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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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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

EU funds South Africa's biofuels-strategy taskforce with aim to reduce poverty, unemployment

Recognizing the great importance of the creation of a biofuels industry as a mechanism for social and economic development in the poor South, and stressing the need for North-South cooperation, the European Union is funding the establishment of a biofuels task team in South Africa, to draw up a strategy to take to Cabinet at its next economic cluster meeting, Department of Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said this week.

Speaking at a function in Johannesburg, she said that the country had been working together with Brazil, the EU and the British government in establishing this task force. “We are looking at implementing the strategy by early next year,” Sonjica highlighted, adding that the department hoped that the strategy would be approved so that it could be rolled out.

The South African government, led by President Thabo Mbeki, is keen to fast-track the development of the local biofuels industry. Southern African Biofuels Association (Saba) president and Absa bank agribusiness GM Andrew Makenete previously announced that Mbeki had instructed the biofuels task team and Cabinet to have the national biofuels strategy ready for publication before the end of the year. Previously, the intention was to announce a draft of the strategy in October, after which a relatively lengthy process would have been followed to obtain feedback and finalise the plan of action.

The development of the biofuels industry was one of three key priority sectors of the government's Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA).

ASGISA aims to halve unemployment and poverty by 2014 by stimulating economic growth. Biofuels play a key role in achieving these aims. Key players in South Africa's nascent biofuels and bioenergy industry call the potential of the sector 'the most important economic opportunity since the discovery of mineral wealth in South Africa' (see our In-depth look at South Africa's nascent biofuels industry):
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The national biofuels strategy would provide a blueprint for the development of the South African biofuels industry, and will spell out, besides other things, government policy on mandatory blending, procurement as well as the national interventions and incentives needed to support the industry.

Makenete said that the strategy would provide the impetus required to kick-start the large-scale production of biofuels in South Africa.

He reported that Mbeki's response to a presentation delivered by the Agricultural CEO's Forum - which is part of the biofuels task team - has been “overwhelmingly positive”.

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Forest products group UPM to become biofuels producer

Quicknote bioenergy investments
UPM, one of the world’s leading forest products groups, announced that it will strongly increase its stake in second generation biodiesel in the next few years and prepare to become a significant producer of biofuels.

Currently, UPM is developing the business concept and the respective technical solutions. The company says that its decision to invest in the first commercial-scale production plant can be expected within the next few years, sooner rather than later. The plant will be located adjacent to one of UPM’ paper mill sites in Finland, France, Germany or UK.
Investments in development of concepts and plants will be significant. The production of biofuel is a good fit for UPM since its core business is to add value to the wood raw material. Our aim is to maximize the gain from the biomass-based raw material. The importance of renewable fuels is increasing, and we consider this an opportunity to further utilise our existing value chain and be part of the future development. —Jussi Pesonen, President and CEO
The news is important because UPM's main raw material used in biofuel production will be wood-based biomass. This might set a precedent for technology developments that can be transferred to developing countries with large forestry industries.

Based in Finland, UPM’s global sales in 2005 were €9.3 billion (US$11.9 billion). The company has production plants in 15 countries and its main market areas are Europe and North America. UPM is a member of the steering committee for the European Biofuels Technology Platform, an organization focused on creating and supporting a healthy European biofuels industry that will achieve the goal of meeting 25% of the demand for road transport fuel with biofuels by 2030 (see trajectory) [Entry ends here].
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Major US power player backs EU-style carbon trading

After the publication of the Stern Review on climate change, the world is waiting for reactions from the US, the largest contributor to global warming and one of the few countries that didn't sign up to the Kyoto Protocol.

In an exclusive interview with EurActiv, John Krenicki, president and CEO of GE Energy, one of the leading energy companies, says that his company is already investing in clean-energy technologies in anticipation of a carbon-trading process similar to that of the EU.

We want to highlight some excerpts from the interview (full version), because it is important to take a nuanced view on how the US position on climate change evolves. It is too easy to accuse all American actors of inaction. Moreover, as revealed in a recent MIT survey, American citizens now rank climate change as the country's most pressing environmental problem - a dramatic shift from three years ago, when they ranked climate change sixth out of 10 environmental concerns. Clearly then, America is changing its mind on the issue, albeit slowly, with a growing number of individual States, mayors and corporations openly calling for action to be taken at federal level.

John Krenicki, president and CEO of GE Energy, a power equipment supplier involved in wind turbines, clean coal, and other clean energy technologies, said he believes that curbing greenhouse-gas emissions is "the right thing to do".

Asked whether a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions like the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) would be desirable in the US, Krenicki said: "Our view is that something similar will happen. It may not be the same but our sense is that there will be some value associated with carbon in the future."

Krenicki even suggests it could be happening sooner rather than later. "We're going to have an election in the US shortly and then another election in two years - we'll leave that to the politicians," he said.

EU business organisations have criticised the EU-ETS, saying placing a price on carbon dioxide emissions forces electricity prices up and undermines Europe's global competitiveness. But Krenicki seems to take the opposite view. "We think the drive to be more efficient makes us more competitive. So, we don't see [the EU-ETS] as hampering our competitiveness."

And as one of the world's three largest manufacturers of nuclear power plants, GE's Krenicki says nuclear has to be part of the picture:
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"As CO2 has value, nuclear is the largest or most significant option to generate zero CO2 electricity. The other thing with nuclear is that once installed, it is the lowest cost to run and emits no CO2 so it's a real viable option."

In the US, more than 266 mayors have signed the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement and, in California, Governor Arnold Scharzenegger recently signed a strong climate-change law for his state.

Although it is unlikely that the US will ever sign the Kyoto Protocol, negotiations are ongoing on what to do after 2012 when its targets expire. The 12th session of the UNFCCC, the convention in which Kyoto is framed, will try to address this when it meets in Nairobi, Kenya, from 6 to 17 November. The US is a party to the UNFCCC but not to Kyoto.

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