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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, August 21, 2006

African voices on video: energy

People from Zimbabwe and Zambia explain their energy needs in their own words, and how access to energy could make a real difference to their lives. The videos are available in Windows Media (.wmv) and MPEG format. The messages are short, but they speak for themselves:

Yeukai Meki

Electricity would allow Yeuki and her family to run a refrigerator and store goods for re-sale.
Windows Media | MPEG

Kennedy Mutsvairo

Electricity is the key to improving living standards, helping with cooking, lighting and small industry.
Windows Media | MPEG

Lipian English

The carpenter's main problem is finance, but electricity would also help his business.
Windows Media | MPEG

Fremont and Maureen Mangubi

With electricity, this farming couple would be able to expand into poultry-rearing and welding.
Windows Media | MPEG

Courtesy of Practical Action.
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Hawaii Biofuels Summit: island states working towards oil independence

Here at the Biopact, we have often focused on the energy situation in small island states (in the developing world) who feel the pinch of rising oil prices more than anyone else. Small island states have few fossil fuel resources of their own, and when they're (single sector) tourism hotspots, their fragile economies are heavily dependent on energy prices. But their disadvantage can be turned into an advantage, for it opens the perspective of radical oil independence. Several island states, such as Tuvalu in the Pacific, Mauritius and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean or the Dominican Republic are actively working towards this goal.

Hawaii -- which some have ironically called the 'Saudi Arabia of the Pacific' -- now joins the ranks of those islands by organising its first Hawaii Biofuels Summit. Officials hope to start answering the questions of how to arrive at oil independence, as lawmakers, government officials, landowners, energy companies, utilities, private firms, the visitor industry, academics and others convene for the summit.

Ted Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said the purpose of the summit is to formulate ways to develop Hawaii's biofuel industry. "What I hope will come out is some consensus of what needs to be done, short-term and medium-term, and a consensus around specific measures or steps to take," Liu said. "For me, the success of the summit will be a lot more work - not a study, not a paper, not a report, but actual work".

Liu's agency is convening the summit along with the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based nonprofit energy policy analysis group which has been retained by the state to help implement legislation adopted this year:
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"The intent is to gather -- at a decision-making level -- the people necessary to talk about what we need to do to try and get us to increasing the production and supply of biofuels for Hawaii," Liu said.

The Lingle administration and the Legislature have touted their bipartisan effort this year in coming up with a package of energy initiatives aimed at reducing Hawaii's dependence on imported oil through conservation and the development of alternative and renewable fuels.

Biofuels are products such as ethanol and biodiesel -- liquid fuels that can be made from agricultural crops such as corn, soy beans, sugar and their byproducts and used to displace traditional fossil fuels such as oil and gasoline.

Supporters tout biofuels as a key to not only lessen the state's dependence on oil, but also as a major factor in reviving the state's struggling agriculture industry. Advocates say that Hawaii -- with its hospitable climate for growing various energy crops -- can be a model for the United States.

The first ethanol plants in Hawaii are expected to come online in the second quarter of 2007. Officials say they are working with the local agriculture industry to secure land and crops to convert to fuel.

At various public appearances this year, Gov. Linda Lingle has noted how farm workers have been thankful for the new legislation.

"Gay and Robinson, which was really facing extinction as a company, is now going to be planting tens of thousands of additional acres," Lingle said last month.

Three of the state's largest landowners already have started a venture to study the viability of a large-scale biofuels industry in Hawaii.

The consortium, known as Hawaii BioEnergy LLC, is studying the availability of land for growing crops that could be converted to fuels, which crops or feed stock would be most efficient and which technologies would be best for making the conversion.

Partners include Maui Land & Pineapple Co., Grove Farm Co. and Kamehameha Schools, which together own about 10 percent of the land in the state.

The group plans to spend about $1 million over the next six months studying available resources in Hawaii. A progress report is expected by the end of the year.

Some experts have said Hawaii would need only about 250,000 acres of land devoted to crops for ethanol to replace the roughly 500 million gallons of gasoline used here each year.

In announcing the joint venture last month, Maui Land & Pineapple President David Cole noted that the state has about 480,000 acres of good agricultural land that is undeveloped.

But securing land for growing fuel crops is only one set of issues.

Liu said he expects wide-ranging discussions on other topics, including water allocation, regulatory measures, transportation and distribution.

He also noted that a primary participant will be Hawaii Electric Co., which already has expressed interest in using ethanol to power a new plant that would be built in Hawaii.

"We have to make sure that potential users of biofuels are ready," Liu said, "because it takes shifting of their infrastructure, as well."

StarBulletin, Hawaii: Summit to focus on isle biofuels

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The opaque politics of power and the consolidation of the biofuels market

Henrique Oliveira from Ethablog analyses the opacity of a biofuels production deal between a large multinational and the state governor of Matto Grosso in Brazil. Both actors share common interests. But the deal also shows the fine line between where healthy common interests end and outright conflicts of interest begin.

To us, biofuels and bioenergy are much more than just fuels. They are a symbol of a new economic, social and even cultural paradigm. One of the elements that define the new era is radical political transparency - unlike the secrecy surrounding the old politics of petroleum. We feel that biofuels advocates should do more than merely hint at the benefits of renewable energy and sustainability. They should actively engage themselves in creating new political parameters so that access to energy, resource control and social justice become part of the bioenergy paradigm. Social sustainability and even 'political sustainability' are just as important as environmental durability.

Henrique Oliveira notes: On July 27th, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) deemed it necessary or convenient to put out a press release announcing that it had chosen the state of Mato Grosso as the site for its first biodiesel plant in Brazil. As motives, it proffered the fact that the new plant, to be installed in the town of Rondonopolis, is "strategically located adjacent to ADM’s existing soybean crushing plant in Rondonopolis to maximize synergies between ADM’s Brazilian origination, transportation and processing capabilities".

It also communicated the strong political support that the project has received from the state government, giving the Governor's own words as proof: “The Government of the State of Mato Grosso recognizes the importance of renewable fuels, and we are pleased that ADM, a world leader in bio-based fuels, has chosen our state to build its first Brazilian biodiesel plant,” stated Blairo Maggi, Governor of Mato Grosso.

Based on his keen knowledge of local politics, Oliveira then asks some critical questions:
What the press release failed to acknowledge is that Mr. Maggi is the largest grower of soybeans in the entire world, according to Reuters. ADM's communique also omitted the fact that Mr. Maggi is the president of Amaggi, a family-owned industrial complex that ranks as Brazil's 27th-largest exporter and has plants in a number of locations around the immense state of Mato Grosso - including in Rondonopolis.

Why are these two vital facts absent from ADM's press release?

What kind of negotiations went on between ADM and the state government in the development of the biodiesel plant in Rondonopolis, Mato Grosso state? What are the "synergies" that led to the choice of that particular state? Why were these not mentioned in ADM's July press release? Does ADM deal with Amaggi, the governor's company? If so, do public and private interests ever intersect?
We agree with his conclusion: the production of feedstocks for biofuels, whether sugarcane or soy, in Brazil or elsewhere, will never achieve critical mass while the relationship between those who produce it and those who control the land on which it is produced is less than crystal clear.
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