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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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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Soaring oil prices undermine poverty alleviation and gains from debt cancellation in Africa

Last year's G8 Summit in Gleneagles focused on African development. Even though critics say that one year after the Summit, not much has come from the promises, at least the committment to cancel African countries' debts was taken. At the new G8 Summit, in St-Petersburgh, energy tops the agenda.
So what happens when we put both Summits next to each other and analyse them in the context of African development? Then we see a full-blown crisis. Neither debt-cancellation has made any progress, and African economies see their oil import bill skyrocket, with disastrous socio-economic consequences. With oil prices touching US$80 per barrel, the poor petroleum-intensive [see full text] African countries suffer more than robust economies, and attempts at alleviating poverty or at achieving the Millenium Development Goals are being jeapordized.

Yesterday, we reacted to Earth Policy Institute director Lester Brown's remark that ethanol could hurt the world's poor. But according to both the IEA [*.pdf] as well as the World Bank and the African Development Bank Group ("Impact of High Oil Prices on African Economies") [*.pdf], high oil prices threaten to hurt them much more. Moreover, many of the poor Brown refers to, are rural households living in countries that could become biofuels producers. The production of and reliance on bioenergy in sub-Saharan Africa has now become much cheaper than importing fossil fuels such as oil and gas. Therefor, bioenergy and biofuels production is one of the single most effective means to alleviate poverty in Africa, and to reduce dependence on oil, which is becoming a heavy burden on those poor economies.
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Record high oil prices - fueled by the world's oil dependence - are undermining some of the benefits of last year's G-8 achievements on debt cancellation and putting serious stress on many of the world's most impoverished countries, a policy brief published today revealed. High Oil Prices: Undermining Debt Cancellation and Fueling A New Crisis?, co-published by Jubilee USA Network and Oil Change International, shows that developing countries continue to pay more for oil imports than they receive in debt relief.

"We are concerned that the rising cost of oil imports is draining far more money out of impoverished countries than debt cancellation is contributing each year," said Neil Watkins, the National Coordinator of Jubilee USA Network. "This money was supposed to be used for healthcare and clean water, not oil."

"Like the addicts in denial that they are, G8 leaders are ignoring the central role that oil plays in driving a new debt crisis and causing climate change," said Graham Saul, International Programs Director of Oil Change International. "The G8 cannot overcome energy poverty or achieve lasting energy security if they continue to believe that more oil is the answer," he continued.

Adjusting for inflation, oil - which is hovering around $80 a barrel - is now more expensive than at any time since 1980. International Energy Agency officials estimate that the cost of oil for all of sub-Saharan Africa will rise by $10.5 billion in 2005. This is more than ten times the annual debt relief received by all 14 African countries included in the 2005 G-8 debt deal.

Developing countries are also hit hardest by the growing catastrophe of climate change, driven by our addiction to oil and other fossil fuels. Global warming will have a major impact throughout the Global South, claiming hundreds of millions of lives and reversing poverty alleviation gains in many impoverished countries.

The brief outlines the urgent need to challenge G-8 plans to increase support for the oil and fossil fuel industry and calls on governments around the world to focus international efforts on strategies that will simultaneously address energy poverty, crushing debt and global warming.

The policy brief recommends: ending direct and indirect subsidies to the oil industry and other fossil fuels, dramatically increasing support for energy efficiency and new renewables, canceling all unjust and unfair debts and adhering to responsible financing standards moving forward in order to avoid a new debt crisis re-emerging.

More information:

World Resources Institute database on Energy Intensity, showing that sub-Saharan Africa has the highest petroleum intensity of all regions, making it most vulnerable to rising energy prices.

PanAfrica: The Poverty of Energy Security at AllAfrica.
PanAfrica: Soaring Oil Prices Threaten to Undermine Gains from Debt Cancellation
at AllAfrica.
High oil prices affect poor countries, hamper world economy: Russian minister. Xinhua.


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