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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, August 28, 2006

Global South-South exchanges on biofuels growing rapidly

The Global South has learned to use its combined power to gain weight on the international stage. Recently, this strength became apparent during the WTO negations that were intended to forge a trade deal beneficial to the developing world (the so-called 'Doha round'), but that failed over US/EU agricultural subsidies. The global south successfully resisted the proposals they deemed to be against their interests.
Whenever the wealthiest nations convene for a 'G8'-top in some luxurious palace, the alternative 'G20', uniting the South, convenes a few months later. Whenever there is a 'World Economic Forum' ("Davos") where leaders from the industrialized world gather to think top-down about how to increase their power, the alternative 'World Social Forum' ("Porto Allegre") convenes shortly afterwards. Clearly, the global south knows that when it comes to trade, international politics or global policy, unity brings power.

But what about the more concrete, practical form of cooperation between countries of the developing world? We have often hinted at the fact that South-South transfers of technology and knowledge are a great way forward for them, because scientific, technological, cultural and 'epistemological' independence from the West are important for strategic and historic reasons. It seems like the biofuels and bioenergy sector is a field par excellence to build such pragmatic relations. And indeed, South-South exchanges are growing rapidly in the sector.

Senegal just launched the first phase of its biofuels program with direct support of Brazil's president Lula, and carried out by entrepreneurs from India. Senegal wants to learn and offers land and labor; Brazil brings in scientific and technological know-how; and Indian business makes sure that enough capital is in place. This public-private partnership is hailed as a win-win situation for all partners involved.

The first major investment consists of a plantation of jatropha varieties, symbolically situated near the holy city of Touba, on land owned by the Khalif-general of the Mourides, who welcomes the foreign partners. The extraction of oil and the production of biodiesel will be done in nearby Khelcom, some 100km inland from Dakar.
Jatropha was chosen as the main energy crop for several reasons:
  • Senegalese people -- including the Khalif -- are familiar with it because they use it as protective hedges around their fields (Jatropha seeds are poisonous and fend off grazing animals)
  • The crop thrives in the semi-arid regions of Senegal, and is relatively undemanding when it comes to fertilizer and water requirements
  • Plantations can be established very rapidly, from seedlings that grow to productive crops after two years
  • Both Indian, Brazilian and local varieties can be tested, with the three partners sharing knowledge about the species
The pilot project with its 4000 hectares of biodiesel feedstock will become a knowledge centre and extension hub, from which other plantations will spread, which will eventually bring 'lots of jobs' to the more than 50% of people who are living below the poverty line (on less than a dollar a day). The project is part of a grand plan called "Retour vers l'agriculture" ("REVA") ('back to agriculture'), aimed at regenerating the rural economy through investments in biofuels, and to counter the massive exodus of people from the land to the cities.

Under the first phase of the project, Senegal wants to reduce its oil imports by 10%, thus saving a considerable amount of foreign exchange. The final goal is to replace all 33,000 barrels of oil the country consumes each day, by renewable biofuels.
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