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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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Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Global Benefits of Biofuels - a quick overview

Here at the BioPact we want to expand the discussion about biofuels and take it a step further by looking at the socio-economic and 'geopolitical' effects that the increasing production of ethanol, biodiesel, biogas and biomass will have in the long run. As we have written before, bioenergy offers an opportunity to lift millions of the world's poorest out of poverty. More and more people are beginning to follow our simple proposition of a global, green energy exchange relationship, counting in factors such as social justice, greater access to energy for the poor and a shift from a petro-militarist world towards one where bioenergy dominates.

Last week, the German Agency for Technical Cooperation's report (written for the Worldwatch Institute) was presented [see earlier post], and it looks at exactly the issues we're addressing here at the BioPact.

The Globalist read the report too, and made an interesting Q & A on the global potential biofuels have for economic and social development in the "third" world. Obviously they are a bit overly optimistic and not very critical, but enjoy their enthusiasm, and then think with us about the more problematic issues surrounding global biofuels exchanges (why not join our forum?)

Q: What impacts can biofuel have on the developing world?

A: Of the world's 47 poorest countries — 38 are net oil importers and 25 of these import all of their oil. Yet many of these countries have substantial agricultural bases and are well-positioned to grow highly productive energy crops.

Energy crops have the potential to reduce GHG emissions by more than 100%

Q: How efficient is biofuel production and how can it influence unemployment?

A: The World Bank reports that biofuel industries require about 100 times more workers per unit of energy produced than the fossil fuel industry. The ethanol industry is credited with providing more than 200,000 jobs in the United States and half a million direct jobs in Brazil.

Q: How much does current fossil fuel use contribute to greenhouse gasses?

A: Transportation, including emissions from the production of transport fuels, is responsible for about one-quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and that share is rising.

Q: What impact can the use of biofuels have on greenhouse gas emissions?

A: Energy crops have the potential to reduce GHG emissions by more than 100% (relative to petroleum fuels) because such crops can also sequester carbon in the soil as they grow.

Q: Just how much reduction are we talking about?

A: Estimated GHG reductions for biofuel feedstock include a 70-110% reduction for fibers such as switchgrass and poplar, 65-100% wastes like waste oil, harvest residues and sewage, 40-90% for sugars such as sugar cane and sugar beet, 45-75% for vegetable oils including rapeseed, sunflower seed and soybeans — and 15-40% for starches such as corn and wheat.

Q: What are the future implications of biomass energy?

A: In the future, the type of processing energy used will be more relevant. A biofuel plant that uses biomass energy will contribute far more to reducing GHG emissions than one using coal energy.

Of the world's 47 poorest countries — 38 are net oil importers and 25 of these import all of their oil.

Q: How much has Brazil invested in the production of biofuels?

A: Between 1975 and 1987, ethanol saved Brazil $10.4 billion in foreign exchange while costing the government $9 billion in subsidies.

Q: But, has this investment paid off?

A: Even with subsidies, the economic savings with biofuels from avoided oil imports can be considerable and this investment paid off even more in subsequent years. Studies show that from 1976-2004, Brazil's ethanol production substituted for oil imports worth $60.7 billion — or as much as $121.3 billion including the avoided interest that would have been paid on foreign debt (based on debt previously incurred importing oil).

Q: How can increased biofuel production benefit farmers?

A: In Brazil, the government hopes to build on the success of the Proálcool ethanol program by expanding the production of biodiesel. All diesel fuel must contain 2% biodiesel by 2008 and 5% by 2013. The government hopes to ensure that poor farmers in the north and northeast receive a fair share of the economic benefits of biodiesel production.

Q: Are other South American countries expanding the use of ethanol?

A: As of early 2006, Columbia mandates that all gasoline sold in cities with populations exceeding 500,000 contain 10% ethanol. In Venezuela, the state oil company is supporting the construction of 15 sugar cane distilleries over the next five years as the government phases in a national E10 (10% ethanol) blending mandate.

Q: How has Brazil influenced ethanol production in the region?

A: In Bolivia, 15 distilleries are being constructed, and the government is considering authorizing blends of E25. Costa Rica and Guatemala are also in the trial stages for expanding production of sugar cane fuel ethanol. Many of these countries have learned from the experience of Brazil — the world leader in fuel ethanol.

Between 1975 and 1987, ethanol saved Brazil $10.4 billion.

Q: How much ethanol does China intend to use for transportation fuel?

A: In China, the government is making E10 blends mandatory in five provinces that account for 16% of the nation's passenger cars.

Q: What about in Southeast Asia?

A: In Southeast Asia, Thailand, eager to reduce the cost of oil imports while supporting domestic sugar and cassava growers, has mandated an ambitious 10 % ethanol mix in gasoline starting in 2007.

Q: And elsewhere in the region?

A: For similar reasons, the Philippines will soon mandate 2% biodiesel to support coconut growers and 5% ethanol — likely beginning in 2007. In Malaysia and Indonesia the palm oil industry plans to supply an increasing portion of national diesel fuel requirements.

Q: Where does India fit into the mix?

A: In India, a rejuvenated sugar ethanol program calls for E5 blends throughout most of the country. The government plans soon — depending on ethanol availability — to raise this requirement to E10 and then E20.

Transportation is resonsible for about one-quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: What African nations have the capacity to meet the growing ethanol demand?

A: In Africa, efforts to expand biofuels production and use are being initiated or are under way in numerous countries, including Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The Globalist.


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