Biomass protestors admit guilt on procedural, but not moral, grounds

Seven people faced trial at Falkirk court today (22nd June) after blockading the access roads to Grangemouth docks on 16th May 2011 in protest at plans by port owners, Forth Ports, to build 4 large biomass  power stations in East Scotland. Four were found guilty of obstructing the public highway and three were found not guilty.

They admitted blocking the entire port for  6 hours, bringing fuel tankers and other port traffic to a standstill.  But they claim that the severity of the plans, which include burning  vast quantities of wood, and the threat of the impending approval of the  plans, meant they had no alternative but to protest in the way they did.

Forth Energy, a company mainly owned by Forth Ports, plan to build one  of the power stations at Grangemouth docks. The others are planned for  the ports of Leith, Rosyth and Dundee. All power stations would burn  biomass, mainly in the form of imported wood and in quantities  equivalent to two-thirds of the entire UK's wood production. This, the  company admit, would make local sourcing of the wood impossible.

The activists, blockaded the port from 7.45 in the morning of 16th May.  At one entrance they used a 20 foot (6 metres) high tripod made of  scaffolding poles to which 3 activists attached themselves. The other  entrance was made impassable by 5 people who locked themselves together  using "arm tubes”. Meanwhile 12 supporters held banners and handed out  leaflets to drivers and port workers explaining the reason for the  blockade. Police used cutting equipment and a scaffolding construction  to remove the protestors.

Kimberley Ellis, one of the activists, a renewable energy student from  Dundee said: “We put our bodies in the way because the government seems  to be taking no notice of the problems these power stations would  create; the destruction of forests and other ecosystems, climate change  impacts and the displacement of communities and indigenous peoples.  Locally it will lead to health problems associated with air pollution.  On top of it all, the disposing of warm waste water will kill fish and  other sea and river life by causing unnatural temperature changes. I  have written letters of objection, met with my MSP and spoken in front  of Dundee councillors – I saw no other legal means to stop this madness. ”

“The planning process is undemocratic and we found no legal means to  preventing this crime against humanity and the planet. Forth Energy’s  biomass plans are far from renewable but absolute greenwash, stealing  subsidies from truly renewable, local energy resources. Biomass on this  scale is a major threat to biodiversity”, said Johnny Agnew from  Glasgow, currently doing his masters in wildlife conservation, who held  out on a tripod for 8 hours on the day of action.

Ally Coutts from Aberdeen adds: “There are so many ways that these plans  are bad that I saw no alternative but to get involved. Creating such a  vast new demand for wood can never be sustainable despite the energy  being classed as renewable. A demand on this scale will lead to the  environmental problems wherever the company decides to source the wood.“

Increased demand for biomass is leading to the destruction of old-growth  forests including rain forests, which are being replaced by industrial  tree plantations such as eucalyptus. Industrial plantations lead to the  depletion and pollution of water and soils and they are linked to the  displacement and evictions of communities in the global South.

The world’s forests help regulate weather patterns and their functions  are essential for mitigating climate change. Because the creation of  biomass for power stations destroys forests and causes carbon dioxide  emissions, they would be a major contributor to climate change if the  plans go ahead.

Action Against Agrofuels contests Forth Energy’s “bogus” figures  concerning carbon savings. A research study investigating the carbon  debt from wood-bioenergy found that... burning bioenergy will produce  more GHGs than the combustion of fossil fuels for at least 150 years. [3] Smokestack emissions from biomass power stations are even higher than  those of coal fired power stations – so it is of crucial importance to  consider the greenhouse gases released in every step of the process.  This includes displacement of old-growth forests as well as  long-distance shipping, road transport, construction and disposal of ashes.

Although nearly 1,000 local people in Grangemouth have objected to the  plans, backed by the local authority, who has voted against the plans,  they will have little say in the Government’s decision. Local impacts  will include significant air pollution in an area with high levels of  pollution already, and serious threats to marine life in a protected  nature area. Many studies have shown that Scotland has an abundance of natural energy  sources such as wind, solar, wave and tidal energy which can be  harnessed locally, along with energy efficiency measures and major  improvements in public transport infrastructure, would be real solutions  to climate change.[4],[5]

Notes to editor: - 

[1]The four power stations which will produce a total 530MW will burn  a total of 5.3 million tones of wood a year. They will be at Rosyth,  Leith, Dundee and Grangemouth. The annual UK wood production lies around  8.4 million tonnes per annum.

- The four power stations would burn approximately the equivalent of 2/3  of all the wood the UK currently produces every year. - The UK’s total demand for wood for pulp, paper and biomass is already  altogether unsustainable as the UK relies on net imports for over 80%  for its wood and wood products.

- The Firth of Forth is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, an SPA  (Specially Protected Area), Natura 2000 and RAMSA wetland.

Friends of  the Earth has shown that European biomass imports have already led to  neo-colonial land grabbing in Africa

[3] The Joanneum Research study, commissioned by BirdLife International,  the European Environment Bureau and Transport & Environment  www.birdlife.org/eu/pdfs/Bioenergy_Joanneum_Research.pdf  <http://www.birdlife.org/eu/pdfs/Bioenergy_Joanneum_Research.pdf>

[4] The Power of Scotland Secured  http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/sites/files/possv6final.pdf

[5] Zero Carbon Britain – A new energy strategy  http://www.zerocarbonbritain.org/

Comments

Re: Biomass protestors admit guilt on procedural, but not moral,

By Anonymous

Congratulations on your successful point of civilized spotlighting , ,,.I'm sorry, who were the specific shareholders that paid off your govt officials then probably gave a port rate discount to import the snort from elsewhere places... where is the bank vault local that collects all that tax free reveneue that would provide small business loans... and what about non profit donation to buy some alaska wild caught seafood, and maybe create bettor transfer lines so not so much waste denied locals in energy uses...back tax the shareholders every 3 months ( corporate year),

-your friend in solidarity,

 stopthebycatchkillers@gmail.com