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    Rompetrol Downstream, the retail division of the Rompetrol Group, begins distributing a new type of diesel containing two percent biodiesel in its gas stations network and warehouses. This is the second company of the group supplying biofuels, after the green fuel Super Ethanol E85 was included in the filing stations operated in France (Rompetrol and Dyneff). New Europe - July 09, 2007.

    Water for Asian Cities (WAC), part of UN-Habitat, is extending partial financial support for the construction of several biogas plants across the Kathmandu valley and develop them as models for municipal waste management. The first biogas plants will be built in Khokna, Godavari, Kalimati, Patan, Tribhuvan University premises, Amrit Science College premises and Thimi. The Himalayan Times - July 09, 2007.

    EnviTec Biogas's planned initial public offering has roused 'enormous' interest among investors and the shares have been oversubscribed, according to sources. EnviTec has set the IPO price range at €42-52 a share, with the subscription period running until Wednesday. EnviTec last year generated sales of €100.7 million, with earnings before interest and tax of €18.5 million. Forbes - July 09, 2007.

    AthenaWeb, the EU's science media portal, is online with new functionalities and expanded video libraries. Check it out for video summaries of the latest European research activities in the fields of energy, the environment, renewables, biotech and much more. AthenaWeb - July 04, 2007.

    Biopact was invited to attend a European Union high-level meeting on international biofuels trade, to take place on Thursday and Friday in Brussels. Leaders from China, India, Africa and Brazil will discuss the opportunities and challenges arising in the emerging global biofuels sector. EU Commissioners for external relations, trade, energy, development & humanitarian aid as well as the directors of international organisations like the IEA, the FAO and the IFPRI will be present. Civil society and environmental NGOs complete the panorama of participants. Check back for exclusive stories from Friday onwards. Biopact - July 04, 2007.

    China's state-owned grain group COFCO says Beijing has stopped approving new fuel ethanol projects regardless of the raw materials, which has put a brake on its plan to build a sweet potato-based plant in Hebei. The Standard (Hong Kong) - July 03, 2007.

    Blue Diamond Ventures and the University of Texas A&M have formed a biofuels research alliance. The University will assist Blue Diamond with the production and conversion of non-food crops for manufacturing second-generation biofuels. MarketWire - July 03, 2007.

    African Union leaders are to discuss the idea of a single pan-African government, on the second day of their summit in Accra, Ghana. Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is championing the idea, but many African leaders are wary of the proposal. BBC - July 02, 2007.

    Triple Point Technology, a supplier of cross-industry software platforms for the supply, trading, marketing and movement of commodities, announced today the release and general availability of Commodity XL for Biofuels™. The software platform is engineered to address the rapidly escalating global market for renewable energy fuels and their feedstocks. Business Wire - July 02, 2007.

    Latin America's largest construction and engineering firm, Constructora Norberto Odebrecht SA, announced plans to invest some US$2.6 billion (€1.9 billion) to get into Brazil's booming ethanol business. It aims to reach a crushing capacity of 30 million to 40 million metric tons (33 million to 44 million tons) of cane per harvest over the next eight years. More soon. International Herald Tribune - June 30, 2007.

    QuestAir Technologies announces it has received an order valued at US$2.85 million for an M-3100 system to upgrade biogas created from organic waste to pipeline quality methane. QuestAir's multi-unit M-3100 system was purchased by Phase 3 Developments & Investments, LLC of Ohio, a developer of renewable energy projects in the agricultural sector. The plant is expected to be fully operational in the spring of 2008. Market Wire - June 30, 2007.

    Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc. and the U.S. National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) today announced a partnership to speed the growth of alternative fuel technology. The 10-year agreement between the center and Siemens represents transfers of equipment, software and on-site simulation training. The NCERC facilitates the commercialization of new technologies for producing ethanol more effectively and plays a key role in the Bio-Fuels Industry for Workforce Training to assist in the growing need for qualified personnel to operate and manage bio-fuel refineries across the country. Business Wire - June 29, 2007.

