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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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Friday, October 06, 2006

France speeds up green energy effort - Chirac defends EU biofuel subsidies

Several developments in France show that the country is speeding up its efforts on biofuels. For Biopact, these steps are a mixed blessing.

The good news is that France is building a distribution infrastructure for biodiesel and ethanol, with the Ministry of Finance pledging support "without reservation" for the development of E85, a fuel made of 85% ethanol as "the first fuel of the post-oil era". Large-scale development of E85 should first and foremost serve the interest of consumers by remaining cheap. It will also serve France's energy independence. Concretely, from 2007 onwards, 500 to 600 ethanol pumps will be built in France, at the 'grandes autoroutes' network which connects most cities of the country with Paris.

Secondly, minister Thierry Breton announced that French car makers have committed to investing in flex-fuel cars that can effectively use the E85 fuel. He projects that by 2009, half of all new cars sold in France will be flex-fuel cars. If this level of market penetration can indeed be realised, the country's ambitious biofuels plan stands a chance of succeeding.

These two developments are good news, because it means that a green fuel infrastructure and fleet is going to come into existence. Our goal, however, is to have the actual fuel coming from the developing world. It is on this point that a third development is threatening. President Jacques Chirac announced today that France will defend biofuel subsidies for its farmers. France is a recipient of funds under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, the subsidies of which many see as a huge barrier to the development of agriculture in the Global South.

The recent 'Doha Development Round' of trade negotiations collapsed precisely because neither the EU nor the US were prepared to lower their agricultural subsidies. Some have said biofuels and bioenergy may offer the key to break this deadlock, even though if it simply means that agricultural subsidies are going to be replaced with biofuels subsidies, not much will change. Chirac's announcement contains a first and disappointing hint that this may actually be the future course of the EU.

Chirac called on the EU on Thursday to start planning for a future of non-food-based farming, saying that agriculture must remain "at the heart of the European ambition." Meeting with farmers, Chirac set out what he said were the "new frontiers" of agriculture — based on bio-technologies and non-food-based farming — and a continued central role in farming for France. While farmers leave the profession in growing numbers, agriculture remains "at the heart of this century's challenges ... and France is one of the best placed countries in the world to take it up," the president said.

France is an EU agriculture leader and its farmers are among the top beneficiaries of EU subsidies. Paris has scuffled with partners to maintain its hefty subsidies to farmers. Chirac warned that reforms of the EU's Common Agriculture Policy, or PAC, as well as financing, must not be thrown into question "until 2013 included," a reference to the EU budget of 2007-2013:
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At the same time, the World Trade Organization plans to eliminate farm export subsidies by 2013, including those in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia.

For the period after 2013, "the new CAP must maintain community preference and public aid for the social and environmental aspects of agriculture," he said. Above, all it must expand to include non-food products.

He asked that European agriculture experts begin reflecting "starting now" on the farming of the years 2015-2020 and called for a European conference on the future of agriculture.

"I say it firmly. Europe was largely built on agriculture. It must remain at the heart of the European ambition," Chirac said.

More information:

BBC News: Chirac pushes for biofuel farming - Oct. 6, 2006

International Herald Tribune: French president pleads for non-food agriculture of future - October 5, 2006

Le Monde: Thierry Breton : "Un véhicule sur deux roulera au flexfuel en 2009" - Oct. 3, 2005.

Euractiv: France to gear-up biofuels use from 2007 - Sept. 28


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