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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, July 18, 2006

Hawaii, the "Saudi Arabia of the Pacific"

We often report about small island states and their worries about energy security, global warming, and their dependence on single economic sectors such as the (petroleum intensive) tourism industry. However, we have also indicated that some island states and developing countries have the capacity to "leapfrog" by radically greening their energy infrastructure which will result in less dependency on the outside world.

Futurist Rinaldo Brutoco, a practical visionary and change agent [bio], takes things one step further, however. He suggests Hawaii could even become a biofuels exporter. In theory, he could be right, because scenarios about the long-term biofuels potential of different regions indeed show that many Pacific islands will be able to produce much more bioenergy than they can ever consume themselves (up to 6 times in 2050).

So the green future for many island nations turns the current situation upside down: from fragile energy importers, they will become robust biofuel exporters.

The fertile, volcanic islands of Hawaii might become the "Saudi Arabia of the Pacific", Brutoco explains:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Hawaii residents need only to look at any gas station price sign to see how the islands are affected by record-high crude oil prices. That is why Brutoco applauds political leaders for their moves this year on trying to end the state's reliance on imported oil.

"People are beginning to get the point: 'Gosh, this could actually be trouble if we don't deal with it,'" said Brutoco, co-author of the 1997 book "Profiles in Power: The Anti-Nuclear Movement and the Dawn of the Solar Age," which is used in universities to discuss emerging energy technologies. "I'm not trying to be an alarmist," he adds, "but I do think people are being way too casual about it right now, generally speaking, and of course that includes Hawaii."

But how do you turn policies on paper into economic reality?

That is where Brutoco and co-author Jerry Brown, a professor of energy policy at Florida International University, come in.

Today, the pair were expected to hold a series of meetings in Hawaii with business and political leaders for what Brutoco says will be a briefing on the world's energy situation and its impact on the islands.

The experts' visit, sponsored by Enterprise Honolulu, comes after state officials convened this month the first of four public meetings to strategize about ways to implement the broad package of energy proposals. The next meeting is scheduled for September.

"We're coming to help the political and business forces in Hawaii achieve consensus and therefore be able to execute a path that's not just a political slogan, but an actual economic reality," says Brutoco, president of the World Business Academy, a think tank of international business leaders.

Hawaii's energy proposals, which received bipartisan support in the Legislature, aim to reduce the islands' dependence on imported fossil fuels through conservation and development of alternative and renewable resources, such as wind, wave, solar and geothermal energy.

At the top of Brutoco's list for weaning Hawaii from oil are biofuels, particularly ethanol, a renewable fuel derived from food sources such as corn, wheat, soybeans, sugar and their byproducts, which has come under increased scrutiny nationwide.

Recent studies have questioned the economic viability of ethanol, while a growing number of detractors have criticized the push for ethanol as shortsighted and simply a way for automakers and large agriculture corporations to secure huge government subsidies.

Hawaii became in April the 42nd state to enact ethanol blending mandates, requiring that 85 percent of all gasoline sold in Hawaii contain 10 percent ethanol.

Although no ethanol is being produced in Hawaii now, the first processing plants are expected to come online in the second quarter of next year. Industry supporters say Hawaii's unique island economy and hospitable climate for sugar -- widely scene as the most efficient source for ethanol -- make it the ideal testing ground for proving the feasibility of sugar-based ethanol.

Brutoco sees it going even further than that.

"I really see the chance for Hawaii to become the Saudi Arabia of the Pacific," he says, "to go from a place where you are extraordinarily disadvantaged by the cost of petroleum-based fuels, to a point where you are actually exporting fuel to other parts of the world.

"I think that's doable for Hawaii."

Others disagree, citing global demand for oil of about 85 million barrels a day.

David Fridley, a staff scientist in the Energy and Environmental Division at the University of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, notes that only Hawaii and small regions of the southern United States have the climate for growing sugar.

"How much land would it take to grow all the sugar cane to make enough ethanol to possibly replace more than a fraction of what our gasoline use is?" he says. "In the United States it's not even an option for us, because there's so little sugar cane that's grown in this country that it could only provide just a small, small fraction of the amount of ethanol that would be needed here."

Even if it does not replace oil completely in Hawaii, supporters say ethanol will play a large part in at least reducing some of the demand.

Brutoco agrees, adding that it is part of an overall strategy that needs to be undertaken in Hawaii.

"When you look at what makes energy abundant, it's usually natural resources," he says. "Hawaii has abundant natural resources but it hasn't marshaled those resources, and as a result it doesn't get the benefit of its abundant rain, of its abundant water flow or its abundant biofuel.

"I see sustainable agriculture and a fuel solution in tandem for a state where 90 percent of the energy comes by barge."

Star Bulletin.


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