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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, August 01, 2006

How biofuels boost beef production

A common misunderstanding in the "food versus fuel" debate is based on a narrowminded 'exclusivist' logic. Some think that if you plant energy crops for biofuels it means that you are using land that can then no longer be used to produce food and feed. Both are mutually exclusive, they say. Obviously, the contrary is true. In fact, the more biofuels you produce, the more feed becomes available (which eventually becomes food).

The soybean industry illustrates this logic best. Before biodiesel began to be produced in large quantities, soybean oil was considered to be a low-value "byproduct" or even "waste". After all, soybeans were grown primarily for their meal, which is used to feed cattle and poultry. Soybean oil eventually found a market for certain food products such as margarine. But beef and poultry consumption rose far more quickly than margarine demand (with China as the driving market). So as the soybean acreage expanded to satisfy the demand for beef, so much oil became available that the non-feed market could not keep up. Soybean oil prices plummetted. The arrival of the biodiesel industry came just in time and is now the biggest market for soybean oil.

This logic holds for virtually all non-woody bioenergy crops. The residues left from producing ethanol, biodiesel or biogas, are valuable by-products that can be used for a range of products, one of them being animal fodder. An example: if you crush palm oil fruits, you get oil out of them that can be used for biodiesel, but you also get a lot of protein and oil rich press-cake, an excellent component of a pig meal. But that same presscake can be used as a feedstock for biogas, as an organic fertilizer or as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol. One raw biomass product (palm fruit) now has four different markets. Looking at prices on this market, the producer can decide which fractions of that biomass will be used for which market. Or take sago [previous post], a single palm on which an entire integrated farming system can be based, which yields food, fibre, fuel (biogas and ethanol) and fodder.

In the case of animal feed, the cycle is not closed yet. Biomass residues from biofuels are fed to cattle, pigs and poultry, who, in turn, produce vast amounts of manure. And obviously, this methane rich biomass is an excellent feedstock for biogas, fertilizer or even for a diesel-like oil. (See this article for a new method to convert manure into diesel like fuel.)

In short, what we are seeing is the development of a truly integrated "bioproducts" industry, where previously separate commodity streams - energy, food, feed, fibre and biomaterials - now converge into one point and where complex sets of possible open-ended chains and cycles intertwine.

It is this vision which those who hold an exclusivist position in the "food versus fuel" debate do not understand.

Let's listen to the cattle producers in Iowa, though. They once had a thriving cattle-industry but it went in decline during the past two decades. They now think that their industry may be revived... because of the ethanol boom, not in spite of it:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Cattle producers say Iowa is poised to make a comeback as a major beef-producing state -- thanks to Iowa's booming ethanol industry.

Once the starch is removed from the corn kernel and used for ethanol production, a high-protein feed that can be cheaply fed to livestock is left behind.

Demand is increasing for the high-protein co-product of ethanol. Increasingly, Iowa cattle producers have learned just how good the feed is for their cattle.

"It's a cheap source of dietary protein," said John Hall, a cattle feeder from Ankeny. "We know the cattle like it."

According to John Lawrence, director of the Iowa Beef Industry Center at Iowa State University, Iowa ranked first in the number of cattle marketed from 1968-1972. But Iowa's fed-cattle market totals fell from about 4 million head per year 35 years ago to about 1.5 million last year, he said.

Several factors, including packing plants moving to the Southwest, environmental concerns, and development of large feedlots, led to the drop.

Lawrence and others believe the availability of distillers dried grains and other ethanol extras will give Iowa, the nation's top ethanol-producing state, a competitive advantage over cattle-feeding states that don't make as much ethanol.

"As the ethanol industry grows here, it's real simple to see that we are going to have a big advantage over the big Western feedlots," Hall said. "It's a great thing for Iowa to bring some cattle back to this state. We've got young people wanting to enter the cattle business for the long pull. This might be one of the best ways to do it."

WCF CourierCattle producers think ethanol industry can boost beef production.


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