Monthly Archives: February 2023

Mongabay: France seeks EU okay to fund biomass plants, burn Amazon forest to power Spaceport

A colorful tropical tree frog in French Guiana. This French overseas department is known for its extraordinary Amazon biodiversity, with many species still not described by science. Image by Stephan Roletto via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

This story out of Europe had its genesis in a related story I did during the pandemic.

In late 2020, a source with the NGO Biofuelwatch, Almuth Ernsting, started sending me information about plans on the part of France to shift the primary energy source in French Guiana (FG) on the north coast of South America from oil to biofuels — primarily by growing soy. A lot of soy. I knew little about France’s territory in the Amazon, but learned quickly with the help of forest advocates Marine Calmet in Paris and Francois Kuseni in French Guiana.

Keep in mind, FG is the size of Indiana and is 98 percent forested. It has unparalled biodiversity — one of the largest intact rainforests in Amazonia. France’s plan? Deforest up to 890,000 square miles, three times the size of New York City, to grow the soy necessary to make liquid biofuels replace three creaky fossil-fuel plants on the north coast.

France? Home of the Paris Agreement? Proud to proclaim itself a climate champion to the world? Taking an enormous bite out of the always-under-assault Amazon — for bioenergy that actually produces more emissions than coal? It sounded preposterous. It wasn’t. This story from 2020 explains — and was cited in an FG court hearing where a judge stopped the project, at least for three years.

In early 2023, Ernsting sent more information my way with a France/FG/Amazon connection. French President Emmanuel Macron‘s political allies are seeking an exemption of EU law that protects native forests from being reduced to biomass for energy so it can, once again, develop bioenergy, this time to power the European Spaceport in FG. France is making this request at the same time it is co-leading a conference in Gabon, Africa, to develop strategies to protect tropical forests around the world.

Except, apparently, in French Guiana.

France won an appeal to pursue the massive deforestation needed to grow soy for liquid biofuels. Kuseni says forest advocates are appealing that ruling, which came in France, btw, not FG.

My story was translated into French; here’s the translation.

Kourou, French Guiana, where France is seeking an EU exemption to subsidize the building and operation of two biomass burning power plants that would provide energy to the European Space Agency and French Space Agency. Image courtesy of the European Space Agency.