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Mendocino County Today: Friday, May 7, 2021

Cooler Today | 4 New Cases | AV Library | Plant Sale | Mum Gifts | Free Rose | Grazing Workshop | Goat Struck | Recommended Book | Ed Notes | Armed Kindness | Murder Suspect | Lunch Crunch | Gunpoint Goldilocks | Yesterday's Catch | Chinaman | Obi-Juan | Huicholes | Deepend Bikers | Weed Encroachment | Labor | Extreme People | Merit Badge | Dynamite Fisherman | Electricity Kills | Faith Returns | Foil Headquarters | Reuse Plastic | Cloverdale Depot | Dubious Fuel

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HIGH PRESSURE has started to build into the area and this is bringing clearing skies and gusty winds. Inland areas will see cooler temperatures today followed by a warming trend through the middle of next week. Dry weather is expected to persist through the middle of next week as well. (NWS)

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4 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.

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THE AV LENDING LIBRARY will be opening on Tuesday May 18th, from 1-4 pm. All COVID rules will need to be followed. Only 8 people will be allowed in the building at one time. We look forward to seeing everyone again. Please bring in any books you may have been holding. We have ordered a lot of new books, so come and check us out.

Thanks,

Liz Dusenberry

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PLANT SALE AT BLUE MEADOW FARM

Saturday, May 8, 9:00am - 4:00pm

Heirloom, Early Girl and Sungold Tomatoes

Italian & Asian Eggplant

Bells, Gypsy, Corno di Toro Sweet Peppers

Jalapenos, Anaheim, Georgia Flame, Padron Peppers

Blue Meadow Farm
3301 Holmes Ranch Rd
Philo
707 895-2071

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FILIGREEN FARM IS OFFERING MOTHER’S DAY BOUQUETS!

Please preorder by Friday morning by emailing Annie at farmstand@filigreenfarm.com. Bouquets are $30 and feature all Filigreen Farm biodynamically grown flowers and foliage. Orders will be ready for pick up Friday afternoon at the farm stand.

Pair it with our 2020 Olive Oil (available in 500ml and ½ gallon bottles), a quince apple butter, and dried prunes or raisins! Prices for those items listed below:

2020 Olive Oil: 500ml $28, ½ gallon $70

Quince Apple Butter: $11

Prunes or Raisins: $10/ bag

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GRAZING WORKSHOP

Bell Valley Retreat will be holding a Grazing Workshop June 5th and 6th. Please see the link to the registration and announcement: eventbrite.com/e/grazing-livestock-for-soil-health-biodiversity-and-productivity-two-day-tickets-150400454809

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A LITTLE HELP FOR KATE, PLEASE

For those who know me I was knocked down by my Goat Saturday. She has been a demon. 

She was rehomed. She crushed my tibia and I had surgery Monday at Howard memorial. I need some help.

I need a good and honest local plumber to fix my plugged bathroom drain. I need new faucets on the tub/shower. They leak profusely. 

I need a commode to borrow. I was hoping to get a mendo food hub box but they don't deliver to Comptche. I have someone bringing out a trailer to stay nights with me and neighborhood support but she needs days off. Four hours of hanging out 20 bucks an hour. 

I urgently need in dump run. If anyone can help thank you

Text me at 707 367 4699

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AN AVA RECOMMENDED BOOK

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ED NOTES

BACK IN THE DAY, the federal highway administration said traffic on the unpaved 50 or so miles winding over the Mendocino Pass between Covelo and the Sacramento Valley did not merit a $100 million investment in pavement. Surveys predicted an average of 280 vehicles a day might use Forest Highway 7 if it were paved, and a lot fewer than 280 a day used it unpaved. Paving 7 doesn't come up any more, although a few residents of Covelo still think a better road between Covelo and the Sacramento Valley would bring more people to perennially struggling Round Valley and the nearby National Forest, the least visited national forest in the United States.

IT'S BEEN a while since I ventured over Highway 7, but I hope to do it again before the Anderson Valley Ambulance hauls me off for final rendering in the Adventists' jubilant Ukiah emergency room. It's a beautiful drive from Covelo to Willows over on I-5, the miles of unpaved road well-maintained year round although often impassable in the winter months. 

(HIGHWAY 7 represents Mendocino County's very own Trail of Tears. Native Americans were rounded up and herded from the Sacramento Valley to the 19th century reservation at Covelo, the frail and the elderly not surviving the forced march.)

