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    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.

    Biofuels and bioenergy producers in Ireland, a country which just recently passed bioenergy legislation, are allocated excise relief for imported biomass. Unison Ireland (subscription req'd). - March 13, 2007.

    EDF Energies Nouvelles, a subsidiary of energy giant Electricité de France, has announced a move into biofuels, by sealing a preliminary agreement with Alcofinance SA of Belgium. Upon completion of a reserved issue of shares for €23 million, EDF Energies Nouvelles will own 25% of a newly formed company housing Belgium-based Alcofinance's ethanol production and distribution activities. Alcofinance's projects are located in the Ghent Bioenergy Valley. BusinessWire - March 13, 2007.

    Fuel Tech, Inc., today announced a demonstration order for its 'Targeted In-Furnace Injection' program, part of a set of technologies aimed at controlling slagging, fouling, corrosion, opacity and acid plume problems in utility scale boilers. The order was placed by an electric generating facility located in Italy, and will be conducted on two biomass units burning a combination of wood chips and olive husks. BusinessWire - March 9, 2007.

    At a biofuels conference ahead of the EU's Summit on energy and climate change, Total's chief of agricultural affairs says building environmentally friendly 'flexible-fuel' cars only cost an additional €200 (US$263) a vehicle and that, overall, ethanol is cheaper than gasoline. MarketWatch - March 8, 2007.

    During a session of Kazakhstan's republican party congress, President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced plans to construct two large ethanol plants with the aim to produce biofuels for exports to Europe. Company 'KazAgro' and the 'akimats' (administrative units) of grain-growing regions will be charged to develop biodiesel, bioethanol and bioproducts. KazInform - March 6, 2007.

    Saab will introduce its BioPower flex-fuel options to its entire 9-3 range, including Sport Sedan, SportCombi and Convertible bodystyles, at the Geneva auto show. GreenCarCongress - March 2, 2007.

    British oil giant BP plans to invest around US$50 million in Indonesia's biofuel industry, using jatropha oil as feedstock. BP will build biofuel plants with an annual capacity of 350,000 tons for which it will need to set up jatropha curcas plantations covering 100,000 hectares of land, to guarantee supply of feedstock, an official said. Antara [*cache] - March 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has decided to increase the acreage dedicated to biofuel crops -- soybean, rape, sunflower, and sweet potato -- from 1,721 hectares in 2006 to 4,550 hectares this year, the Council of Agriculture said. China Post - March 2, 2007.

    Kinder Morgan Energy Partners has announced plans to invest up to €76/US$100 million to expand its terminal facilities to help serve the growing biodiesel market. KMP has entered into long-term agreements with Green Earth Fuels, LLC to build up to 1.3 million barrels of tankage that will handle approximately 8 million barrels of biodiesel production at KMP's terminals on the Houston Ship Channel, the Port of New Orleans and in New York Harbor. PRNewswire - March 1, 2007.

    A project to build a 130 million euro ($172 million) plant to produce 200,000 cubic metres of bioethanol annually was announced by three German groups on Tuesday. The plant will consume about 600,000 tonnes of wheat annually and when operational in the first half of 2009 should provide about a third of Germany's estimated bioethanol requirements. Reuters - Feb. 27, 2007.

    Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs has announced that government vehicles in Taipei City will begin using E3 fuel, composed of 97% gasoline and 3% ethanol, on a trial basis in 2007. Automotive World - Feb. 27, 2007.

    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.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Jacques Delors suggests the creation of a European Energy Community

As Europeans prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the European Union, Jacques Delors, former president of the Commission and father of the Treaty of Maastricht that turned the 'European Community' into a real Union, suggests the EU builds a genuine European Energy Community as a way to overcome the sense of crisis that has kept the continent in its grip for quite a while now.

When the Founding Fathers of modern Europe signed the Treaties of Rome in 1957, they created the 'European Atomic Energy Community' and the 'European Economic Community' which aimed to strengthen peace through economic cooperation, amongst countries that had just come out of a World War that had destroyed their societies and left their economies in ruin. A few years before, in 1951, six European countries - Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg and the Netherlands - had created the European Coal and Steel Community to manage their heavy industries collectively. From the very beginning, energy and economic cooperation were the building blocks of what would later become the EU.

Five decades later, with 27 member-states, 500 million prosperous inhabitants living in peace, and the world's largest economy, the Union celebrates its achievements, but also reflects on its future. A cloud of doubt has gathered over the continent, after the Iraq War caused a rift in the Union between those who were right and those who were wrong, and after the French people voted 'Non' during the infamous referendum on the European Constitution. People in France think the EU has become too liberal economically while its social unification is lagging behind. They feel that Europe's unique social models are threatened by the forces of globalisation - and the Constitution as it was presented to them reinforced that sense of danger. It's a perception shared by many European citizens.

Meanwhile, European leaders have understood the message. The Berlin Declaration that will mark the EU's 50th anniversary, is expected to give fresh impetus to the stalled constitutional debate. Not only will it outline the EU's historic achievements in terms of peace, freedom, prosperity and solidarity, it will stress the need to defend a more social Europe in negotiations over its future.

Former President Jacques Delors understands this sense of crisis and calls for the EU to be more ambitious in its attempts to unite citizens behind a new vision. On the question what urgent measures should be undertaken in order achieve this, Delors recommends the creation of a genuine European Energy Community, modelled on the concept of the early European Coal and Steel Community.

He said that such a European Energy Community will contribute to strengthening a feeling of unity as it allows Europeans to create an entirely new kind of economy, one based on sustainability, hyper-efficiency, clean energy, and environmental responsibility. According to Delors, climate change, low carbon energy and a green future are building blocks of a unifying discourse the underlying values of which are shared by many citizens:
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At first sight it might seem strange to choose energy, of all things, as the core of a new collective vision for the future of Europe. But on further reflection it may make sense: energy touches the kernel of the way our societies work - economically, socially, (geo)politically and environmentally. By radically changing this kernel, all the issues connected to it take on a new color as well.

The abundance of fossil fuels was the core of an economic model that made an unsustainable consumer lifestyle possible for a while (the 20th century). This paradigm implied an industrial model and a mentality in which nature, people and social relations are expendable, exchangeable and depletable. Climate change proves that, at least when it comes to nature, such a vision is disastrous for our future.

Politically and geopolitically speaking, the fossil fuel paradigm has fueled some of the world's dirtiest conflicts. The war in Iraq is just the latest example - global terrorism its consequence.

So by radically rethinking our energy paradigm, we are forced to rethink our productive, economic and social relations - on a European and on a global scale. This is why Delors' suggestion for a European Energy Community goes beyond energy and hints at new mentalities, new modes of production and consumption, and a more holistic, sustainable relation with nature.

If Europe were to speak with one voice on the international stage, it would also be much stronger to convince others to join the attempts to create a greener and climate secure future.

A European Energy Community would have very practical uses as it would strengthen the Union's positions in talks with the producers of oil and gas, with rapidly emerging economies, and with the U.S. over climate change, sustainable development and a shift towards a low carbon economy. In an era of volatile energy prices, geopolitical troubles, and the inconvenient truth of global warming, the idea is most welcome.

More information:
MPT: Jacques Delors suggests creation of European Energy Community - March 21, 2007
RTBF: Jacques Delors intarissable sur l’Europe - March 17, 2007
Forum de Paris: L’Europe par l’énergie - Jan 11, 2007
Le Monde, L’énergie pour relancer l’Europe - Nov. 7, 2006.


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