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    Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet on Thursday signed a biofuel cooperation agreement designed to share Brazil's experience in ethanol production and help Chile develop biofuels and fuel which Lula seeks to promote in other countries. More info to follow. People's Daily Online - April 27, 2007.

    Italy's Benetton plans to build a €61 million wood processing and biomass pellet production factory Nagyatád (southwest Hungary). The plant will be powered by biogas. Budapest Sun - April 27, 2007.

    Cargill is to build an ethanol plant in the Magdeburger Börde, located on the river Elbe, Germany. The facility, which will be integrated into existing starch processing plant, will have an annual capacity of 100,000 cubic meters and use grain as its feedstock. FIF - April 26, 2007.

    Wärtsilä Corporation was awarded a contract by the Belgian independent power producer Renogen S.A. to supply a second biomass-fuelled combined heat and power plant in the municipality of Amel in the Ardennes, Belgium. The new plant will have a net electrical power output of 3.29 MWe, and a thermal output of up to 10 MWth for district heating. The electrical output in condensing operation is 5.3 MWe. Kauppalehti - April 25, 2007.

    A Scania OmniCity double-decker bus to be deployed by Transport for London (TfL) will be powered by ethanol made from Brazilian sugar cane, TfL Coordinator Helen Woolston told a bioethanol conference in London. The bus will join a fleet of seven hybrid diesel-electric buses currently running in London, where TfL plans to introduce 50 more hybrid buses by the end of 2008. EEMS Online - April 24, 2007.

    Virgin Atlantic plans to fly a 747 jumbojet on a mix of 60% biofuel and 40% kerosene in 2008. Sir Richard Branson is collaborating with Boeing to achieve this milestone in aviation history. He already hinted at the fact that the biofuels "it was possible the crops could be grown in Africa, thereby helping to alleviate poverty on the continent at the same time as safeguarding the environment." More details to be announced soon. Telegraph - April 24, 2007.

    A top executive of General Motors, vice-chairman Bob Lutz, says the US should launch a 'Manhattan Project' for biofuels to make a 'wholesale switch' within five years. Kentucky.com - April 24, 2007.

    Canada's new government launches a C$200 million 'Ecoagriculture Biofuels Capital Initiative' aimed at helping agricultural producers construct or expand transportation biofuel production facilities. Government of Canada - April 24, 2007.

    Russian oil company Lukoil reportedly installed production facilities for obtaining biofuels in its refinery Neftochim in the coastal city of Bourgas. Lukoil has over 2500 oil stations in Europe, the largest number of which are located in Bulgaria, which joined the EU this year. Sofia Echo - April 22, 2007.

    The government of the Indian state of Haryana approves three small-scale (1MW) biomass gasification projects, while the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA) identifies seven industrial sectors it will help to adopt the biomass gasification technology to meet their captive thermal and electrical requirements. Economic Times - April 21, 2007.

    The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is planning to build a coconut oil biodiesel plant in Ivisan, Capiz (a province in the Western Visayas region) by the middle of this year in response to the growing demand for biodiesel. News Today (Iloilo City) - April 20, 2007.

    Scientists working for Royal Nedalco (involved in cellulosic ethanol production), the Delft University of Technology and a firm called Bird Engineering have found a fungus in elephant dung that helped them produce a yeast strain which can efficiently ferment xylose into ethanol. The researchers consider this to be a breakthrough and see widespread application of the yeast within 5 years. More info to follow as details emerge. Scientific American - April 19, 2007.

    As part of its 'Le dessous des cartes' magazine, Europe's culture TV channel ARTE airs a documentary about the geopolitics of sustainable transport tonight, at 10.20 pm CET. Readers outside of Europe can catch it here. ARTE - April 18, 2007.

    Spain's diversified company the Ferry Group is investing €50 million into a biomass plantation in new EU-memberstate Bulgaria. The project will see the establishment of a 8000ha plantation of hybrid paulownia trees that will be used for the production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik, Bulgaria - April 18, 2007.