    A paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society proposes a new method of producing hydrogen for portable fuel cells that can work steadily for 10-20 times the length of equivalently sized Lithium-ion batteries. Zhen-Yan Deng, lead author, found that modified aluminum powder can be used to react with water to produce hydrogen at room temperature and under normal atmospheric pressure. The result is a cost-efficient method for powering fuel cells that can be used in portable applications and hybrid vehicles. More soon. Blackwell Publishing - June 29, 2007.

    An NGO called Grains publishes a report that highlights some of the potentially negative effects associated with the global biofuels sector. The findings are a bit one-sided because based uniquely on negative news stories. Moreover, the report does not show much of a long-term vision on the world's energy crisis, climate change, North-South relations, and the unique role biofuels can play in addressing these issues. Grain - June 29, 2007.

    Researchers at the Universidad de Tarapacá in Arica plan to grow Jatropha curcas in the arid north of Chile. The trial in the desert, is carried out to test the drought-tolerance of the biodiesel crop, and to see whether it can utilize the desert's scarce water resources which contain high amounts of salt minerals and boron, lethal to other crops. Santiago Times - June 28, 2007.

    India and Thailand sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that envisages cooperation through joint research and development and exchange of information in areas of renewable sources of energy like, biogas, solar-thermal, small hydro, wind and biomass energy. Daily India - June 28, 2007.

    Portucel - Empresa Produtora de Pasta e Papel SA said it plans to install biomass plants with an expected production capacity of 200,000 megawatt hours per year at its paper factories in Setubal and Cacia. The European Commission gave the green light for state aid totaling €46.5 million, contributing to Portucel's plans to extend and modernise its plants. Forbes - June 28, 2007.

    Petro-Canada and GreenField Ethanol have inked a long-term deal that makes Petro-Canada the exclusive purchaser of all ethanol produced at GreenField Ethanol's new facility in Varennes, Quebec. The ethanol will be blended with gasoline destined for Petro-Canada retail sites in the Greater Montreal Area. Petro-Canada - June 27, 2007.

    According to a study by the Korean Energy Economics Institute, biodiesel produced in Korea will become cheaper than light crude oil from 2011 onwards (678 won/liter versus 717.2 won/liter). The study "Prospects on the Economic Feasibility of Biodiesel and Improving the Support System", advises to keep biodiesel tax-free until 2010, after which it can compete with oil. Dong-A Ilbo - June 27, 2007.

    Kreido Biofuels announced today that it has entered into a marketing and distribution agreement with Eco-Energy, an energy and chemical marketing and trading company. Eco-Energy will purchase Kreido Biofuels’ biodiesel output from Wilmington, North Carolina, and Argo, Illinois, for a minimum of 3 years at current commercial market prices, as well as provide Kreido transportation and logistics services. Business Wire - June 27, 2007.

    Beijing Tiandi Riyue Biomass Technology Corp. Ltd. has started construction on its new fuel ethanol project in the county of Naiman in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region's Chifeng City, the company's president told Interfax today. Interfax China - June 26, 2007.

    W2 Energy Inc. announces it will begin development of biobutanol from biomass. The biofuel will be manufactured from syngas derived from non-food biomass and waste products using the company's plasma reactor system. Market Wire - June 26, 2007.

    Finland based Metso Corporation, a global engineering firm has received an order worth €60 million to supply two biomass-fired power boilers to Portugal's EDP Producao - Bioeléctrica, S.A. The first boiler (83 MWth) will be installed at Celbi’s Figueira da Foz pulp mill and the second boiler (35 MWth) at Caima’s pulp mill near the city of Constância. Both power plants will mainly use biomass, like eucalyptus bark and forest residues, as fuel to produce together approximately 40 MWe electricity to the national grid. Both boilers utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology. Metso Corporation - June 26, 2007.

