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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, June 20, 2006

Biomass versus Nuclear, debate heating up

A Eurobarometer survey carried out in January of this year, indicated that EU citizens want more renewable energy and less nuclear. Only 12% of respondents in the 25 memberstates support atomic energy.
The debate about biomass and bioenergy versus nuclear is particularly acute in France, as the country has a long tradition and is the world leader in nuclear energy (80% of its electricity comes from atomic energy, and it also exports it accross Europe). For years, France and Germany have been cooperating on developing the world's most advanced type of reactor, the so-called European Pressurized water Reactor (EPR). A major lobbying-effort is underway on getting as many countries, including China and India, to adopt the new technology.

But French citizens feel too much money is spent on the EPR (€3 billion in France alone), money that could be spent on safer energy technologies that don't pose a waste problem. The bioenergy versus nuclear debate is often full of clichés and highly emotional, though.
That's why a comprehensive study by the anti-nuclear network "Sortir du nucléaire" (Getting out of Nuclear) must be welcomed. It analyses in a very concrete manner what a region like Basse-Normandie (where the first EPR will be built) would do with 3 billion €uros if it were to spend it on non-nuclear, green technologies. How would it spend such a massive budget? And how many jobs could be created with it?

The answer is surprising.

Obviously, the answer is devastating for the nuclear lobby. The study -- supported by 275 organisations from 47 countries, and presented to the public during a grand event in Cherbourg, which attracted 30,000 people -- suggests several posts to be included in the virtual budget, and the picture for better energy security and lots of jobs looks promising:

The green budget

1. 10% of the budget would go towards decentralisation of energy agencencies and management. France's centralistic tradition must be abandoned for a more dynamic approach. This decentralisation would bring in 400 jobs.

2. 33 % of it is spent on energy efficiency management, with campaigns, policies and distribution of small-scale technologies to change citizens' and industry's wasteful behavior. From giving incentives to citizens to switch to bio-airco in homes, to supporting low-energy housing construction and replacement of inefficient technologies in heavy industries, - the list of small, easily implementable measures is long. This should save the region 7TWh.

3. 22% of the €3bn would be spend on biomass and solar heating. Wood energy and solar water heating will save 4TWh and bring 4800 jobs.
The means: introducing and supporting modern pellet-boilers for households and SME's, creating a network for local biomass energy traders, creation of a credit scheme to support people buying solar heaters; and support for communal and collective purchases of these technologies in order to lower their cost.

4. 25% of the budget will go to producing renewable electricity - 11 TWh of it. Number of jobs created: 5500. The means:
-promoting biogas; the region has large agricultural waste-streams, especially from the dairy and poultry industry, that are not being used today as biofuel.
-use of biogas in co-generation plants that will produce electricity and heat at the same time. This type of "disctric heating" is highly efficient.
-the study shows there's enough left in the budget to finance 30% of these technologies in advance.
-encouraging micro-generation: classic heating systems in homes will be replaced with bio-stirling engines for the efficient production of heat and electricity (stirling co-generation).

-even though the region has a large wind energy potential, little effort to exploit it exist. This will be changed. The green budget has room for feasibility studies and to finance the first phases for the valorization of wind energy.

5. Finally, 10% of the massive budget will go to R&D into new, promising energy technologies; advanced photovoltaics, wave and tidal energy, (ethanol) fuel cells, and so on.

Results and conclusions

The study shows that with the same amount of money that would otherwise be spent on the European Pressurised water Reactor, two times more energy can be produced using renewables only, meeting the region's energy needs easily.
The number of jobs generated would be more than 10,000, which is many times more than would be generated by the EPR. The EPR would bring in 2300 jobs in the construction phase, and then trend downwards to 600 jobs, while counting a mere 250 to 300 permanent employees. By contrast, the 10,000 green jobs are fulltime, permanent, and stable jobs.

In short, this study gives us new perspective on the debate about green energy versus nuclear. Biomass, biofuels, and bioenergy are competitive with nuclear, generate far more jobs, and are much safer, no matter what the nuclear lobby says. Precisely because this study offers such a conrete and detailed case-study, it will be difficult for the nuclear lobby to circumvent it.

The study can be found here, at the website of Sortir de Nucléaire (English version here.)

For a quick introduction to the study, on which the above text was based: Biofrais.


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