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    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Farmers look to biofuel as WTO trade talks fail

Biofuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and solid bioenergy feedstocks offer a tremendous opportunity for development to farmers from the developing world. One condition for them to grab it, is a change in global trade rules, most notably the reduction of agricultural subsidies and tariffs in the U.S. and the E.U.
These trade talks are the object of the WTO's so-called Doha Development Round. But little progress has been made so far.

Now America's farmers are tiring fast of slow-moving world trade talks and many corn and soybean growers themselves look toward alternative energy programs as a more promising outlet for their produce, say some industry experts. The Bush administration recently announced a big initiative to find ways of breaking the United States' dependence on foreign oil, with corn- and soybean-produced fuels ethanol and biodiesel on the list for further research and development.

By contrast, the latest round of World Trade Organisation negotiations to lower trade barriers has limped on for some four years, repeatedly stalled by bickering between rich and poor nations over ways of opening global farm markets. "There's this almost defeatist attitude in the Midwest that Brazil has captured most world markets growth recently and the US WTO round proposal will significantly cut subsidies linked to production of specific commodities," said Robert Thompson, International Food and Agriculture Trade Policy Council head.

"Farmers are much more confident in ethanol's ability to contribute to their well-being than export market access, which they don't see as promising any sure payoff," he said.

President Bush set a six-year goal for making ethanol practical and competitive as an alternative fuel. US crude oil futures settled at $62.91 on Friday and hit a peak of $70.85 a barrel in August.

WTO scepticism

Farmers are sceptical about a new trade pact since the last cycle of WTO talks, known as the Uruguay Round, delivered little of what had been promised in cutting farm subsidies.

Timothy Reif, chief trade counsel on the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee, told a conference on Friday that even a successful Doha deal would not fix unfair trade practices such as the long-running problem of persuading Japan to restart imports of US beef following concerns about mad cow disease.

The livestock industry is a big client for corn growers.

"Trade is very important to the livestock industry, so we get excited about seeing our biggest customer have more marketplace to sell to. But it's easy to have some discouragement about the Doha round," said Jon Doggett, vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association.

"The round has looked good at times and then you have meetings and things are not so good. There are some growers who look at the ethanol issue as something they can do very well with and see an awful lot of opportunity with," he said.

Biofuel caveats

But there are caveats to the relatively young biofuel industry, of which farmers should be aware, said Thompson.

"I don't think you'd see much expansion of this industry without government subsidies such as mandated use of ethanol in gasoline blends ... and protection against imports of cheaper ethanol that can be made from sugar in Brazil," he said.

In addition, world economic growth over the next half century is likely to lift several hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, meaning increased demand for meat and in turn for corn and soybean animal feed.

"There's going to be plenty of market demand for all the corn and soybean meal that efficient producers in North and South America can produce. I predict that by 2050 there will be real questions raised about the morality of burning food for fuel," Thompson said.

...And back to trade

Most growers interested in alternative fuels also realize that boosting trade is in their interest, said Gary Blumenthal, president of agricultural policy firm World Perspectives.

"Producers welcome demand from anywhere. They welcome ethanol because it means they no longer have all their eggs in the export basket but no smart producer would put all their eggs in the ethanol basket," he said.

Besides which, the booming ethanol market is itself fast becoming the next big trade topic.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, head of the Senate agriculture committee, recently said opening the US ethanol market to competition from Brazilian imports could be good for industry.

Brazil's ambassador to the WTO, Clodoaldo Hugueney, told a discussion panel this week: "The US and Brazil should be trying to develop a greater strategic partnership in developing a world market for biofuel."

Source: Checkbiotech.org


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