    Canada's New Government is investing more than $416,000 in three southern Alberta projects to help the emerging biofuels industry. The communities of Lethbridge, Drumheller and Coalhurst will benefit from the projects. Through the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI), the three firms will receive funding to prepare feasibility studies and business plans to study the suitability of biofuels production according to location and needs in the industry. MarketWire - June 26, 2007.

    U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is expected to announce today that Michigan State and other universities have been selected to share $375 million in federal funding to develop new bioenergy centers for research on cellulosic ethanol and biomass plants. More info soon. Detroit Free Press - June 26, 2007.

    A Kerala based NGO has won an Ashden Award for installing biogas plants in the state to convert organic waste into a clean and renewable source of energy at the household level. Former US vice president Al Gore gave away the award - cash prize of 30,000 pounds - to Biotech chief A. Saji at a ceremony in London on Friday. New Kerala - June 25, 2007.

    AltraBiofuels, a California-based producer of renewable biofuels, announced that it has secured an additional US$165.5 million of debt financing for the construction and completion of two plants located in Coshocton, Ohio and Cloverdale, Indiana. The Coshocton plant's capacity is anticipated to reach 60million gallons/year while the Cloverdale plant is expected to reach 100 million gallons/year. Business Wire - June 23, 2007.

    Brazil and the Dominican Republic have inked a biofuel cooperation agreement aimed at alleviating poverty and creating economic opportunity. The agreement initially focuses on the production of biodiesel in the Dominican Republic. Dominican Today - June 21, 2007.

    Malaysian company Ecofuture Bhd makes renewable products from palm oil residues such as empty fruit bunches and fibers (more here). It expects the revenue contribution of these products to grow by 10% this year, due to growing overseas demand, says executive chairman Jang Lim Kuang. 95% of the group's export earnings come from these products which include natural oil palm fibre strands and biodegradable mulching and soil erosion geotextile mats. Bernama - June 20, 2007.

    Argent Energy, a British producer of waste-oil based biodiesel, announced its intention to seek a listing on London's AIM via a placing of new and existing ordinary shares with institutional investors. Argent plans to use the proceeds to construct the first phase of its proposed 150,000 tonnes (170 million litres) plant at Ellesmere Port, near Chester, and to develop further plans for a 75,000 tonnes (85 million litres) plant in New Zealand. Argent Energy - June 20, 2007.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Orang utan faces extinction in five years - illegal logging, palm oil blamed

Global demand for tropical hardwood and palm oil, illegal hunting and the trade in exotic animals are driving the Orang utan to the brink of extinction. In a session titled 'Globalization and Great Apes' the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) earlier last month presented the report The Last Stand of the Orangutan - State of emergency: illegal logging, fire and palm oil in Indonesia's national parks.

The report says that natural rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo are being cleared so rapidly (map, click to enlarge) that up to 98% may be destroyed by 2022 without urgent action. The rate of loss, which has accelerated in the past five years, outstrips a previous UNEP report released in 2002 at the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD). Back then, experts estimated that most of the suitable orangutan habitat would be lost by 2032.

Forest fire and deforestation in Indonesia are also resulting in substantial emissions of carbon dioxide, in addition to the decrease in habitat for Orangutan and other keystone species of the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra. The smoke from the burning forests are spreading over Southeast Asia in the summers. As burnt forest areas are left open, they are commonly claimed for rubber and palm oil plantations, thus permanently reducing the available habitat.

Illegal logging has recently taken place in 37 of 41 surveyed national parks in Indonesia, with some also seriously affected by mining and oil palm plantation development. The use of bribery or armed force by logging companies is commonly reported. Timber from the Indonesian rain forests are exported to the international markets, primarily other locations in Asia, such as China and Japan, but also Europe and North America (map, click to enlarge).

