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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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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Food versus fuel - new report paints grim outlook

First it was environmentalist critic George Monbiot who brought the old debate about food versus fuel back into the spotlight. His short article, "Feeding Cars, Not People", written for the Guardian, was of a programmatic, critical nature and opened many people's eyes. To their frustration, biofuels advocates responded [*.pfd] in detail and accused Monbiot of a lack of scientific rigor, and of playing on emotions instead of on facts.
We at the BioPact did our bit, pointing out that people like Monbiot act as important counterpoints to the over-enthusiasmic green energy advocates, but that we are not served by rhetoric. We acknowledge the environmental, social and (geo)political problems associated with mass production of green energy, but we take a scientific look at the global potential, and we see room for expansion. Most importantly, and contrary to Monbiot, we think the production of bioenergy by farmers in the developing world offers them a once-in-an-era chance of lifting themselves out of poverty.

Today, Toronto-based Sprott Asset Management produced a bleak study [*.pdf], adding...oil to the fire. It says global warming is occurring faster than expected and rising demand for so-called green fuel will cut into food supplies. The investment firm also predicts increased regulation and ballooning deficits as governments try to cope with more frequent climate-related disasters while building new infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions. Hyperinflation is seen as a plausible result.

Clearly, we consider this to be another boost to the rationale for a BioPact with the poor South. And we keep repeating it: invest in energy farming in sub-Saharan Africa, where land is plenty, people need jobs, and bioenergy farming allows them to produce for a world market, increasing their incomes, lifting them out of poverty, and increasing food security. We agree with the new study: the status-quo, where wealthy Northern nations produce green energy, will result in pressures on food production. This is exactly why we strive towards broadening the picture and involving the developing world into a global energy exchange relationship.

We are not going to repeat our own points of view on the food-versus-fuel debate. Instead we wish to refer the reader to our previous discussions about the topic here, here and here.

Let's give the word back to Sprott Asset Management, because we need as many perspectives as we can get:

“Governments, business and the general public are just now waking up to the seriousness of global warming as we witness its consequences unfolding around the planet,” CEO Eric Sprott and market strategist Kevin Bambrough wrote in the report.

The authors of the study are also predicting a huge expansion of nuclear energy, saying it is the cheapest non-carbon energy source that can be developed on the scale needed to meet growing fuel demands.

Most environmentalist continue to adamantly oppose nuclear power, but Bambrough said the technology is being improved, and none of the alternatives can supply energy on the scale needed.

The study raises major concerns about the current rush to biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Biofuels are expected to figure prominently in Ottawa's new “made-in-Canada” clean air plan, due this fall.

“As oil prices surge the incentive to produce energy from vegetable oils heightens,” the authors predict.

“This in turn is likely to result in the increased cultivation of plants like palm and soybeans, used to make biofuels.

“When we take into consideration the potential shortages of food crops that may result from an abrupt climate change, it is likely that governments will soon be facing a choice between feeding people and feeding SUVs.”

The latest research shows biofuels require more energy to produce than they release when used, says the study. Corn, for example, requires 29 per cent more energy than the fuel produced.

Expansion of the biofuels industry is a major cause of rainforest destruction in Brazil and Southeast Asia, the report adds.

Carbon sequestration and coal gasification get high marks as potential technologies to slow the buildup of carbon in the atmosphere.

Uranimum mining is one of the big investment opportunities in a generally bearish picture, Bambrough said in an interview.

Source for the interview: Globe and Mail.


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