SPEAKING of vegetarians, why did the Adventists dump audiology services at their Mendo hospital monopoly? Hoping for a reply to my inquiry but not optimistic.

ODD that the Republicans still present themselves as the antidote to Demo-Lib wackiness, but here comes John Cox, gubernatorial candidate, holding a press conference with a live, thousand pound, cookie-fed bear chained behind him on hot Sacramento pavement, while Cox attempts a strained metaphor that it will take a beast like him to take back the state from Newsom's beastliness. Cox, dating himself as a child of the 50s, often refers to Newsom as “pretty boy,” an insult from way back hurled at any man who spent inordinate time on his appearance. Had to laugh when the candidate launched an insincere riff about how he'd get the homeless off the streets and into “treatment” if he unseats Newsom. The Republicans I know would get the homeless off the streets with flame throwers, not hospitalization.

ANOTHER REPUBLICAN in the race to remove Newsom is Bruce ‘Caitlin’ Jenner who, natch, gets huge media attention for… 

MEMO to Republicans and assorted Trumpers: You can't win a recall against Newsom in California. If he were governor of Idaho you might have a shot, but the Dems have the Eureka! state sewed up for like ever.

NO, I don't care for Newsom, and I don't think he's been much of a governor. I thought The Terminator wasn't bad. I particularly liked the way he tried to get rid of hundreds of patronage boards and commissions, you know like the ones where the Democrats park their termed-out hacks and hackettes. Uber-hack Wes Chesbro, for instance, went from a lush career as a professional officeholder — accomplishments zero — to seats on the garbage and mental health boards, both sinecures paying over a hundred grand a year to do absolutely nothing. 

NEWSOM'S famous un-masked, un-distanced lunch at the French Laundry — $350 and up per plate — didn't surprise me. We've suffered this class of ignoble noblesse obligers for years now, and he's simply one more empty, tailored suit climbing in and out of limos. 

A MENDOCINO COUNTY Superior Court Judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Reginald Faber III, 44, of Ukiah for Robbery and Burglary.

Upon arrival at the residence on South Oak Street (Ukiah), Deputies located Faber and he was taken into custody without incident. Faber was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $200,000 bail.

WHY THE HIGH BAIL? First off, the residents of that South Oak home were present when this guy appeared, and second bail is set higher than ordinarily might be the case with most Mendo mopes because the accused perp has a long, dangerous criminal history.

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ON AUGUST 9th, 2020, Lake County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to an area in the Mendocino National Forest related to possible human remains being discovered. Detectives from the Major Crimes Unit also responded to the location and determined the remains were human, badly decomposed and were believed to have been in the forest for several weeks.

The remains were recovered and an autopsy was conducted later that week. The autopsy revealed that the remains belonged to a male and the death was a homicide due to a gunshot wound. Detectives were able to positively identify the victim as John Turner Dickerson, 48, of Nice. 

Detectives have been investigating several leads during the past year related to Dickerson’s death. On August 19th, 2020, detectives served a search warrant at a property in Potter Valley associated with Christopher McDonald, 44, of Potter Valley. 

Christopher McDonald

Through the investigation detectives determined McDonald was one of the last people seen with Dickerson prior to his death. During the search of McDonald’s property, evidence was located and later tested that linked McDonald to the murder of Dickerson.

On May 4th, 2021, Detectives obtained an arrest warrant for McDonald. He was arrested for the murder and is currently being held in the Mendocino County Jail where he is in custody for unrelated charges. McDonald is awaiting extradition to Lake County. 

The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone who may have further information regarding this case to contact Detective Jeff Mora at 707-262-4224, or by email at jeffrey.mora@lakecountyca.gov. 

(Lake County Sheriff presser)

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GRAMPS GRABBED HIS GUN AND....

On Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 11:46 PM, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Communications Center received a 911 call from a 71 year old homeowner regarding an in-progress burglary at their home in the 31000 block of Bayview Drive in Fort Bragg.

The 71-year old elderly female homeowner reported that a man, unknown to her, was found inside her residence and her husband was holding the intruder at gunpoint.

Deputies arrived a short time later and found the intruder, Michael James Robinson, 39, transient of Oklahoma, being detained by the elderly male homeowner. Deputies quickly detained Robinson and began an investigation.

