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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, July 24, 2006

WTO Doha trade talks collapse - disaster for biofuels industry?

Quicknote bioenergy trade
This news just came in: Last-ditch talks by major trade powers to save the World Trade Organisation's Doha Round collapsed on Monday, leaving the future of negotiations on a global free trade deal in doubt.

A well-placed trade diplomat said: "The G6 talks have collapsed. It's not immediately evident what options are available other than suspension (of the Doha Round)."

Source: Reuters.

Opinions will be divided on whether this is a blessing or a burden for developing countries. Several players blame the unwillingness of the US to reduce its agricultural subsidies for the blockage, others say it's the EU for similar reasons.

Now that the Doha round definitively seems to have been buried we will write an essay on the importance of this major development for the nascent global biofuels industry, in which the developing world is set to play a major role. We will focus on the different technical trade debates surrounding so-called "environmental goods" lists (under which biofuels fell), and analyse where things went wrong and what the impacts might be for the future.
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Europe investing in Mozambique's biofuels

Here at the BioPact we maintain that the EU should urgently develop a partnership with Africa's future 'Biofuel Superpowers' to create a win-win situation, whereby African developing nations with a huge bioenergy production potential get the funds, knowledge and technologies needed to exploit this potential, while exporting biofuels to the EU - in a mutually beneficial relationship. To achieve this goal, there is the European Union Energy Initiative for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development, but bilateral projects and investments are obviously welcome as well.
Some are sharing our vision. Amongst them, Sweden, which announced that it is working with the Mozambican authorities on supplying the local market with biofuels, according to Energy Minister Salvador Namburete, cited in Friday's issue of the Notícias, maintained by the Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique.

Mozambique will feature in our series about Biofuels Superpowers, because the country has vast and underused agro-ecological potential for the development of a bioenergy industry. Together with Sweden, the country is looking at the possibility of producing ethanol even though Namburete did not say what raw material would be used. He did project that there was enough potential to supply the entire Mozambican market and export a surplus to Sweden. We have already pointed to this phenomenon as "energy leapfrogging", and Mozambique is gladly jumping.

Biofuels would reduce Mozambique's fuel import bill considerably. In the long-term, the country can become entirely oil-independent. Currently, Mozambique's fuel imports cost in excess of €133 million (US$ 168 mio) a year - a heavy burden on the poor developing nation. And that invoice could rise still further: speculators this week were able to push the price of oil up to 78 dollars a barrel, largely because of nervousness over the spreading conflict in the Middle East.

In addition to the Swedish interest in ethanol, the search for alternative fuels also involves several proposals for biodiesel. Thus in the Zambezia province, the company Madal has proposed to turn copra into biodiesel, taking advantage of the fact that Zambezia is home to the largest coconut plantation in the world. The Monapo Industrial Company in Nampula province intends to refine biodiesel from sunflower oil. But the most frequently mentioned source of biodiesel is the jatropha shrub, which President Armandoi Guebuza himself is urging peasant farmers to grow.

More information:
André Faaij, Emerging International Biomass Markets and the Potential Implications for Rural Development, Development and Climate Workshop: Rural development, the roles of food, water and biomass; opportunities and challenges. Copernicus Institute, November 2005. [*pdf], offers a case study of Mozambique's bioenergy production potential.
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EU publishes public consultation on Biofuels Directive: a wealth of visions and critiques

The European Commission has made public the results of its first round of citizens' consultation on its 2003 Biofuels Directive, which aims to promote the use in transport of fuels made from biomass, as well as other renewable fuels. Not only European stake-holders are invited to participate, players from all over the world are welcome.

The Commission set out the broad lines for a review of the directive in its Biomass Action Plan and biofuels strategy. In preparing the progress report, the Commission’s services wanted to know the views of public authorities, businesses, non-governmental organisations, citizens and other interested parties on the following questions:
  • Is the objective of promoting biofuels still valid?
  • The directive sets a reference value of 5.75% for the market share of biofuels in 2010. Will this share be achieved with existing policies and measures? If not, why not?
  • Looking towards 2010, does the EU system of targets for biofuels need to be adapted? If so, how?
  • Should a certification system be introduced to avoid using “poor performing” biofuels or give more support to “better performing” ones?
  • Looking towards 2015 and 2020, should further measures be adopted to promote biofuels?
  • A number of more technical issues

Thus the questions cover a wide range of topics. Some are primarily political, others focus on scientific, legal or economic aspects. If you have views on some questions and not others, do not hesitate to send an answer covering these questions. A second consultation on the Biomass Action Plan is set for a later date.

