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    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 14, 2007

World Bank chief calls on U.S. to remove ethanol tariffs

Despite a biofuels cooperation agreement signed between Brazil and the U.S. last week, the world's largest fuel consumer rejected the idea of removing its tariff on imported ethanol.

According to a recent analysis by the Global Subsidies Initiative, American biofuel producers are supported by billions of subsidies each year and by a US$0.54 per gallon tariff (earlier post). This encourages the production of biofuels that are hardly sustainable or energy efficient - such as corn ethanol - , and it blocks supplies of fuels that have a far better energy balance, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a much stronger way, and thus contribute far more to tackling climate change. These corn subsidies and tariffs on corn ethanol were responsible for the recent Tortilla crisis in Mexico (earlier post), and they protect a select group of farmers in America, while denying poor farmers in the South to tap into an important economic opportunity and an emerging market in which they would be competitive if tariffs and susbsidies were removed.

Resistance to this situation is growing in circles of energy analysts such as the IEA (earlier post), economists (earlier post), international aid organisations and think tanks (earlier post) and in the developing world itself (earlier post) which stands to become a large biofuel exporter.

Joining those who call for a removal of the U.S. ethanol tariff is an important figure on the international political and economic stage, namely Paul Wolfowitz, the president of the World Bank. Wolfowitz's statement came at a conference in London on financing low-carbon energy, and it will increase the pressure on President George W. Bush to take action.

Wolfowitz, a former influential member of the Bush administration, also called for "a global framework" on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and for more aid to the poor for adapting to climate change.

In a departure from his prepared text on encouraging investment in cutting carbon, Mr Wolfowitz said: "Barriers to the international trade in ethanol need to be examined." Asked by the Financial Times afterwards whether this meant the US should lower or remove its import tariff of 54 cents per gallon on ethanol from Brazil, he said: "That's what I said. Weren't you listening?"

Mr Bush wants to increase the US use of biofuels in order to reduce dependence on imported oil. However, in spite of research from the US government's Energy Information Administration showing his target of reducing US consumption of petrol by 20 per cent in 10 years cannot be met from US farms alone, he has refused to countenance tariff changes that might be unpopular with US farmers:
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Mr Wolfowitz, an ally of Mr Bush as the former US secretary of defence, also put pressure on the administration over climate change by calling for "a long-term equitable global regulatory framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions".

He stopped short of calling for a global mandatory cap on emissions but said he wanted "a framework that allows carbon markets to thrive and bring financial flows to developing countries to the tune of US$100bn within a few decades".

Such flows have been predicted for the carbon trade under the Kyoto protocol, which Mr Bush has rejected.

The Bush administration has also consistently rejected calls for a "global regulatory framework" on emissions, insisting instead on signing bilateral and some multilateral deals with countries such as China, India and Japan.

In his strongest remarks yet on climate change since taking over at the World Bank in June 2005, Mr Wolfowitz said: "Today, we are faced with compelling evidence that our consumption of fossil fuels is seriously hurting the environment – and the longer we delay action, the more costly it will be to try to correct it. Business as usual is not an option."

Jean Lemierre, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which hosted the conference, added that energy efficiency developments in eastern Europe would substantially help reduce emissions.

He told the FT: "If eastern Europe was as efficient in its use of energy as western Europe, global energy use would be reduced by 7 per cent."


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