In the export process, the illegal timber often undergoes re-labeling, in a way similar to money-laundering - the point of origin is changed and also the species - to avoid export restrictions. A cubic metre of prime hardwoods can amass over USD$ 1000 on the international markets:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

New satellite imagery reveals that the illegal logging is now entering a new critical phase: As the demands grow, the industry and international market are running out of cheap illegal timber and are now entering the national parks where the only remaining timber available in commercial amounts is found.

Satellite images confirm, together with data from the Indonesian Government, that illegal logging is now taking place in 37 out of 41 national parks, and likely growing. “At current rates of intrusions, it is likely that some parks may become severely degraded in as little as three to five years, that is by 2012”, says the new study “The last stand of the orangutan: State of emergency.”

Overall the report is concluding that loss of orangutan habitat is happening at a rate up to 30% higher than previously thought. The report, compiled by a wide range of experts, is being launched at UNEP’s 24th Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum. Here, close to 100 environmental ministers and state secretaries are meeting under the theme of globalization – environmental risks and opportunities

Indonesia is active in fighting illegal logging and has worked with a series of international programmes and initiatives to reduce the logging. However, says the report, while many of these initiatives are valuable, they require the assistance of the international community to stop the demands for illegal timber, and they are also mainly long/term in effect. In response, the Indonesian government has on several occasions in recent years directly used support from the Navy and Army to arrest, confiscate timber and drive companies out of the parks.

Recently, the Indonesian government has launched perhaps one of the most promising initiatives in recent years, namely the training of specially equipped ranger units (SPORC) to protect the parks.

Achim Steiner, UN Under Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “Globalization is generating unprecedented wealth and lifting millions out of poverty. But in this case, the illegal logging is destroying the livelihoods of many local people dependent upon the forests while it is also draining the natural wealth of Indonesian forest resources by unsustainable practices. The logging at these scales is not done by individual impoverished people, but by well-organized elusive commercial networks“.

“National Parks form a cornerstone in the 2010 target to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss and are also so valuable for eco-tourism and in generating new livelihoods. Their protection is vital to these international goals and to the entire concept of protected areas”.

He called on governments and the international community to assist the Indonesian authorities with the equipment, training and particularly funding needed to enforce and patrol their national parks from illegal loggers.

H. E. Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia’s environment minister and outgoing president of UNEP’s Governing Council, said; “We are currently in an unequal struggle over illegal logging, which in the medium to long-term could be won through certification processes. Such processes can help global consumers choose between sustainably produced wood and palm-oil products and those produced illegally and unsustainably”.

He said that the government was acting in the short term with counter measures including through the development of Ranger Quick response Units to counter illegal forest destruction. “However, the challenge of policing and enforcing Indonesia’s vast parks is immense and rangers have currently little access to ground vehicles, boats, arms, communications or aerial surveillance such as planes or helicopters. In 35 of our national parks we have over 2000 rangers but they have to patrol an area of over 100,000 km2”

The scale of illegal logging, including into national parks is likely to increase not only in Indonesia, but also in other parts of Asia, Africa and Latin-America. “The situation is now acute”, says Christian Nellemann, leader of the Response team. “The recent Indonesian initiatives on law enforcement will require the necessary scale, financial and logistical support in order to stop the extent of this illegal logging. If successful, the Indonesian experiences gained in the coming years may substantially improve our ability to protect national parks and fight illegal logging in other parts of the World“.

The authors conclude that the enforcement regime for protected areas on Borneo and Sumatra needs to be strengthened to curb these illegal activities. The Indonesian initiative of better training and equipment of park rangers, including the development of Ranger Quick Response Units (SPORC – Satuan Khusus Polisi Kehutanan Reaksi Cepat) is a promising countermeasure, but requires substantial strengthening to deal with the scale of the immediate problem.

The Last Stand of the Orangutan was prepared by a Rapid Response Team headed by Christian Nellemann of UNEP/GRID-Arendal. The team consisted of experts from UNEP/GRID-Arendal and UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre as a broad collaborative effort, involving contributors from the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Forestry, Indonesia, and partners of the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP).

