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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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Friday, January 26, 2007

Biofuels offer major opportunities to fight both poverty and climate change, but caution urged - report

A very basic report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), entitled "International trade in biofuels: Good for development? And good for environment?" [*.pdf] provides a summary introduction to the issues involved in large-scale biofuel production in the developing world.

For readers of the Biopact, the issues covered by the report have been discussed here before and more in depth. For a broader look at the topics in question, we also refer to the "Biofuels Manifesto" written by prof. John Mathews.

Massive opportunity for social and economic development
Annie Dufey, author of the IIED report, writes: "The global biofuels market offers important opportunities to bring together the economic, environmental and social agendas both in developing countries and globally. [...] However, a lack of coherence and coordination between the stakeholders and policy agendas involved at the interface between biofuels, trade and sustainable development could lead to biofuels providing a solution to one specific problem while simultaneously creating several others. It is therefore increasingly urgent to map a path for the global biofuels industry that supports sustainable development. Analysis is needed to integrate the above issues and to deliver concrete and timely recommendations to policy makers that will drive the sustainable development results of this new market." The Biopact is an organisation working towards these much needed analyses.

"Biofuels can help tackle climate change and improve livelihoods in developing countries, as well as provide a source of economic growth and energy," says Dufey. "But to achieve this, all players in the sector urgently need to be aware of the trade-offs and take steps to address them." "The novelty of biofuels, the vast array of issues involved and the lack of knowledge to tackle many of them, together with diverging political and business interests mean that consensus is elusive," she adds. "It is therefore increasingly urgent to map a path for the global biofuels industry that supports sustainable development."

The report says that industrialised countries need to analyse the ways their domestic policies surrounding biofuel production and trade are affecting developing nations, where due to their privileged natural conditions, the greatest growth in energy-crop production is set to take place.

Trade barriers
Dufey goes on to argue that international trade barriers, especially tariffs and subsidies, need to be relaxed to enable the developing world to reap the benefits of the emerging biofuels trade, while certification schemes need to be established to take account of the environmental and social conditions in such countries. Both the US and the EU currently have a whole set of (trade) barriers in place, ranging from import tariffs to hefty subsidies amounting to billions of dollars/euros.

According to the author, current trade regimes are not fit for encouraging synergies and sorting out trade-offs. She says that any benefits from biofuels trade could be undermined if the sector continues to expand without improved policies and international coordination.

"There is no multilateral agreement on whether biofuels are industrial or agricultural goods. Nor is there a specific forum for international discussions on how to deal with biofuel trade," says Dufey. "This lack of coherence and coordination could lead to biofuels solving one specific problem but simultaneously creating several others."

Certification, but not dominated by the West
"We need certification schemes that label biofuels according to environmental and social conditions prevailing in the producing countries, and that do not undermine small-scale producers," says Dufey.

Several schemes are being developed but if governments and institutions in industrialised nations dominate them, they risk not taking account of developing countries' social and environmental priorities. "Moreover, if these schemes are poorly coordinated or entail a unfair distribution of costs and benefits, they could be detrimental to international trade and place a significant burden on small producers," adds Dufey:
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Sustainability and environmental impacts
Dufey notes poor working conditions associated with the cultivation of some energy crops, and says that large-scale biofuel production could well have environmental consequences as native ecosystems are replaced by crops such as oil palm.

"The cultivation of energy crops may also trigger – or exacerbate – several of the environmental problems associated with agricultural commodity production such as deforestation, monocropping, water usage, land degradation and water pollution. Of these, the expansion of the agricultural frontier is a key concern, and especially the impacts this may have on tropical forests, savannahs and biodiversity," she writes. "Forests have been cleared for palm oil production in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. If the increased demand for biofuel were met by expansion of soy production, this would imply further environmental pressure in the sensitive drier savannah areas of north-central Brazil (the cerrado) and in the Amazon forests... Development benefits could also be lost if the choice of crop leads to competition for water resources or for land used to grow food crops."

While these are concerns, Dufey notes that are potential environmental upsides to biofuels beyond reduced emissions of greenhouse gases. Bioenergy crops can be planted to highly degraded lands, promoting land restoration by improving soils and anchoring against soil erosion.

"Crops such as Jatropha, due to their fast growth, drought resistant nature and soil-improving properties, have the potential to extend the land base available for agricultural activities and to create new markets for farmers in marginal areas – as well as providing local biofuels through simple processing plants," she adds.

The report was written in advance of the discussions at a major international conference on renewable energy taking place in Brussels on 29-31 January as part of the European Union's 'Sustainable Energy Week'. Biofuels will be at the center of this European Renewable Energy Policy Conference which will be opened by Al Gore and attended by 650 delegates. Speakers include Klaus Töpfer, former head of the UN Environment Programme; UK foreign minister Margaret Beckett; and senior figures from Brazil, China and India.


Anonymous said...

I found a site www.palmoiltruthfoundation.com that you may be interested in, it relates to palm oil, biofuels and deforestation.

8:41 AM  

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