Michael Robinson

Deputies learned Robinson entered the residence through the homeowner's bedroom door, as they lay asleep.

Robinson had removed his clothing and changed into clothing that belonged to the elderly male homeowner. Robinson consumed food and wine in the kitchen, until he was noticed by the elderly homeowners, at which point he was detained by the elderly male homeowner.

Based on the results of this investigation, Robinson was arrested for First Degree Burglary.

Robinson was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, May 6, 2021

Brown, Ellingwood, Hoff

JESSE BROWN, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent.

MIRANDA ELLINGWOOD, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.

BENJAMIN HOFF, Ukiah. Failure to appear.

Ireland, Kukhahn, Pechceron

CASEY IRELAND, Willits. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun.

ISAAC KUKHAHN, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

ZAHIR PECHCERON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

Proctor, Robinson, Simili

RODNEY PROCTOR, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

MICHAEL ROBINSON, Fort Bragg. Burglary.

LILY SIMILI, Fort Bragg. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun.

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CHINAMAN, n. A working man whose faults are docility, skill, industry, frugality and temperance, and whom we clamor to be forbidden by law to employ, whose labor opens countless avenues of employment to the whites, and cheapens the necessities of life to the poor; to whom the squalor of poverty is imputed as a congenial vice, exciting not compassion but resentment.

— Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary,” on immigration policy in early California

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO

by Paul Theroux

Tepic: The People who hide from evangelists

To the inland town town of Tepic the next morning, a lovely day, sliding down the coast on the bus, someone else driving, a tour of the tomato fields, the ranks and rows of trees in the avocado orchards, cornfields and vegetable gardens, miles of them, all sizable and symmetrical. Even the cemeteries were orderly, the carved mausoleums like small habitable chalets. Only the human huts and shacks in the passing settlements were squalid and ruinous, where the farmworkers live, earning a pittance — this, 30 miles from Mazatlan, near the town of El Rosario.

It was restful to travel into the big bosomy landscape, the green hills, shaggy with low trees, too steep to plow or cultivate for crops except in the hidden slopes where (I was assured) marijuana and opium poppies were grown, making El Rosario more famous for its drug crops than its vegetables or fruit, and as a consequence, a haunt of the cartels, and somewhat disputed here in Nayrit between the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation.

From the swampy coastal plain haunted by herons, the road climbed into the hills to Tepic. That was my destination. Tepic was founded almost 500 years ago but you'd never know it: its antiquity was buried by scrapyards and car repair shops which are the Mexican response to a bad economy and low wages -- making do and mending are the answer to mechanical problems. No one has any money, so cars are kept for decades and cobblers and tailors are busy too, and so are blacksmiths, welders and brick makers. Mexico still knows how to fix things: the body shops of Tijuana smooth the dented cars from California.

In the glare of early afternoon, the rest of Tepic, a town cut in the mountains, consisted of a few busy commercial streets, and the nearer neighborhoods of cracked and sunbaked bungalows and small fenced in houses scattered over a hillside, some of them on narrow cobblestone lanes.

A whitewashed, walled off University was the pride of the town, and so was another dominant feature, a resident of the past: the 17th-century cathedral with Gothic steeples, whose fenestration and tapering top gave them the look of a pair of upright skeletal rockets. An uninviting place, on the whole, the sort that inspires the thought, Let's keep going.

But I had spent the whole morning on the bus and I was happy to get off at 3,000 feet. The air was markedly fresher than in steamy Mazatlan and I was here for a reason: to visit the nearest settlement of indigenous Huichol people. I was told in Mazatlan that I would have no trouble finding them: "You will see them. You will know them by their amazing clothes."

In the sunny early afternoon I walked down the main avenue, Insurgentes, to a restaurant that had been recommended, El Farallon -- excellent seafood, traditionally broiled on a zaranda (literally a sieve, but in Mexico a grill). I was to find as I had on the border that no matter how dreary looking a Mexican city or town, it always had a good place to eat which is worth stopping to find. In the absence of any other comfort, suffering poor housing, violent streets, bad government and wicked cops, Mexicans defend their food and take pride in its regional differences -- in many cases define themselves and their towns in the uniqueness of their food.

Paying my bill I stepped into the street at the same time as another man who had just finished eating and was voluptuously working on a toothpick in his mouth. I said hello, we talked a while -- simple pleasantries -- and then I asked how I might find some Huichol people in Tepic.