Image 1: The distribution of Orangutan on Borneo is rapidly decreasing, as mankind is reducing the available habitat for the apes. The loss of forest, through logging, clearing and burning, means reduced opportunities for hiding and food collection. In addition, orangutans are hunted for food and to be held in captivity. Orangutan distribution on Borneo (Indonesia, Malaysia) The distribution of Orangutan on Borneo is rapidly decreasing, as mankind is reducing the available habitat for the apes. The loss of forest, through logging, clearing and burning, means reduced opportunities for hiding and food collection. In addition, orangutans are hunted for food and to be held in captivity. Source: Radday, M. 2007. 'Borneo Maps'. Cartographer/Designer, Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal.

Image 2: Exports of wood products from Indonesia, with final destinations such as China, Japan and North America. Almost three quarters of the wood end in destinations in Asia. In the black market, with illegal timber, the products are known to change country of origin and their labeling and classification as they are smuggled. Schroeder-Wildberg, E. Carius A. 2003. Illegal Logging, Conflict and the Business Sector in Indonesia. InWEnt-Capcity Building International. Cartographer/Designer Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal.

More information:
UNEP: Nellemann, C. Miles, L. Kaltenborn, B. P. Virtue, M. Ahlenius, H. (eds) (2007) The Last Stand of the Orangutan - State of emergency: illegal logging, fire and palm oil in Indonesia's national parks[*.pdf], UNEP/GRID-Arendal, Arendal, Norway.

The GLOBIO programme on biodiversity and human impacts (contributed with biodiversity scenario maps for Borneo and Sumatra) - this web-site also features the 2002 report Great Apes - the road head.

Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP) - a joint project with UNEP and UNESCO

World Atlas of Great Apes (from UNEP-WCMC)

Great Apes at UNEP-WCMC


Anonymous said...

I read something that contradicts the report here

Maybe you want to look at an alternative view.

12:10 PM  
Biopact team said...

Hi anonymous, we know the source and we know the argument: "the West has been cutting down its forests and drove countless species into extinction in the past, so why can't we?" We think this kind of 'bidding war' is absurd.
The scientific consensus (and common sense) is pretty strong on the loss of biodiversity on Borneo, with illegal logging and palm oil as the very obvious cause (genetic studies have clearly demonstrated this beyond a reasonable doubt - see the link under 'palm oil' to one such study.)

We do appreciate the argument though of those who ask the hard questions on realistic alternative development paths for people in Indonesia and Brazil. Protesting against rainforest destruction is important to sensitize consumers in the West (who use most of these forest products) to get them to change their consumption patterns. But this is a slow process and in the meantime, millions of people in Indonesia want to make a living by cultivating palm oil.

We think a combination of steps can bring us a long way in slowing down the expansion of palm plantations: (1) the implementation of 'compensated reduction' plans, so that developing countries receive sufficient funds to reduce deforestation (it will cost the West a lot); (2) increasing the productivity of existing palm plantations (replanting with high-yielding hybrids and clones, financed by the international community - also a very costly issue), (3) sensitising communities in the West to make them consume less oil, starch, sugar and meat products (very slow process, difficult to change consumer behavior on a massive scale; moreover, most growth in demand is now coming from East Asia), (4) implementing integrated agro-forestry systems, that have lower environmental impacts and can go hand in hand with the preservation of biodiversity (costly and it would make palm oil far more expensive; international assistance would be needed).

We have written some articles on most of these topics.

Kind regards,
Laurens Rademakers

12:10 AM  
Nick Lyon, Cockroach Productions said...

Anonymous is very likely to be one of the Palm Oil Truth Foundation team... there have been a huge number of postings almost identical to this one pointing to the palm oil truth foundations website. I would encourage people to look at it to get multiple perspectives on the issue in general, but I would approach it with caution. The Palm Oil Truth Foundation is somewhat shrouded in mystery... who is funding it, and what is the agenda there?

