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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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Monday, June 12, 2006

The geopolitics of biofuels: geostrategic report by think tank Clingendael

We recently started our series on the biofuels and bioenergy super powers of the future, starting with Congo (earlier post), saying that they might create a new global energy paradigm, with very different power relations than those formed by the petroleum-based global political system (which has led to wars, terrorism and economic crises).
It is interesting to see, in this respect, that several major think tanks are indeed following us and are starting to study the "geopolitics of biofuels", just like they used to study the geopolitical consequences of our oil-fuelled world.
The highly influential European think tank Clingendael Institute, has just recently released such a first study, entitled Future fuels and geopolitics: the role of biofuels [*.pdf].
These are its main findings:

First it notes why energy (in)security will become ever more important in global politics:

* it drives our economies
* energy import dependence is growing in all major economies, most notably in China and the EU (and to a less extent the US and India)
* this dependence is based on an ever smaller number of oil and gas producing countries
* the transition to other fuels takes time, and the pressure is building

There are a growing number of factors which cloud a secure energy supply:

* decreasing domestic production
* increased imports
* choke points in trade routes
* competition with new economies (China, India)
* limited capacities to diversify the energy portfolio
* concerns about political stability in producing nations

The options for change are diverse, but two main ones will have to close the potential energy gap facing many countries: energy conservation and efficiency on the one hand, and a radical transition to bioenergy and biofuels on the other hand.

Bioenergy is the key to increase energy security for several reasons:

* part of it can be produced locally
* imports will diversify the portfolio and reduce dependence on oil and gas
* scientific and technological developments are speeding ahead
* many countries have already implemented trade and strategic mechanisms and targets
* liquid biofuels are the only viable alternative transport fuel; batteries and hydrogen are not able to compete and require a new infrastructure and an entirely new transport fleet

The potential share of "first generation" bioethanol (based on sugar and starch directly derived from dedicated crops) is projected to be 6% by 2020; but developments in cellulosic ethanol promise to increase that share considerably.

Bioenergy promises to bring a shift in the geopolitics of energy. Regions with a high production potential are set to become oil and gas independent, and green fuel exporters, while those with limited potential are set to suffer under increasing oil and gas import dependence.
Looking at the assessment of global biomass and bioenergy production potential in 2050, published by the IEA Bioenergy Task 40, we can highlight the winners and the losers:

* Sub-Saharan Africa holds the greatest bioenergy production potential
* Followed closely by Latin-America and Russia.
* The EU and the US are ranking in the middle of the pack, and might become biofuel importers.
* Whereas in Asia the situation is much more complex: East Asia with China, holds considerable potential, in contrast to Japan, which has none whatsoever. South East Asia, including India, cannot produce enough given its rapidly increasing population.
* Australia and the Pacific Islands will become big exporters, since they will be able to produce nearly 6 times as much bioenergy as their entire future energy needs.
* The biggest loser is of course the Middle-East, with its sandy deserts that never see a drop of rain. But then the Middle-East does not really need bioenergy to secure its own energy needs.

The report concludes by saying that Africa and Latin America will find that the global shift towards biofuels and bioenergy offers a fantastic opportunity to produce for a global market and derive power from this trade, whereas bioenergy-deprived countries, such as Japan will have to choose between competing over ever scarcer hydrocarbon reserves, or creating energy deals with green super powers.

By Laurens Rademakers.


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