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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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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wade tells oil firms in Africa to share wealth, or face expulsion

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has warned oil firms operating in Africa that they have to share some of the huge profits they make in order to fight poverty on the continent, or else they might face expulsion. Wade's words come a day after oil giant Shell said Africa holds the key to meeting the world's energy needs. Wade also called for strategic infrastructure works on the continent to be developed and lauded China's approach to building economic ties with African states.

Oil companies operating in Africa must plough part of their oil profits into fighting poverty there or risk being expelled from the continent by unrest and turmoil fuelled by inequality, Senegal's president said. Violent situations like the one in the Niger Delta, where oil is pumped up in huge quantities, but where local people live in dire poverty, might spread to other regions in Africa if oil companies don't change their approach to exploiting the resource.

Furthermore, Wade insisted that it was "indecent, immoral" that oil majors should be raking in multi-billion dollar profits from higher oil prices while poor, oil-importing African states saw their own energy bills increase by tens of millions of dollars. Developing country economies are energy intensive and very sensitive to rising fossil fuel prices.

The 'Wade Formula'
The Senegalese leader told a recent news conference he was proposing a formula -- the "Wade Formula" -- to distribute oil profits more equitably between oil companies, African oil-producing countries and non-oil producing states on the world's poorest continent. Earlier, Wade surprised many by announcing the creation of a 'Green OPEC', aimed at promoting biofuels and bioenergy in non-oil producing African countries. One of the ideas behind the project is to create a mechanism through which African oil producing countries invest in biofuels in non-oil producing states on the continent (earlier post).

Talking about the social sustainability of oil production as being the key to energy security, Wade thinks "we can create a system where everyone wins". Facing an energy crunch in oil-importing Senegal where summer power cuts have badly hit economic activity and home consumers, the President presented his plan last month in the United States to executives of Chevron and Exxon Mobil, which have extensive operations in sub-Saharan Africa.

He said he warned them about the dangers of ignoring poverty in Africa, while reaping huge profits from its oil. "I said to the oilmen, you're free to carry on like that if you want. But in the long term, you'll be expelled from Africa," Wade said.

The Senegalese president said the societies of some African oil producers were already showing signs of violent rejection of energy companies which failed to sufficiently share the profits of oil. "It's started, bit by bit it will spread," he added:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

He gave no examples, but communities in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger delta have stepped up attacks and kidnappings targeting foreign oil firms and their staff, as part of a campaign to try to gain more benefits from oil production.

Wade said the U.S. oil executives had accepted his argument and were willing to see how more could be done to fight poverty in Africa, using its oil.

Strategic infrastructures
He said the continent also needed massive investments in big strategic infrastructure projects, such as a plan for a trans-continental railway linking Johannesburg in South Africa to Dakar in Senegal on Africa's northwest coast.

Other similar projects contemplated included a road and rail link stretching from Dakar in the west to Djibouti in the eastern Horn or Africa.

"The world has the means to do it, our partners have the means to do it," Wade said, saying the United States had completed such trans-continental rail projects across its own huge territory in the 19th century.

Recently, the European Union, the largest donor to Africa, launched a €5 billion fund for infrastructure development in Africa, recognizing that rail, road, waterways, ports, harbors and energy infrastructures are key to help the continent lifting itself out of poverty (earlier post).

Lauding China's approach to mutual development
Wade also urged governments in Africa not to view the growing political and economic competition for the continent's trade and resources between China and the West as a threat, but as an opportunity to reap material benefits for their countries.

He rejected comparisons with the Cold War battle over Africa in past decades between United States and the former Soviet Union, which spawned several proxy wars on the continent.

"Nobody's playing that game anymore," he said, adding that commercial competition in Africa between the West and China was positive. "It's up to Africa to manage that," Wade said.

He praised what he called China's global, multi-faceted approach to trade and cooperation which he said was based on non-interference in domestic affairs and mutual benefit.

Asked about criticism that China turned a blind eye to bad government, corruption and human rights in its growing relations with Africa, Wade said he opposed human rights violations.

But he added: "That polemic is one thing, and our economic relation with China is another".

More information:
Daily Nation (subscription), (Kenya): Oil firms told to fight poverty - Nov 15, 2006
Reuters: Senegal's Wade wants fairer oil share-out in Africa - Nov 14, 2006
Business Report: Fund Africa's poor or face expulsion, oil firms told - South Africa - Nov 14, 2006


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