off site together with a material called Carbon Black. And eventually they may burn the synthetic diesel on site in diesel engines to generate electricity.

They are still saying they will at some time in the future proceed to build a full power station operating on imported palm oil. They clearly hope that people concerned about palm oil will welcome them wanting to now burn fuels from genuine waste – but there are three good reasons not to be fooled by this:

1) If W4B really wanted to burn diesel made from old tyres (‘synthetic diesel’) instead of palm oil then they could have asked for the planning conditions to allow them to burn only synthetic diesel and no vegetable oils. But this is not what they have done – they are still keeping open the option of burning palm oil.

2) The synthetic diesel which W4B wants to burn does not exist. Companies and research institutes have spent decades trying to turn old tyres into diesel without much success. Nobody has managed to do it at a commercial scale and no power plant anywhere in the world is run that way.

3) If W4B was to actually build the plant they are now speaking of (i.e. one that turns old tyres into diesel and then burns it for electricity), the risks to Portland residents would be high. Those include serious health and safety (i.e. explosion) as well as new air pollution risks. After all this is a completely unproven, experimental process.

Why does W4B want permission to burn a fuel that does not exist?

Nobody in NOPE knows for sure, but we expect that it is part of their so far unsuccessful quest to attract investors. Perhaps they really think they can become the world’s first ever company to manage to turn old tyres into diesel and that into electricity? Venture capitalists are often prepared to take big risks when funding new technologies – and W4B would offer them the ‘safe’ fall-back option of burning palm oil.

Please write to the Planning Officer of Weymouth today to object to W4B’s latest application and please contact your local Councillor to share your concerns. What W4B are asking for should not be considered (and potentially rubber-stamped) as a change to a planning condition: The Council must insist on them submitting a full new application, complete with an Environmental Impact Assessment and the decision must be made by the Planning Committee, not simply by one Planning Officer. For greater impact, please personalise your message.

Please email your comments to the Planning Officer Chris Moscrop (C.Moscrop@westdorset-weymouth.gov.uk), Chair of the Planning Committee Mark Tewkesbury (M.Tewkesbury@westdorset-weymouth.gov.uk) and Mayor Margaret Leicester (M.Leicester@westdorset-weymouth.gov.uk)

You can also respond directly via the council planning site by clicking here.

Sample email

Subject: Application for Variation of condition 2 of planning approval ref 09/00646/FULES W4B Portland, WP/13/00262/VOC

Dear Mr Moscrop,

I wish to object to W4B’s application for a ‘variation of condition’. As the planning documents show, consent for this application would allow them to build a plant that would turn rubber crumbs made from old tyres into synthetic diesel and LPG which would eventually be transported to and burned in diesel and gas generators in an adjacent building. Initially, however, the fuels it could be sold and possibly exported by ship, as the planning documents state. In other words, W4B now want permission for building a fuel refinery as well as an electricity generating plant which can burn fuels from old tyres as well as palm oil and other vegetable oils.

I cannot see how this can possibly be considered as a mere variation of a planning condition on fuel use.

Burning palm oil in diesel generators, for which W4B has and would retain planning permission is a well-proven way of producing electricity – albeit an entirely unsustainable as well as polluting one.

Turning old tyres into synthetic diesel and LPG, on the other hand, is an entirely new and unproven process. I understand that no company has yet succeeded in doing so commercially. The technology that is closest to what W4B are now speaking of is waste gasification and that is beset with serious technical, emissions and health and safety problems. There are two existing waste gasifiers in the UK (one on the Isle of Wight, the other in Dumfries in Scotland) and both have a record of serious repeat breaches of air emission permits (in one case exceeding legal dioxin levels eight times over). Furthermore, there are serious health and safety risks involved in building a plant that is operating under high pressure and that produces highly flammable and explosive fuels. The residents of Portland would thus be exposed to new and entirely unpredictable risks.

I would therefore request that the current ‘variation of condition’ application be rejected since what W4B are asking for is not a ‘variation of condition’ – involves a change of use. If W4B were to submit a new full planning application then, given the experimental and untested nature of the development, I believe that the Council must ask for a full Environmental Impact Assessment and have this considered by the full Planning Committee.

Yours sincerely,

W4B – Tired Old Tricks

March 17, 2013

portland portWhen W4B submitted plans to build a power station at Portland Port, they declared that their primary fuel would be palm oil – an odd choice for a company claiming to be green. Palm oil has a reputation for rainforest destruction, land grabbing and human rights abuse. This led W4B to claim they wouldn’t use “food grade” palm oil, and later that they would use residues from the industry rather than virgin oil, claims which later fell by the wayside. They also said they were looking at jatropha oil and even had a representative of that industry speak at the planning meeting. Again, jatropha has been linked to land grabbing and diverting land from food production. W4B has been very quiet about using it since the dubious claims about its sustainability were used to get planning permission.

