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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Biofuels debate divides EU farm ministers

The issue of biofuel imports from non-EU countries was one of the main concerns raised during a debate on the Commission's Biomass Action Plan and its strategy to promote biofuels. It is also one of the main focus points of the BioPact. After all, we are striving towards opening the opportunity for poor farmers in the South to become energy farmers able to export to the global (and EU) green energy market.
The EU's agriculture ministers held a policy debate on the Commission's biomass action plan and its European strategy for biofuels on 20 February 2006. They welcomed both initiatives but also expressed concerns about their agricultural production. Some governments want to restrict the imports of biofuels (esp. ethanol) from countries such as Brazil and encourage domestic production of biofuels (esp. biodiesel, where the EU is already world leader).

Some of the new EU member states insisted on being included in the current energy crop system that allows the EU to pay farmers a premium of 45 euros per hectare of land used for energy crops (cereals, sugar beet) production. This incentive system was introduced during the last CAP reform but can only be used by the old member states now.

The EU will review this energy crop scheme by the end of 2006.

The farm ministers will come back to the bio-energy debate in their March meeting.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Taking BioPact's advice to heart: producing biodiesel from avocados in Africa

One of our members used to visit internet forums about biofuels quite regularly, debating the potential of Africa. In one of his discussions at the Biodieselnow forum, he suggested using avocados as a feedstock for biodiesel. He pointed out that lots of avocados are wasted but that they contain a great amount of fat that could be used as vegetable oil. It is estimated that a mere 50% of avocados make it to the international market, the rest is either bruised or doesn't look good enough for the demanding Europeans who import the fruits from Africa.
The reactions were mixed, but Chris Schäke, also a regular visitor at the forum took up on the idea. One year later, he started Kenya's first biodiesel plant, using waste avocados...

Attention Kenyans: Chris Schäke wants your spoilt avocados, and he is willing to pay for them. When you are trying to set up Kenya's first commercially viable biodiesel facility, spoiled avocados, as well as coconuts, palms and other oil-bearing plants are the raw materials you need. And since Schäke's Green Power East Africa Ltd is hoping to produce 60,000 litres per day of the environmentally friendlier fuel by the end of the year, the director needs a lot of avocados.

..Sceptics point to the high initial cost, and the need to use agricultural acres to produce the raw materials. But the fuel's profile has been raised by the climbing price of oil and the spectre of dwindling oil reserves down the road.

AllAfrica (registration req'd).

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