The man made an expansive gesture. "They're everywhere!"

"I'd like to go to a Huichol village."

"That might be a problem."

"The village is far from here?"

"Two or three villages -- yes, far. But they don't want you to visit. There used to be tours. But they are suspicious of outsiders." He smiled and took the toothpick from his mouth. "They made a rule banning missionaries from visiting." He laughed. "They don't want to see them!"

"Why is this?"

"Christian missionaries – evangelicos -- many of them gringos from the US -- singing, dancing. They wanted to convert them, but the Huichol have other ideas and other gods." He gestured with a toothpick, making it a spear. "Evangelicos!"

"Is there a center of Huichol culture?"

"In Jalisco. San Andres Cohamiata," he said. "You'll never find it. It's far, it's in the mountains. I don't think there's a road."

"So how do the Huichol travel?"

"They don't travel far. But when they do, they use the paths. They walk."

He wished me well and strolled off, grinning into his toothpick. But not long after that, walking down a side street, I saw two women coming toward me, unmistakably Huicholes, highly colored, billowy blue gypsy skirts, yellow shawls, embroidered blouses, and red headscarves. They walk with the confidence verging on swagger that people possess when they wear a traditional dress, asserting their difference.

"Hola," I said, but they didn't stop, so I hurried after them and tried to engage them in conversation.

There followed an epiphany: I had found two people, natives of Mexico, whose grasp of Spanish was as rudimentary as mine.

"Huichol?"

"Yes."

"You live near here?"

"No."

"Where is your village?"

Flinging her hand, one woman said, "There. Far."

"San Andres?"

"No. Another place. Small place."

"I want to visit your village."

They laughed. "No!"

"To see you make things." They were famous for their embroidery, their sewing, their decorated widebrimmed straw hats, and especially for their intricate beadwork -- tiny beads worked into the surface of wax sculptures.

In their refusal they spoke in their own language, finding this whole encounter ludicrous, the sudden pestering gringo on a hot street in midafternoon. They waved me away, but I was encouraged to look further. I walked for another hour but did not see another Huichol. Maybe, as the man said, they were hiding from gringo evangelists -- who could blame them?

And so I left, boarding another bus.

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Deepend Bikers (photo by Annie Kalantarian)

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WINE COUNTRY FIGHTS BACK IN WEED WARS

Grapegrowers and wine producers are pushing back against the cannabis industry's push into prime California wine country.

wine-searcher.com/m/2021/05/wine-country-fights-back-in-weed-wars

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ONLINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

The American tendency to believe that anyone and everyone can/should do something extraordinary… I actually think we’re not only a nation of magical thinkers, we’re also a culture addicted to adrenalin rushes.

Notice how many are involved in extreme sports, jumping out of planes, etc. never mind just piloting a plane (which I agree with you – I have zero interest in ever doing – I hate flying).

If people were rooted in reality and not decades of magical-think dogma delivered to us by well-paid charlatans and TV, maybe we’d understand that none of what we think is ‘success’ actually is, most of the time.

For instance, that ‘glamorous’ Hollywood life that people envy. It’s a shit life. That’s why the smart/unaddicted ones take the money and high-tail it out of there.

In this era, you don’t make it to superstardom unless you are 100% controlled and owned, and made to perform on cue like a circus animal. And then, followed around by papparazzi and controlled by handlers, and advised by greedy assholes who want to make their cut from your fame. The music industry is even more cruel. The ones that stay in it do so for various reasons, but I would venture to say not many if any of those people are ‘happy’. It’s a shit life, IMHO. Having lived there and seen it up close and personal, I got as far away from there as I could. What a toxic place. Seems like the more famous one gets, the younger they die.

Not to say that stage acting or being a musician are bad things. They are great, and I know many people who do both. But they aren’t famous and no one is trying to sponge off of them, and they have relative freedom. It’s not the same thing as stardom.

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A MAN WAS NOTICED bringing in full stringers of fish to the boat dock, while all the other fishermen have come in empty handed. This caught the attention of the local game warden who approached the man one morning as he was about leave the boat dock for a day of fishing. The game warden said, "Boy you sure are doing well at catchin’ these fish."

Man in boat replies, "Yeaaap."

The game warden said, "What’s your secret? Do you mind if I come along and fish with you today?" 

