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    The market trend to heavier, more powerful hybrids is eroding the fuel consumption advantage of hybrid technology, according to a study done by researchers at the University of British Columbia. GreenCarCongress - March 30, 2007.

    Hungarian privately-owned bio-ethanol project firm Mabio is planning to complete an €80-85 million ethanol plant in Southeast Hungary's Csabacsud by end-2008. Onet/Interfax - March 29, 2007.

    Energy and engineering group Abengoa announces it has applied for planning permission to build a bioethanol plant in north-east England with a capacity of about 400,000 tonnes a year. Reuters - March 29, 2007.

    The second European Summer School on Renewable Motor Fuels will be held in Warsaw, Poland, from 29 to 31 August 2007. The goal of the event is to disseminate the knowledge generated within the EU-funded RENEW (Renewable Fuels for Advanced Powertrains) project and present it to the European academic audience and stakeholders. Topics on the agenda include generation of synthetic gas from biomass and gas cleaning; transport fuel synthesis from synthetic gas; biofuel use in different motors; biomass potentials, supply and logistics, and technology, cost and life-cycle assessment of BtL pathways. Cordis News - March 27, 2007.

    Green Swedes want even more renewables, according to a study from Gothenburg University. Support for hydroelectricity and biofuels has increased, whereas three-quarters of people want Sweden to concentrate more on wind and solar too. Swedes still back the nuclear phase-out plans. The country is Europe's largest ethanol user. It imports 75% of the biofuel from Brazil. Sveriges Radio International - March 27, 2007.

    Fiat will launch its Brazilian-built flex-fuel Uno in South Africa later this year. The flex-fuel Uno, which can run on gasoline, ethanol or any combination of the two fuels, was displayed at the Durban Auto Show, and is set to become popular as South Africa enters the ethanol era. Automotive World - March 27, 2007.

    Siemens Power Generation (PG) is to supply two steam turbine gensets to a biomass-fired plant in Três Lagoas, 600 kilometers northwest of São Paulo. The order, valued at €22 million, was placed by the Brazilian company Pöyry Empreendimentos, part of VCP (Votorantim Celulose e Papel), one of the biggest cellulose producers in the Americas. PRDomain - March 25, 2007.

    Asia’s demand for oil will nearly double over the next 25 years and will account for 85% of the increased demand in 2007, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) officials forecast yesterday at a Bangkok-hosted energy conference. Daily Times - March 24, 2007.

    Portugal's government expects total investment in biomass energy will reach €500 million in 2012, when its target of 250MW capacity is reached. By that date, biomass will reduce 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. By 2010, biomass will represent 5% of the country's energy production. Forbes - March 22, 2007.

    The Scottish Executive has announced a biomass action plan for Scotland, through which dozens of green energy projects across the region are set to benefit from an additional £3 million of funding. The plan includes greater use of the forestry and agriculture sectors, together with grant support to encourage greater use of biomass products. Energy Business Review Online - March 21, 2007.

    The U.S. Dep't of Agriculture's Forest Service has selected 26 small businesses and community groups to receive US$6.2 million in grants from for the development of innovative uses for woody biomass. American Agriculturalist - March 21, 2007.

    Three universities, a government laboratory, and several companies are joining forces in Colorado to create what organizers hope will be a major player in the emerging field of converting biomass into fuels and other products. The Colorado Center for Biorefining & Biofuels, or C2B2, combines the biofuels and biorefining expertise of the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines, and the Colorado-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Founding corporate members include Dow Chemical, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell. C&EN - March 20, 2007.

    The city of Rome has announced plans to run its public bus fleet on a fuel mix of 20 per cent biodiesel. The city council has signed an accord that would see its 2800 buses switch to the blended fuel in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. A trial of 200 buses, if successful, would see the entire fleet running on the biofuel mix by the end of 2008. Estimates put the annual emission savings at 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. CarbonPositive - March 19, 2007.

    CODON (Dutch Biotech Study Association) organises a symposium on the 'Biobased Economy' in Wageningen, Netherlands, home of one of Europe's largest agricultural universities. In a biobased economy, chemistry companies and other non-food enterprises primarily use renewable materials and biomass as their resources, instead of petroleum. The Netherlands has the ambition to have 30% of all used materials biobased, by 2030. FoodHolland - March 19, 2007.