Now they are claiming that due to the current high price of palm oil they are looking at burning oil made from old tyres until the price of palm oil comes down. This announcement came just days after the government agreed to subsidise palm oil as a feed stock for power stations, despite fierce opposition from environmental and social justice groups. We feel that this is just another tactic to divert attention away from the strong arguments that have been made against their unsustainable and unwanted power station at Portland Port, and at the end of the day they will use whatever fuel is cheapest, regardless of the wider environmental costs or the cost to the health of residents living above the smoke stack.

W4B have announced a public meeting at Portland Port on Saturday 23 March, at 10:30am at the Britannia Passenger Terminal. We will attend to present our concerns and get answers to questions the company has never adequately answered. Please join us to let W4B know that their dirty power station is unwanted and unneeded.

Oil Spill Brings Dangers of Planned Biofuel Power Station Close to Home

February 2, 2013
Birds washed up around Portland covered in congealed mineral oil. Photo credit: Steve Trewhella (http://ukcoastalwildlife.co.uk/)

Birds washed up around Portland covered in congealed mineral oil. Photo credit: Steve Trewhella

Scenes of birds washing up on our beaches covered in oil is a cruel irony to us as a group who have campaigned tirelessly for 3 years to stop a biofuel power station from being built at Portland Port.

We understand that W4B Portland have begun the process of building the power station that will use vegetable oil, primarily palm oil, as their fuel. Running the power station would mean shipping 30,000+ tonnes of palm oil to Portland Port in tankers every year. We have always expressed grave concern about the deforestation, land grabbing and habitat loss that is suffered in the countries where palm oil is grown. Now we have a very real and frightening taste of what the ecological consequences of shipping oil to Portland could mean for our own beautiful, important and fragile ecosystem.

This awful tragedy should serve as an urgent wakeup call and put paid to the government’s plans of subsidising biofuel power stations (which are all to be sited at deep-water ports). We won’t stand idly by and let this dirty polluting and potentially devastating power station be built, especially when we have the opportunity to harness clean renewable energy from the elements around our coast.

For more information on how you can help stop subsidies for biofuel power stations please click here.

Stop The ROCs

January 31, 2013

There is still time to stop subsidies for biofuel power stations in Britain, but we have to act now!

If you’re already aware of the issues, then you can skip straight to the What can we do about it section.

Cross-posted from the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS)

One of the main causes of deforestation in Indonesia, and the greatest threat to orangutans in the wild, is the conversion of forests to oil palm plantations. As more and more forests fall, other critically endangered species, including Sumatran elephants, tigers and rhinos, are also put at risk.

Such ‘development’ is usually followed by increased levels of hunting, poaching, human-wildlife conflict, illegal logging, forest fires, and human rights abuses. Tropical forests are crucial carbon sinks, so losing these habitats would be catastrophic in terms of the global fight to prevent dangerous climate change.

Yet, shockingly, the UK government is offering subsidies to power stations to burn biofuels – including palm oil – to generate electricity.  And what’s more, this is being funded through our fuel bills!

These subsidies, called Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are the government’s way of supporting renewable energy technologies, as part of plans to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Nobody would deny that we need more investment in renewables, but, as well as supporting clean technologies such as wind farms, ROCs also finance electricity generation from the burning of bioliquids such as palm oil.

On top of the threat that this increase in demand for palm oil poses to tropical forests and biodiversity, burning palm oil as a fuel has been shown to actually lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions!

Bioliquids – what is the Government proposing?

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is proposing to support the burning of up to 500,000 tonnes of bioliquids per year. A large proportion of this would be palm oil, as it is by far the cheapest vegetable oil. This target equates to 110,000 hectares of oil palm plantations, and could result in the doubling of the amount of palm oil imported into the UK each year. Simply asking DECC to exclude palm oil from the subsidies isn’t an option due to rules imposed by the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.

What about ‘good’ bioliquids?

Used cooking oil can also be classified as a bioliquid, and is eligible for the same subsidies as palm oil. It is considered to be the most ‘climate friendly’ biofuel, but is already in very short supply and in high demand, for example for transport.  The volumes available could only meet a tiny proportion of our energy needs.

Since the government can’t differentiate between ‘good’ bioliquids and those that are worse for the climate than the fossil fuels they are replacing, then no subsidies should be offered for any bioliquids.

What can we do about it?

