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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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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Biofuels and the presidential elections in Senegal

Senegal is the only country in West-Africa not to have suffered civil war or coup d'état since it became independent from France. Today, the Senegalese elect their new leader in a well organised democratic election. The incumbent, president Abdoulaye Wade, is widely expected to win in the first round, against 14 competitors.

Mr Wade made biofuels an issue during the campaign. At the eve of the elections, during a mass rally in the capital Dakar, Wade summarized his vision one more time and told supporters that "within two years, Senegal will have transformed agriculture into an energy sector capable of producing biofuels. We must escape the tyranny of petroleum." He added that "Senegal's farmers will supply the SENELEC (state-run utility company) with biofuels" and "our farmers will become oil sheiks." Finally, in what reportedly was a popular announcement, Wade told the crowd that "our country will begin to make cars 'made in Senegal' in collaboration with Peugeot."

Election promises aside, over the past year, Senegal's government has been one of the most outspoken supporters of biofuels in Africa, with arguments ranging from the capacity of biofuels to strengthen local economies by cutting oil dependence, the potential to bring jobs and reduce the huge and tragic problem of economic emigration towards Europe (earlier post), to reviving and diversifying the agricultural sector to make it less dependent on commodities for which world market prices have declined or become highly volatile.

Wade has been very active on this front, first by creating a 'Green OPEC' of sorts - dubbed the Pays Africains Non-Producteurs de Pétrole (PANPP) - uniting 15 non-oil producing countries (earlier post). The main goal of the PANPP is to exchange knowledge, technology and market opportunities for biofuels across Africa. The organisation is also working towards getting African oil producing countries to share some of their profits with the PANNP, to invest the funds in biofuel production. Trying to reach a Western audience, Wade published an open letter in The Washington Post, explaining the sense of urgency behind the initiative (earlier post):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

On more than one occasion, the Senegalese president also warned against the dangers of petro-politics and warned multinational oil companies to invest far more in the countries where they operate and to distribute wealth to their populations, because if they don't, the 'Niger Delta' scenario (where people have turned against oil companies) will become the rule throughout Africa (earlier post).

The Wade government has made the first concrete steps towards the realisation of a biofuel program: besides the creation of several institutions and 'agro-energy' programs, which include extension services and financing mechanisms (earlier post), the distribution of 250 million jatropha seedlings amongst the rural population was announced late last year (earlier post).

Finally, in an exemplary South-South exchange, Senegal has been co-operating with Brazil and India on analysing the best strategies to create a viable national bioenergy program (earlier post).

More information:
Rewmi (Dakar): Abdoulaye Wade se donne deux ans pour concrétiser ses projets - Feb. 24, 2007.
Nouvel Observateur: Abdoulaye Wade se veut le président de la jeunesse sénégalaise - Feb. 24, 2007.
L'Observateur Paalga (Ouagadougou), via AllAfrica: Sénégal: 14 contre Wade - Feb. 22, 2007.


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