    Energy giants BP and China National Petroleum Corp, the PRC's biggest oil producer, are among the companies that are in talks with Guangxi Xintiande Energy Co about buying a stake in the southern China ethanol producer to expand output. Xintiande Energy currently produces ethanol from cassava. ChinaDaily - March 16, 2007.

    Researchers at eTEC Business Development Ltd., a biofuels research company based in Vienna, Austria, have devised mobile facilities that successfully convert the biodiesel by-product glycerin into electricity. The facilities, according to researchers, will provide substantial economic growth for biodiesel plants while turning glycerin into productive renewable energy. Biodiesel Magazine - March 16, 2007.

    Ethanol Africa, which plans to build eight biofuel plants in the maize belt, has secured funding of €83/US$110 million (825 million Rand) for the first facility in Bothaville, its principal shareholder announced. Business Report - March 16, 2007.

    A joint venture between Energias de Portugal SGPS and Altri SGPS will be awarded licences to build five 100 MW biomass power stations in Portugal's eastern Castelo Branco region. EDP's EDP Bioelectrica unit and Altri's Celulose de Caima plan to fuel the power stations with forestry waste material. Total investment on the programme is projected at €250/US$333 million with 800 jobs being created. Forbes - March 16, 2007.

    Indian bioprocess engineering firm Praj wins €11/US$14.5 million contract for the construction of the wheat and beet based bio-ethanol plant for Biowanze SA in Belgium, a subsidiary of CropEnergies AG (a Sudzucker Group Company). The plant has an ethanol production capacity of 300,000 tons per year. IndiaPRWire - March 15, 2007.

    Shimadzu Scientific Instruments announced the availability of its new white paper, “Overview of Biofuels and the Analytical Processes Used in their Manufacture.” The paper is available for free download at the company’s website. The paper offers an overview of the rapidly expanding global biofuel market with specific focus on ethanol and biodiesel used in auto transportation. It provides context for these products within the fuel market and explains raw materials and manufacturing. Most important, the paper describes the analytical processes and equipment used for QA testing of raw materials, in-process materials, and end products. BusinessWire - March 15, 2007.

    Côte d'Ivoire's agriculture minister Amadou Gon has visited the biofuels section of the Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris, one of the largest fairs of its kind. According to his communication office, the minister is looking into drafting a plan for the introduction of biofuels in the West African country. AllAfrica [*French] - March 13, 2007.

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Corn ethanol does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions - report

The Canadian federal government has invested massively in biofuels made from local crops, such as corn or rapeseed. But the effor will be of little benefit in cutting dependence on fossil fuels or reducing greenhouse emissions, suggests a study by the Canadian Library of Parliament.

The report casts doubt on one of the biggest green initiatives in the Conservative budget - a US$1.5-billion investment over seven years to promote renewable fuels such as corn-based ethanol. Ottawa has introduced a regulation requiring that Canadian gasoline consist of five per cent renewable content by 2010. It also intends to require that diesel fuel and heating oil contain two per cent renewable content by 2012.

However, a study by Frederic Forge of the library's science and technology division says regulations to promote biofuels will have "relatively minor impact" on reducing greenhouse emissions across Canada.

"In fact, if 10 per cent of the fuel used were corn-based ethanol (in other words, if the E-10 blend were used in all vehicles) Canada's greenhouse gas emissions would drop by approximately one per cent," says the report.

The findings once again show what other researchers have found before (here and here): both the energy balance and the greenhouse gas emissions balance of biofuels made from crops grown in the North, is mediocre.

As usual, we feel obliged to refer to the energy and GHG balance of ethanol produced in the South (see graph 1, click to enlarge). Brazilian sugarcane ethanol reduces CO2 emissions by 85% (low estimate) to 90% (high estimate) on a well-to-wheel (farm-to-tailpipe) basis. For corn ethanol, estimates differ, but some even suggest a negative GHG balance. Likewise, the energy balance of Brazilian ethanol is between 8 and 10, that of corn only between 1 and 1.2 (here too, some have found a negative balance) (see graph 2, click to enlarge). The picture remains largely the same with the introduction of cellulosic ethanol.