The subsidies will be made available from April 2013 – but the government is putting the finishing touches to their plans in February. We only have a matter of weeks to convince DECC to revise the proposals.

1) Please sign the petition to UK Energy Minister John Hayes, asking him to scrap subsidies for burning bioliquids, including palm oil, in power stations.

2) Please write to your MP and ask them to raise this issue as a matter of urgency with John Hayes and Energy Secretary Ed Davey. Please follow the instructions below to contact your MP:

  • You can find out who your MP is here
  • To contact them by Email: Go to their website, which will provide their email address.
  • To contact them by Letter: Send a letter to your MP at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
  • You can use this Template letter. Please personalise the letter if you have time, as this will have more impact.
  • We have prepared a Parliamentary Briefing which you can download and send to your MP, outlining exactly what our objections are to the government’s proposals, and what they can do: Bioliquids and the Renewables Obligation Parliamentary Briefing
  • Always include your own postal address when contacting your MP (even by email), so that they know you are one of their constituents – otherwise you may not receive a reply.

3) Please share this campaign – we need as many people as possible to let the government know that we do not want our fuel bills to subsidise deforestation.

 

URGENT ACTION – W4B GETTING READY TO BEGIN CONSTRUCTION OF PALM OIL POWER STATION AT PORTLAND PORT

October 17, 2012

W4B Portland, the company behind plans for a biofuel power station at Portland Port, are running out of time to begin construction. In January 2010 they were given permission to build a power station on the basis that it would burn palm oil shipped from Indonesia. This permission runs out in just three months time, and now they are trying to change the timetable set by the council and begin construction without giving details of a chemical, biological and air quality monitoring strategy.

If you live in Weymouth or Portland then please write to your local councillor. If you are unsure of who that is you can find details and a contact form here or their email address here. If you don’t live locally you can write to the Mayor, Margaret Leicester, using this form or this email.

Below is a sample letter, please try to personalise it if you can.

 Subject: Please ensure air quality monitoring is in place before biofuel power station construction is allowed to commence

Dear Councillor,

As you know we have been living with the threat of a polluting palm oil power station hanging over us for almost 3 years. Planning permission that was granted in January 2010 is due to run out in 3 months.

Public pressure against this unsustainable and dirty development has seen hundreds of people marching through the streets of Weymouth and Portland, and even blockading the gates of Portland Port. The developers have consistently delayed starting work, selling the company that obtained the original planning consent (W4B Renewable Energy Ltd) in a deal that included the contract to sell energy to the national grid, and have set up a new company, W4B Portland Ltd. This company, under the Directorship of Chris Slack, is now making moves to begin construction before their planning consent expires.

I am very concerned that they are now trying to change the timetable and circumvent some of the conditions imposed when consent was granted. Two new applications to the planning authority (12/00661/CMPCON and 12/00662/CMPCON) seek to delay submitting detailed plans to the authority before works begin on the site. Most of the conditions relate to the materials used in construction (stone, roofing materials, etc.) details of which the applicants request be delayed until the construction of the building commences, and landscaping plans which they propose delaying until that stage of the development. While it would be preferable for those plans to be submitted now, there is another much more troubling matter.

Application reference 12/00662/CMPCON relates to condition 5 of the Grant of Planning Permission for the biofuel power station (09/00646/FULES) and reads:

5.  Unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority, before the commencement of the development hereby approved a detailed 10 year chemical and biological air quality monitoring strategy for the proposed energy plant, shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority.  Thereafter monitoring shall be carried out in accordance with the agreed details and timetable and if the Local Planning Authority considers that any mitigating measures are necessary, these shall be carried out in accordance with the strategy.

Reason:  In order to ensure that there is no long term detriment to the environment in the locality, to the detriment of air and water quality and nature conservation interests in the locality.  In accordance with PPS9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation, PPS23: Planning and Pollution Control and Policies D3, N13 and N15 of the adopted Weymouth and Portland Local Plan 2005.

The applicants (W4B Portland) propose delaying submitting the 10 year chemical and biological air quality strategy until the plant is ready to operate. This is completely unacceptable. Air quality and pollution were a fundamental concern expressed by residents throughout the planning process, and surely this condition was imposed to address the legitimate concern about the health impacts of this plant on Portland and Weymouth residents?

Please do all you can to ensure that this condition is satisfied now, before any work is allowed to commence at the site. This is the very least the developers can do if we are to be subjected to this unwanted development that could blight the lives of so many residents.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,

NOPE’S OLYMPIC AMBITIONS

May 28, 2012

New Logo and Appeal for Legacy of Protection for Portland

No Oil Palm Energy (NOPE), who have been campaigning against plans for a biofuel power station at Portland Port since permission was granted for the scheme in January 2010, have produced a new Olympic-themed logo. If it were not for the fierce public opposition to the plans, which delayed the developers, the Olympic sailing events would have been taking place around a power station spewing pollution and burning palm oil shipped from plantations on former rainforest land in Indonesia.

