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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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Saturday, January 13, 2007

EU Environment Commissioner Dimas to transform global car market by setting mandatory emissions and efficiency standards

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, the world's most powerful environment minister, has given a first hint at how the EU's recently announced ambitious new energy and climate change policy will play out in the future of mobility: the European Union will set stringent mandatory emissions and efficiency standards for all cars and vehicles sold within the common market. Despite car manufacturers' rush to green marketing, they are coming nowhere near the targets they promised to reach under a 10-year voluntary agreement with the EU. Now legislation will force them to.

The EU's transformative power
The consequences of mandatory targets within the EU would be world changing, because they would push all manufacturers who want to sell cars in the world's largest consumer market to produce greener, cleaner and more efficient vehicles. And once they have developed models that conform to the stringent EU standards, there is no reason not to sell them outside of the Union as well. This is the power of the EU at work on a global scale.

The logic behind this global leverage is elegant in its simplicity: everyone wants to sell in the EU, a market of half a billion wealthy consumers. But you can only do so by obeying the bloc's avant-garde rules. And in order to obey these rules, you have to invest knowledge and capital to develop compliant products. Those who manufacture to compliance best and fastest, can capture most market share. And thus a chain of global competition erupts, that transforms entire world markets. The European REACH legislation on chemical substances in consumer products is showing the effectiveness of this strategy very clearly.

Beyond voluntary agreements
Environment Commissioner Dimas knows that he is extremely powerful and that he can use the same mechanism to change the future of the automobile. The Community Strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars and improve fuel economy is based on three pillars, namely commitments of the automobile industry to fuel-economy improvements, the labelling of new cars, and the promotion of fuel efficiency through fiscal measures. Since CO2 emissions are linked to fuel consumption, a car that emits less CO2 will consume less fuel, and hence have smaller running costs.

Up till now, the first pillar consisted of a voluntary agreement with motor manufacturers - but they have infuriated the commission by missing their target by almost 50%. This is why Dimas wants to make the objectives mandatory. The EU's emissions target is 120g CO2/km, which corresponds to 4.5l/100km for diesel cars, and 5l/100km for petrol cars.

That would mean a 1.6 litre petrol Ford Focus would need to cut emissions by a third to qualify as an average vehicle under the new regime. Car manufacturers will be able to average out their overall CO2 targets over their entire range of vehicles. But it is clear that heavyweight, polluting cars like Range Rovers, Bentleys, and SUVs will have to invest far more in costly low-pollution technology to reduce their emissions than smaller, lighter and more responsible cars:
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Obviously, manufacturers who produce gas guzzling, inefficient, dirty cars are reacting angrily, and with the same old critique: that the plans threaten jobs in the car industry, particularly for specialist manufacturers. They forecast that the measures would add as much as €2,500 (US$ 3200) to some cars, and they warned that European makers would lose out to imported models. Mr Dimas countered by saying that the new rules would apply equally to imports, adding that the EU would offer tax breaks to carmakers to help the transition to lower-emission vehicles. The fact that the new rules will apply to imported measures hints once again at the global leverage of the EU to transform entire world markets.

Dimas added that costs would rise for buyers of top-of-the-range vehicles, the most polluting ones today, but this is a rational strategy of making the polluter pay. For the average European consumer, higher costs would be far outweighed by fuel savings over the life of the more efficient vehicle.

Global battle: the 'world war against climate change'
Not long ago, a group of US scientists drew up a list of the world's most serious longterm threats and risks. At the top of the list came climate change, which was many, many times more dangerous than the relatively minor problem of international terrorism. So if some are waging a 'global war against terror', then surely we must all wage a 'world war on climate change', a much more pressing and far bigger problem... This is what Dimas must have thought when told BBC News that people should start talking about climate change as a war. It could lead to the death of millions of people, and it could transform the world economy into a war economy, where every sector was involved in the fight against climate change. As a result, he said rising emissions from transport were a problem that had to be tackled.

The new proposals by the Environment Commissioner underpin the commission's recently unveiled climate masterplan, and will be discussed by politicians shortly. The plan may face political opposition, but climate is changing the industrial landscape in a way that may persuade Europe's politicians that it is kind to be tough on their own carmakers.

More information
Euractiv: EU defends leadership in 'world war' on climate change, Jan. 12, 2006

Euractiv: Carmakers fail to deliver on CO2 cuts, fuel consumption, April 16, 2006

European Federation for Transport & Environment: Cleaner is Cheaper: Why European climate policy for cars is failing, and what can be done about it (29 Nov. 2005)

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas: Why a Global Response needs European Leadership. Launch event of the European Commission and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change co-operation for 2007, 11 January 2007


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