Transporting biofuels from the South to the North (in tankers), does not alter the energy and GHG balance in any significant way (earlier post). In short, if Canada really wants to help reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, it should import biofuels from the Global South instead. That is what the experts say (earlier post and here):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Canadian report also show that locally produced biofuels won't have much impact in reducing dependence on oil and gas: "Global production is still too small and the need for raw materials is still too high for biofuels to have a significant impact on the fuel market and be able to compete with fossil fuels."

It cites an article in New Scientist as concluding that Canada would have to use 36 per cent of its farmland to produce enough biofuels to replace 10 per cent of the fuels now used in transportation.

The drive to increase production of biofuels is also under way in the United States and other countries, leading to concern that global food prices could rise as farmland is diverted from food to energy production.

"Some observers believe that there is already competition between the two markets: according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the rising demand for ethanol derived from corn is the main reason for the decline in world grain stocks during the first half of 2006."

The study calls for greater focus on biodiesel, which in Canada is manufactured mainly from canola, and which brings a better payoff than ethanol in reduced emissions.

The author also underlines the potential of cellulosic ethanol, which is made of waste products like straw and wood chips, rather than from food crops. Iogen, an Ottawa-based company, is a world leader in this technology, and is currently negotiating to build its first commercial plant.

Asked about the study outside the House of Commons on Friday, Environment Minister John Baird said: "I think there's an issue between the tailpipe and the whole cycle and that's, I think, the substance of the report."

He said he is a supporter of ethanol and insisted that it cuts pollution: "If you look at the cycle base, the entire cycle, I think it does."

Baird said he is enthusiastic about cellulosic ethanol: "I'm very big on Iogen's technology. Because it doesn't just use the corn, it uses the entire stock, and it's a world leader."

The budget provides $500 million for "next generation" biofuels, and it is expected that this will be used in part to support the Iogen process.

More information:

Frederic Forge: Biofuels - An Energy, Environmental or Agricultural Policy? [*.hmtl, or *.pdf version], Science and Technology Division, Library of Parliament, Canada, 8 February 2007

Canada.com: Ethanol investments won't do much to cut greenhouse gas emissions: report - March 30, 2007.

Globe & Mail: Ottawa's biofuel plan will have 'minor impact,' study says.Increased use of renewable resources won't dramatically reduce emissions: report - March 30, 2007


rufus said...

Scott, you guys need to understand:

Without "Buck Rogers" there ain't no "Bucks."

If the third world wants to sell ethanol to the U.S. there has to, first, be a U.S. Market.

In order to fight off the API and build the U.S. Market you must have "Politicians." Politicians don't throw away money (the API) for any reason other than votes (think Iowa, Mn, Mo, Oh, MI, WI, and IN.)

You've gotta have the American farmer, or it doesn't work. He's Buck Rogers. He brings the "Bucks."

7:58 PM  
Biopact team said...

Sure, but you have to look at the issue in the broader context of trade negotiations and the developing world's position: Doha is on the agenda, and it deals with reducing subsidies and tariffs on agricultural products. The developing world must keep the pressure on the U.S. And biofuels are just a new weapon to use in the war over trade reform.

What's more, you don't really need to have the farmers in the North on board to get a biofuels industry off the ground. Look at Sweden, Europe's largest user of ethanol: it created a biofuels market entirely based on ethanol imported from Brazil (85%). No need to have local farmers on board.

Of course, given the immensely powerful corn and corn-ethanol lobby in the U.S., you are right.

9:12 PM  
rufus said...

No Republican is going to win the White House without carrying Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri.

A Democrat has to carry Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin. There's your "Corn/Ethanol Lobby."

It's true Sweden has done a good job, but it's a country of nine million with an economy approx. 2% the size of the U.S. Economy.

I guess that's neither here, nor there, but the fact remains the American people aren't in the mood right now to trade their energy dependency from Riyadh to Rio. There's a pretty strong current of "Independence" swirling through the electorate, at present, and is a primary driver of the American people's willingness to embrace alternative fuels.

It's all great for Brazil, by the way. When the API is defeated, the UL is brought to heel, and the market is established there will be ample opportunity for Brazil to sell more and more biofuels into the U.S. We just use 21 Million Gallons of transportation fuels Every Day, you know?

10:03 PM  
rufus said...

21 Million BARRELS


I guess if you're going to Bold something you could at least make sure it's right.

10:07 PM  
rufus said...

BTW, I Love your blog. You're just a little too tough on the home-grown stuff, is all.

10:09 PM  

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