Man says, "Sure, ok." The game warden gets into the boat and they speed off across the lake until they get to a quiet little cove where the man shuts off the engine and opens up his tackle box. The game warden watched as the man pulled out a stick of dynamite and lights it. The game warden yells, "What the heck are you doing!!??" 

The man hands the game warden the lit stick of dynamite and said, "You gonna talk or are you gonna fish?”

(Jeff Burroughs)

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MENDOCINO COAST CLINICS WELCOMES RETURNING PEDIATRIC PROVIDER FAITH SIMON

Mendocino Coast Clinics (MCC) is pleased to welcome the return of nurse practitioner Faith Simon to their pediatric team. Simon began her career as a pediatric provider more than 20 years ago, mentored by revered local pediatrician Dr. Bill Mahon. In 2011, Simon and the rest of the pediatric practice joined MCC. Now, after a few years away, Simon is pleased to return to Mendocino Coast Clinics where their philosophy of practices matches her own.

Faith Simon NP

“I moved to the Mendocino Coast from Brooklyn. My young children went from riding the subway to receiving 4-H training on how to show a chicken at the county fair,” Simon explained. At that time, Simon was a new nurse practitioner, but she had already been a nurse for 20 years, working primarily in obstetrics and emergency care. Although she was ready for a change, she could not have known how deeply she would fall in love with her new community. She has been caring for patients here ever since.

“Now, I’m supporting new parents who were my patients when they were children. It’s fun to see how their lives have evolved and to help them as they transition into and through parenthood,” she said.

Simon fashioned her style of practice after Dr. Mahon’s, one in which the provider is totally present in the moment and who talks directly to patients, regardless of their age. She said, “I get down to eye level and ask kids how they’re doing. Kids are so cool, and they will tell you a lot if you listen.”

Simon defines health broadly, recognizing the interdependence of physical, social, and emotional factors. When invited, she participates in her patients’ Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings through the schools and remains available to parents to help them with their child’s developmental and behavioral issues.

This integrated approach to health and wellness is part of why Simon is returning to Mendocino Coast Clinics. “My heart has always been with community clinics. It’s the right model for health care, a model that blends medical, behavioral, and dental care,” she said. “I’m looking forward to having more support for my patients at MCC, where they provide lactation education, nutrition consultations, psychotherapy, and more. And I’m especially pleased to be working there under Lucresha Renteria. She is a thoughtful, effective executive director who has the community’s best interests at heart.”

Simon noted that MCC’s strong relationships with community partners will also benefit her patients. When families face housing or food insecurity, their physical and emotional well-being suffer. MCC not only provides medical treatment, but also encourages its providers to refer patients to community partners who can help address the social determinants of health when appropriate.

Simon is deeply embedded in the community. She served as a board member for Safe Passage for more than a decade and currently participates in committees that advocate for child safety and health, including the Child Action Committee, a subcommittee of the Mendocino County Policy Council on Children and Youth, and on the Child Death Review Committee that reviews the circumstances when children pass away to identify and address any worrisome trends.

Simon begins seeing patients at MCC on May 19. She says she would like to work for several more years, and in that time, to help the current pediatric team recruit and mentor the next generation of providers. “Working with children every day is such a joyful way to spend life. I would like to share what I’ve learned and to make sure my patients and eventually their children continue to have the care they need and deserve here on the coast.”

Renteria said, “We’re so happy to have Faith back as part of the MCC family.”

(MCC is a non-profit, federally qualified health center providing medical, dental and behavioral health care to residents from Westport to Elk and inland to Comptche in Mendocino County. www.mendocinocoastclinics.org)

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REUSE THOSE PILL CONTAINERS

Editor,

With increasing media and journalistic attention to the perils of dumping plastic into our landfills, rivers and oceans, I thought you might find this suggestion to my Congressman of interest. 

Regards, 

Bill Grimes

Ross

My letter to my Congressman in December of 2020. 

Dear Mr. Huffman,

With growing media reports on the damage done to our environment by discarded plastic, I can see no reason for the Federal law that forbids pharmacies to refill a prescribed medicine (pills) in the same plastic vial or container the customer brings to the pharmacy. To permit the pharmacy to refill a customer’s medicine in the same vial it was previously used for the same medicine seems unnecessary and is detrimental to our environment.

Upon learning of this law from my Walgreen pharmacist I asked what do they do with the used vials, like the one I brought from home that day hoping to have it filled. His answer: We throw them in the garbage. No recycle? I asked. His answer with a helpless and disinterested shrug: No.