The first consultation document [*.pdf] gathered a wealth of views, critiques, comments and broad visions from a vast and interesting range of organisations. Several of the topics raised deal directly with issues of our concern: the sense of bioenergy trade with the South, the economics of international biofuels trade, the potential for biofuels production to relieve poverty in developing nations, etc...

Each of the organisation's contributions can be read separately, here. We want to present an exhaustive list, so that readers see how diverse the stakeholders are:
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Member States and foreign governmental institutions: Brazilian Government, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Energistyrelsen, Landwirschaftskammer Österreichs, Deutsche Energie-Agentur, Umweltbundesamt, Natural England, UK Government, Dutch Government, Latvian Ministry of Economics, Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic, House of Lords’ European Union Select Committee - Environment and Agriculture Sub-Committee

NGOs: European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Birmingham Friends of the Earth, Danmarks Naturfredningsforening (Danish Society for Nature Conservation), Réseau Action Climat France, Institut Français des Huiles Végétales Pures, German society for nature conservation (NABU – BirdLife Germany), Scottish Natural Heritage, Blooming Futures, Technology for Life, Inforse, European Pure Plant Oil Association, NEN Energy Resources, Vegburner, European Landowners’ Organization, Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. (FNR), Stichting Natuur en Milieu, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), European Tribune, Sprecher Rettet den Regenwald e.V., European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), Biofuelwatch, European Environmental Citizens’ Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS), WWF,

Industry / Private Sector:

Iogen, D1 Oils, Ford Motor Company, Forest Products Biotechnology group at the University of British Columbia, Novozymes A/S, Department of, Economics Göteborg University, Europia, Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP), German Chemical Industry Association (VCI), Finnish oil company Neste oil Oyj, European Natural Gas Vehicle Association (ENGVA), Združenie výrobcov liehu a liehovín na Slovensku, Finnish Oil and Gas Federation, British Sugar, Bundesverband Güterkraftverkehr Logistik und Entsorgung (BGL), Danish Transport and Logistics Association (DTL), Ecomotion GmbH, Valenergol, Hydro, eBio, Cofalec (The Association of the European Yeast Manufacturers), Fediol, Apag, Renault, UEPA, AssoDistil, Aspec, North East Biofuels, Whyte and Mackay, Port of Rotterdam, Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation - Ethanol Producers’ Association, AGPB - AGPM AGPB - AGPM in France, Universià degli Studi della Tuscia, EFOA, ADECA
ATC, Sundance, Coceral, Bio-power, BioAlcohol Fuel Foundation (BAFF), Verband der Automobilindustrie e.V. (VDA), Renewable Energy Association of the United Kingdom, CEEP, APPA, UNGDA, COPA-COGECA, SNPAA, Unilever, Elinoil - Hellenic Petroleum Company SA / Elin Biofuels SA, Tereos, National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales, Union for promoting oil and protein plants (UFOP), Pôle de compétitivité « Industries & Agroressources », Daka, Waterman Sustainable Energy, CEPM, (Confédération Européenne des Producteurs de Maïs), European Biodiesel Board (EBB), Caobisco, Lyondell Chemical Company, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited, Anpromis, Ethanol Union, Toyota Motor Europe, Lantmännen Agroetanol AB, European Car Manufacturing Association (ACEA), Sener Grupo de Ingeniería, Altran, Regenatec, CER, Repsol YPF, The Environmental Industries Commission, Confederation of the food an drink industry of the EU (CIAA), International Margarine Association of the Countries of Europe (IMACE), Associations des Amidonniers et Féculiers (AAF), EARPA - European Automotive Research Partners Association, BEST-project (Bioethanol for Sustainable Transport), Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (RWI), LowCVP, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), AEBIOM

List of private citizens, see this page.

This pan-European and worldwide consultation round is certainly a way forward in the democratic decision making process that guides the EU's bioenergy and biofuels policies. If the Commission would be so kind to actually take this wide range of views into account, we would even be a step further...

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