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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, September 25, 2006

Villepin calls for 'Europatriotic' energy policy

On a visit to Berlin, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin defended the merger between Suez and Gas de France (GDF) as being positive for European energy independence and proposed the development of a genuine European energy diplomacy. The Franco-German locomotive is moving towards the establishment of a Common Energy Policy, away from either pure free market mechanisms or strictly national policies. Energy has become of utmost geopolitical importance once again, and there is a growing will to craft a united policy to make the EU stronger on the global energy scene.

Even though de Villepin does not dwell on EU strategies and policies on renewables, it is clear that he presents a broad political vision, a paradigm shift. Obviously bioenergy and renewables would fall under this vision too. We strongly favor this 'Europatriotic' supra-national approach. Once a common European energy policy is in place, it will be easier to work with the developing world on bioenergy, instead of sticking to mere bilateral agreements and cooperation efforts. Development Commissioner Louis Michel has earlier hinted at this fusion of policy fields on an EU level -- tying bioenergy production in the developing world to CAP and trade reform to EU development aid.

Speaking at the prestigious Bertelsmann Foundation, Dominique de Villepin outlined his vision of a European energy policy based on "three pillars":
  • A European energy diplomacy led by a special representative so that Europe "speaks with one voice" on the international scene;
  • The "convergence of national energy policies" in terms of production, investment, transport and storage of energy - the ITER nuclear fusion project being a prime example of such co-operation, and;
  • The co-ordination of strategic oil and gas reserves to prevent market speculation.
In Berlin, the French prime minister defended the proposed merger between Suez and GDF as reinforcing Europe's independence towards Russian gas imports - a project that would also fit with Villepin's new motto of "European economic patriotism". Energy mergers, he said, should be "the result of a deliberate industrial policy that is approved by all parties, with due respect to the cultures of each enterprise and each country". Villepin then guarded against reckless liberalisation of EU energy markets:
:: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"Let us not give in to the mechanical workings of supply and demand, let us not expose ourselves any further to the tensions of the world," he said.

The French PM will be conveying the same message to Commission President José Manuel Barroso when he visits Brussels today (25 September). The Commission announced that it will issue its final decision on the proposed Suez-GDF merger before 17 November.

More information:

Directorate-General for Energy and Transport: The European Union Green Paper on Energy - A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy (website).

Prime Ministerial website: L’énergie et la culture au cœur de l’Europe - Sept. 22, 2006.

Libération: Energie: Villepin pour une vision européenne - Sept. 22, 2006.

Le Figaro: Villepin veut un «patriotisme économique européen» - actualized Sept. 23, 2006.

AP/Nouvel Observateur: Villepin plaide pour une "diplomatie énergétique européenne" - Sept. 22, 2006.


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