The threat of this unwanted, unsustainable and polluting power station still hangs over the island. Although the planning permission expires in January 2013, the company behind the scheme, W4B, have recently sold their business to Peak Gen Power based in Leamington Spa. Despite requests from NOPE and other campaign groups, Peak Gen have refused to reveal their plans for the site in Portland.

If this power station does go ahead, then Portland’s Olympic legacy will be deteriorating health for residents and environmental destruction and social injustice where the fuel is grown. Instead Portland should be celebrated and protected for its incredible wild spaces, climbing, sailing, tight-knit community, rare flora and fauna, and the wind and waves that are abundant around the island should be harnessed to produce clean and sustainable energy.

Groups Call On Government To Stop Subsidies for Bioenergy

January 12, 2012

NOPE add their name to an open letter to government from 81 international groups:

Stop subsidising deforestation and land-grabbing for biomass and bioliquid electricity

Open letter to the UK and Scottish Governments[i] relating to the Renewables Obligation Banding Consultation

We call upon the UK and Scottish Governments to stop subsidies for electricity from biomass and bioliquids (i.e. agrofuels) which mean more land-grabbing, logging and industrial tree plantations worldwide.

Under the Renewables Obligation, the UK and Scottish Government are offering generous subsidies  for burning unlimited amounts of wood, most of it imported, as well as agrofuels for electricity.  Although the UK Government has proposed to cap the amount of subsidies for electricity from agrofuels, that cap would still translate into a minimum of110,000 hectares of new plantations, most likely oil palm plantations in the global South.

The scale of the UK’s biomass plans: The UK Government wishes to see biomass generating up to 50TWh by 2020. This would require over 50 and possibly over 60 million tonnes of wood being burned in UK power stations each year, compared to a total UK wood production of less than 10 million tonnes annually. This figure is likely to escalate, as the unlimited subsidies are likely to attract more investment from companies.  By comparison, total EU wood pellet imports were 11 million tonnes last year.[ii]

At present, most UK wood imports come from North America, as well as from Scandinavia, the Baltic States and Russia, contributing to more logging and more forest and biodiversity destruction in those regions as well as releasing large amounts of carbon as a result.  Companies are increasingly looking to source wood from industrial tree plantations in Southern countries, too, for example from Brazil and Ghana.  Both directly and indirectly, the vast new demand for wood require an expansion of industrial tree plantations and thus more land-grabbing, more destruction of forests and grasslands and more depletion and pollution of soils and freshwater.  This poses a further threat to the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples, forest-dependent peoples and small farmers.

Agrofuels for electricity in the UK: The UK proposes to burn 400,000 tonnes of bioliquids burned in UK power stations, which, if they were run on palm oil alone (by far the cheapest bioliquid) would require 110,000 hectares of land to be converted to plantations. Experience in Germany and Italy shows that palm oil is by far the most likely type of agrofuel to be burnt in power stations.  This will mean yet more landgrabbing, human rights abuses and carbon emissions from deforestation.

Sustainability standards for biomass and bioliquids: The UK government insists that it can source biomass and bioliquids  “sustainably” and as such proposes to introduce biomass “sustainability standards” from 2013. For agrofuels, EU standards already apply to renewable electricity subsidies in the UK.

Agrofuel and proposed biomass sustainability standards are grossly inadequate: Above all, they do not address the inherently unsustainable nature of the new demand for wood and vegetable oil being created, on top of an already vastly unsustainable demand for both in the UK and across Europe. Standards ignore all indirect impacts from biomass and agrofuels, as well as all impacts on communities, human rights, the right to food, soil and water.  What’s more, the carbon savings requirements for biomass and bioliquids under the criteria are a false target, as the methodology by which carbon emissions are calculated wrongly assumes that burning bioenergy is carbon-neutral. And there will not even be any independent auditing or verification of companies’ claims.

No subsidies for biomass or bioliquids electricity: By driving up the demand and the global price for wood and energy crops such as palm oil through subsidies (called Renewable Obligation Certificates or ROCs), the UK’s policy on industrial biomass and bioliquids is set to increase land grabbing and speculation for tree plantations, expand destructive logging, speed up the conversion of biodiverse native forests to monoculture tree plantations, and worsen climate change. The government must show it caresabout people and planet by investing in clean and genuine renewable energy solutions that do not adversely affect the global south.