Seems a minor component of the large, worldwide plastic problem. But think of all these plastic vials tossed in our garbage at home and in the pharmacy. Uneconomical to recycle and melt down for future use, I have read. So into the landfills, rivers, and oceans they go. Fish are now being found with bits of plastic in their stomachs. 

Assume 100 million Americans use prescribed medicines that come in these plastic containers. Think an average of two prescriptions per person per month and do the math.

That plastic takes a century or more to bi-degrade exacerbates the plastic pollution to our planet.

Let's repeal this federal law. Let us reuse the plastic vial to refill the same medicine that we used previously. 

Seems this would have broad bi-partisan support. Only the makers of these plastic containers would be against it, I would think.

Sincerely, your constituent, 

J. William Grimes

Ross

Reply a month later was basically, thank you but we have other priorities. 

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Cloverdale Railroad Station, 1920

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BIOMASS & OTHER DUBIOUS RENEWABLES

by Arianne Shahvisi

When I lived in Beirut, seven years ago, I diligently sorted my household waste and carried it into the university where I worked so I could use the recycling bins on campus. One of my students saw me dropping plastic and cardboard through the different labelled openings and urged me to peer inside. The chutes all ended in the same bin. Last month I learned that much of the plastic I’ve been ‘recycling’ in Brighton over the last five years has been incinerated in Newhaven, producing small amounts of electricity while releasing carbon dioxide and noxious gases.

In 2020, more of the UK’s electricity was generated from renewables than fossil fuels for the first time. But the second largest source of renewable energy in the UK, after wind but well ahead of solar, is biomass, which amounts to the prehistoric practice of burning wood. Biomass is an umbrella term for any organic material that can be used as fuel, which includes wood, food waste, sewage, straw, manure and animal litter. Fossil fuels are also, strictly speaking, very old, geologically metamorphosed biomass. The important difference is that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change classifies biomass as a renewable source of energy, where ‘renewable’ means replenishable over human timescales, as opposed to the millions of years required to turn life into oil or coal.

Most of the biomass burned in British power stations is wood pellets: slugs of compacted sawdust whose combustion is allegedly carbon neutral. Their emissions are comparable to fossil fuels’, but the carbon released by burning wood was captured by photosynthesis relatively recently, and in time a newly planted tree will reabsorb it, bringing the equation neatly back to zero.

Yet it’s possible to cut down, pulverise and burn a tree without planting a replacement, and then we’re one carbon-capturing tree down and the greenhouse effect is one combusted tree up. Using wind to power a turbine does not deplete the future wind supply; turning the energy of incident photons into electrical current does not reduce the amount of sunlight we get. Even if wood pellets are renewable, they won’t necessarily be renewed. That requires the keeping of promises.

Timescales also matter. The release of carbon on combustion is almost instantaneous; reabsorbing it can take decades. A recent study puts the payback time for biofuels at between 40 and 104 years. That might be within a human lifespan, but it’s a bit like hoping to mop up an oil spill by repeatedly shaving your head.

Part of the trouble is the idea that trees are just wood, wood is carbon, and carbon is fungible. Most of the wood pellets burned in the UK are imported from Canada and the United States, where mature forests which underwrite vast, complex ecosystems are being felled to meet the growing European demand for ‘renewable’ energy. The official line is that pellets are made from offcuts from the timber industry, but scientists and environmentalists report that trees are being felled to go straight to biomass.

Worse, the trees that are planted to offset biomass consumption are not forests in an ecologically recognisable sense; they are monoculture industrial plantations of non-native species with no understory, a limited ecosystem, and lower carbon sequestration than the natural forests they are supposed to replace. Not all wood is alike; old growth forests are worth far more than sacks of pellets for electricity generation.

The demand for wood pellets now rivals that for timber, given the incentives offered by European governments pursuing renewable energy agendas. The UK government spends around £1.5 billion a year in biomass electricity subsidies, encouraging the importation of millions of tonnes of minced North American trees as a ‘green’ energy source, more than anywhere else in the world. The Drax power station in North Yorkshire received £800 million in subsidies last year to convert four of its generating units into biomass burners, and promises to wind down coal combustion by 2022, ahead of the 2025 deadline for the UK as a whole.

