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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, October 30, 2006

Energy Wars: documentary on the geopolitics of oil, gas and renewables

Tonight Dutch national public broadcaster VPRO shows part one of its prestigious series of documentaries on the future of energy, entitled "Energy Wars". Part of the documentary program Tegenlicht ('Backlight'), the two films will highlight the rising geopolitical tensions over energy, and the potential of renewables at opening an entirely new energy paradigm. The Biopact is glad to have had the priviledge of consulting the film's researchers on the future of bioenergy and biofuels, especially when it comes to their potential in the Global South.

Part one of Energy Wars focuses on the present state of the geopolitics of oil and gas, with Thomas Friedman as a guide. Friedman, author of The World is Flat, formulates his "First law of petro-politics": there is a causal relationship between rising oil prices and the emergence of authoritarian, dictatorial and totalitarian political systems. When oil prices skyrocket, as they have done over the past few years, political leaders in oil producing countries find it easier to concentrate power and to negate efforts at more democratisation.
The steady rise of 'populist' figures like Ahmedinejad in Iran, Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, and the consolidation of power by Putin in Russia, seem to give some credence to Friedman's law.

The Cold War and the War on Terror were all about ideology and globalisation, but in the 21st century energy security and access to declining reserves of oil and gas will take center stage instead. The Energy Wars of the coming decades will limit the progress of free market liberalism, which was thought to be unstoppable after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Francis Fukuyama, who wrote that history came to a standstill with the collapse of the Soviet Union and that the entire world will simply become a clone of democratic free market economies, was shown to be entirely wrong. Instead, resource wars will drive a new era in history, an end game putting different and shifting coalitions of oil-hungry nations (like China, the US, and India) against each other.

What kind of international political system will emerge from these Energy Wars? Will the multilateralist vision on global politics survive? What kind of risks for the world economy do the new geopolitical fracture lines entail? Energy Wars finds out by presenting reports from Russia and Georgia, where a conflict over natural gas is brewing; from Caracas, Venezuela, we get a view on how Hugo Chavez's 'Bolivarian Revolution' was made possible by the re-nationalisation of the country's oil industry, and on how petro-dollars are transforming Latin America; finally, a Saudi Energy minister explains how in the future oil producing countries may use their resources as an economic and political weapon.

The second film, to be shown next week, delves into the new era of renewables and takes us to developing countries, where bioenergy, solar and wind energy are transforming the energy landscape. Will renewables influence the global energy end game?

VPRO, Tegenlicht, Energy Wars, part one, can be watched online here (from tomorrow onwards). In the Low Countries, viewers can catch the film on 'Nederland 2', tonight at 9.00pm local time (or on Friday, november 3, at 9.55am local time) [entry ends here].
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