We therefore call upon the United Kingdom to scrap all support measures for biomass and bioliquids and to focus on cutting the demand for energy, including through investment in energy efficiency and home insulation and focussing support on genuinely renewable and sustainable energy technologies instead.

Signed by:

  • ADP (Amics de Palanques) , Spain
  • Africa-Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN), Belgium
  • AFRICANDO, Spain
  • Afrika-Europa Network, Netherlands
  • Agencia de Desarrollo Local, Argentina
  • AmazÚnia Assemblea de Solidaritat, Spain
  • American Environmental Health Studies Project, US
  • ATTAC EspaÒa, Spain
  • Biofuelwatch, UK/US
  • Biomass Accountability Project, Massachusetts, US
  • Breathe Clean Air Group, UK
  • Buckeye Forest Council, Ohio, US
  • Bushwacker Wholefoods, UK
  • Campaign Against Climate Change, UK
  • CAPPA-Ecological Justice, Indonesia
  • Carmelitas Descalzas de Olza, Spain
  • Center for Biological Diversity, US
  • CESINSAD, Colombia
  • CISP – Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli, Italy
  • COECOCEIBA-Friends of the Earth Costa Rica, Costa Rica,
  • Colectivo de Ex Detenidas Desaparecidas “Carmen Soler” AsociaciÛn HIJOS PY, Paraguay
  • ComisiÛn de DDHH de Paraguayos Residentes en Buenos Aires,Argentina
  • Comite Oscar Romero, Spain
  • Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Massachusetts, US
  • Consejo de Organizaciones de MÈdicos y Parteras IndÌgenas Tradicionales por la Salud
  • Comunitaria en Chiapas, Mexico
  • Corporate Europe Observatory, Netherlands
  • Dachverband Kulturpflanzen- und Nutztiervielfalt e.V., Germany (gura@dinse.de)
  • Dogwood Alliance, US
  • Down to Earth, UK
  • Earth 3000, Germany
  • Earthpeoples
  • Ecological Society of the Philippines, Philippines
  • Econexus, UK
  • Ecoportal, Argentina
  • Eco Sitio, Argentina
  • Edinburgh 350, UK
  • Elephant Family, UK
  • Espacio Bristol-Colombia, UK
  • Forest Monitor, UK
  • Forum ÷kologie & Papier, Germany
  • Friends of the Siberian Forest, Russia
  • Fundacion del Rio, Nicaragua
  • Global Forest Coalition
  • Green Delaware, US
  • Grupo Autoayuda Los Andes, Germany
  • Healthy Dubois County, US
  • INCOMINDIOS, Switzerland
  • Institut f¸r angewandten Regenwaldschutz/Regenwald-Institut. e.V., Germany
  • Irish Doctors Environmental Association, Ireland
  • Kalpavriksh, India
  • Keep Our Island Clean, Hawaii, US
  • Labour,Health and Human rights Development Centre, Nigeria
  • LevegQ Munkacsoport (Clean Air Action Group), Hungary
  • Les Amis de la Nature et des Jardins (ANJ), DR Congo
  • Movimiento Nacional de Victimas,M.N.V., Paraguay
  • National Association of Professional Environmentalists (Friends of the Earth Uganda, NAPE), Uganda
  • No North Blyth Biomass Power Station, UK
  • NOPE (No Oil Palm Energy), UK
  • No Southampton Biomass, UK
  • North East Peoples Alliance, India
  • Oakland Institute, US
  • Olympic Environmental Council, Washington, US
  • Organizacion Fraternal Negra HondureÒa, OFRANEH, Honduras
  • Philippine Initiative for Conservation of Environment and the People, Philippines
  • Port Talbot Residents Against Power Stations, UK
  • Preserve Pepeekeo Health and Environment, Hawaii, US
  • PTAirwatchers Port Townsend, WA, USA
  • Reforest the Earth, UK
  • Regenbogenkreis, Germany
  • Rettet den Regenwald e.V., Germany
  • Salva la Selva, Spain
  • Save Americas Forests, US
  • Second Chance Foundation, US
  • Sobrevivencia / Friends of the Earth Paraguay
  • Society for Threatened Peoples International
  • Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa
  • Umweltinstitut M¸nchen e.V. , Germany
  • Westflische Gesellschaft f¸r Artenschutz e.V. (WGA, Westphalian Society for Conservation), Germany
  • Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy, Georgia, US
  • World Rainforest Movement
  • World Temperate Rainforest Network

[i] The UK Government is responsible for decisions regarding renewable energy subsidies for England and Wales only.  In Scotland, such decisions have been devolved to the Scottish Government.

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