Biomass is not the only dubious renewable that is powering deforestation. The Indonesian government plans to phase out fossil fuel imports by deriving biofuel from palm oil. The Iceland advert that had us scanning the ingredients of shampoo and peanut butter glossed over this graver threat to the natural habitats of orangutans. An area of high conservation value rainforest as large as England will need to be cleared for monocrop palm plantations. Some conservationists have warned that the biofuel programme is providing cover for the timber industry to pick off the remaining trees.

Attempts to switch to biofuel in Europe also pose a major threat to forests in Indonesia and Malaysia. Used cooking oil, or ‘yellow grease’, can be refined to produce biofuel, which is in high demand in European countries as a ‘sustainable’ energy source. The original idea – to run vehicles on chip-fryer fat destined for the bin – was a no-brainer, but European demand for yellow grease now vastly outstrips supply, so most of it has to be imported. Outside Europe, though, used cooking oil is mixed into livestock feed, among other things; its status as a waste product is geographically contingent. Exporting states are incentivised to use other forms of fat to supplement animal fodder so they can sell the used cooking oil that makes Europeans feel virtuous. This too leads to more palm oil plantations.

The horrors of fossil fuels are now so well known that we’re primed to accept lesser evils, especially if they’re rebranded in the language of virtue. But burning fresh biological matter is not so different from burning the same stuff once it’s been tamped down in the earth for a few million years. The point is to stop the burning.

(London Review of Books)

6 Comments

  1. Eric Sunswheat May 7, 2021

    April 20, 2021
    Black carbon particles, produced by combustion of gasoline, diesel fuel, coal, and other organics, have been found to be the second-largest driver of climate warming, after carbon dioxide (CO2), since the Industrial Revolution [Myhre et al., 2013].

    Much of black carbon’s role in this warming results from the fact that it contributes to the melting of snow and ice and thus to darkening of Earth’s surface, reducing the amount of sunlight the planet reflects and increasing the amount it absorbs.

    These processes have been thoroughly studied, yet measurements made in the past of black carbon particles in snow and determinations of their effects on melting may be inaccurate. To date, most studies have overlooked a major and potentially complicating factor: microplastics
    https://www.steamboatmagazine.com/2021/04/20/353189/microplastics-hidden-contribution-to-snow-melting

  2. Michael Koepf May 7, 2021

    Climate fighter. 18.5 percent of the human body in made of carbon. That includes your body. If you want to save the planet, you need to get rid of 18% of you. You’ve got a good start on your group-think mind. What’s next?

    • chuck dunbar May 7, 2021

      Excellent, intelligent response, Michael.

  3. chuck dunbar May 7, 2021

    “The GOP is at a Turning Point. History is Watching Us.”

    The beginning of Liz Cheney’s editorial in the Washington Post, 5/6/21:

    “In public statements again this week, former president Donald Trump has repeated his claims that the 2020 election was a fraud and was stolen. His message: I am still the rightful president, and President Biden is illegitimate. Trump repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6. And, as the Justice Department and multiple federal judges have suggested, there is good reason to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again. Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this…”

    Cheney deals in facts and speaks with truth, and for this she will pay a dear price. She’ll be cancelled by the Republicans and may lose her seat in Congress in the next election. But she speaks with power and courage against a party that has lost its soul to Trump. In her corrupted party she stands up for America, and that’s to be deeply respected.


  4. Jim Armstrong May 7, 2021

    I like J. William Grimes idea bout repealing the Federal law that forbids any reuse of prescription pill containers.
    It makes too much sense to appeal to Huffman, of course.
    But Mr. Grimes was lucky get any reply from our congressman at all.

  5. Rye N Flint May 10, 2021

    Global supply chains failing are a result of the race to bottom economic policies of Capitalism. Lower prices from the now infamous “Economies of scale”, creates vulnerable, yet cheap, centralized processes, that make it difficult to correct manufacturing supply issues… as we can now finally see in multiple products simultaneously. Timber barons are excited about the new prices though.

    https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/08/business/supply-chain-shortages-pandemic/index.html

    https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2021-chip-production-why-hard-to-make-semiconductors/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

    “The more complicated answer is that it takes years to build semiconductor fabrication facilities and billions of dollars—and even then the economics are so brutal that you can lose out if your manufacturing expertise is a fraction behind the competition. Former Intel Corp. boss Craig Barrett called his company’s microprocessors the most complicated devices ever made by man.”

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