We are always very clear about where we are coming from, and that is why we named our website Palm Oil: An Environmentalist's Perspective - so the readers would know our angle.

You can see this site here:

Some of the truths of the Palm Oil Truth Foundation are questionable. The latest post I read there said "So torn has the FOE [Friends of the Earth] been, that they have launched a multi million Pound advertising campaign against the palm oil industry in Malaysia and Indonesia!"
ref: http://www.palmoiltruthfoundation.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=304&Itemid=57

I know this to be an absurd claim, maybe the palm oil industry has that sort of money for PR campaigns, but I work with FoE on the Ape Alliance Palm Oil Working Group and I can gaurentee there are no such funds floating around. If there we're we'd be putting them into much better conservation projects on the ground and not squandering them on PR.

I would like to point out two things. To date we have not received one penny of funding for our palm oil page www.films4.org/palmoil and two, the Palm Oil Truth Foundation seems to be missing the point that Friends of the Earth and the Ape Alliance are hugely supportive of the RSPO initiative and are NOT anti-palm oil. They should see us as allies since we have secured the sign-up of all major UK supermarkets to the RSPO.

Yours truly and truthfully, the refuse-to-remain-anonymous,

Nick Lyon,
Orangutan Film Protection Project
Indonesian Gibbon Blog
Cockroach Productions
Ape Alliance Palm Oil Working Group

3:47 PM  
Biopact team said...

Hi Nick,
thanks for your very 'open' approach. We agree: the palm oil industry in Malaysia stands to lose if it tries to negate, soften or mystify the environmental consequences of its sector.
People are not stupid, you can see forests being burned, from satellite images, live if you want to.

Our advise to the palm oil industry would be that it takes a much broader point of view, and starts talking about development in general, in its social, economic, and even historic dimensions. Let's talk about the ideology of 'progress' and 'modernity'. Let's talk about the mantra of perpetual economic 'growth'. And let's be balanced when we do this: demand for palm oil products is driven by all of us.

This is not a 'whodunit', the palm oil industry is not a criminal gang (half of its members are poor smallholders), it is just the result of an economic paradigm based on Western modernity. We should all sit together and have the courage to put this development paradigm into question.

The only way forward is to cooperate, to think of new economic strategies on a global scale, and to try to avoid deforestation without destroying the livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people who make a living from palm oil. It takes two to tango: consumers drive the demand for palm products, palm producers deliver. Both should reconsider their habits. Governments (and NGO's like Nick's) must lead this questioning and take balanced action.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is one initiative working towards these goals. One can criticize the NGOs in that permanent negotiation for even talking to the palm oil industry. But at least they are the realists out there.

Nick's initiative must be praised, because sensitising people is absolutely critical to transform our consumption patterns. But overdoing it isn't useful either (on the other hand: you can't 'overdo' the extinction of a primate - there is a sense of urgency and of 'totality' here, extinction is permanent.)

The palm oil industry has large responsibilities and it's in its own interest to discuss them in the most transparent way.

11:34 PM  
Mandy Hargitay said...

Nick's initiative should certainly be lauded.

However, as a closet environmentalist, I'm offended that the cause can be used to attack a primary produce that, in my view after studying the issues, is sustainably produced, especially in Malaysia.

Having grown up in the States, I've been conditioned to think for myself and to think thru the issues.

In my view, the Palm Oil Truth people, whatever their agenda has opened our eyes to the possibility that economic sabotage and protectionism is at work here and not true environmental concerns.

7:37 AM  
FB Giovanni said...

I'd second what Mandy said. The more a primary produce from a developing region is knocked, the more the suspicion is aroused that the real motive is protectionism and economic sabotage.

Can't the FoE grasp that?

9:14 AM  

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