    Bioprocess Control signs agreement with Svensk Biogas and forms closer ties with Swedish Biogas International. Bioprocess Control develops high-tech applications that optimise the commercial production of biogas. It won Sweden's prestigious national clean-tech innovations competition MiljöInnovation 2007 for its 'Biogas Optimizer' that accelerates the biogas production process and ensures greater process stability. NewsDesk Sweden - April 17, 2007.

    A joint Bioenergy project of Purdue University and Archer Daniels Midland Company has been selected to receive funding by the U.S. Department of Energy to further the commercialization of highly-efficient yeast which converts cellulosic materials into ethanol through fermentation. ADM - April 17, 2007.

    Researchers at Iowa State University and the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Services (ARS) have found that glycerin, a biodiesel by-product, is as effective as conventional corn-soymeal diets for pigs. AllAboutFeed - April 16, 2007.

    U.S. demand for uranium may surge by a third amid a revival in atomic power projects, increasing concern that imports will increase and that limited supplies may push prices higher, the Nuclear Energy Institute says. Prices touched all time highs of US$113 a pound in an auction last week by a U.S producer amid plans by China and India to expand their nuclear power capacity. International Herald Tribune - April 16, 2007.

    Taiwan mandates a 1% biodiesel and ethanol blend for all diesel and gasoline sold in the country, to become effective next year. By 2010, the ratio will be increased to 2%. WisconsinAg Connection - April 16, 2007.

    Vietnam has won the prestigious EU-sponsored Energy Globe award for 2006 for a community biogas program, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development announced. ThanhNien News - April 13, 2007.

    Given unstable fossil fuel prices and their negative effects on the economy, Tanzania envisages large-scale agriculture of energy crops Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Christopher Chiza has said. A 600 hectare jatropha seed production effort is underway, with the seeds expected to be distributed to farmers during the 2009/2010 growing season. Daily News (Dar es Salaam) - April 12, 2007.

    Renault has announced it will launch a flex-fuel version of its Logan in Brazil in July. Brazilian autosales rose 28% to 1,834,581 in 2006 from 2004. GreenCarCongress - April 12, 2007.

    Chevron and Weyerhouser, one of the largest forest products companies, are joining forces to research next generation biofuels. The companies will focus on developing technology that can transform wood fiber and other nonfood sources of cellulose into economical, clean-burning biofuels for cars and trucks. PRNewswire - April 12, 2007.

    BioConversion Blog's C. Scott Miller discusses the publication of 'The BioTown Source Book', which offers a very accessible introduction to the many different bioconversion technologies currently driving the bioenergy sector. BioConversion Blog - April 11, 2007.

    China's State Forestry Administration (SFA) and the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import & Export Corp., Ltd. (COFCO) have signed a framework agreement over plans to cooperatively develop forest bioenergy resources, COFCO announced on its web site. Interfax China - April 11, 2007.

    The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of El Salvador is speeding up writing the country's biofuels law in order to take advantage of the US-Brazil cooperation agreement which identified the country as one where projects can be launched fairly quickly. The bill is expected to be presented to parliament in the coming weeks. El Porvenir - April 11, 2007.

    ConocoPhillips will establish an eight-year, $22.5 million research program at Iowa State University dedicated to developing technologies that produce biofuels. The grant is part of ConocoPhillips' plan to create joint research programs with major universities to produce viable solutions to diversify America's energy sources. Iowa State University - April 11, 2007.

    Interstate Power and Light has decided to utilize super-critical pulverized coal boiler technology at its large (600MW) new generation facility planned for Marshalltown, Iowa. The plant is designed to co-fire biomass and has a cogeneration component. The investment tops US$1billion. PRNewswire - April 10, 2007.

    One of India's largest sugar companies, the Birla group will invest 8 billion rupees (US$187 million) to expand sugar and biofuel ethanol output and produce renewable electricity from bagasse, to generate more revenue streams from its sugar business. Reuters India - April 9, 2007.

    An Iranian firm, Mashal Khazar Darya, is to build a cellulosic ethanol plant that will utilise switchgrass as its feedstock at a site it owns in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The investment is estimated to be worth €112/US$150 million. The plant's capacity will be 378 million liters (100 million gallons), supplied by switchgrass grown on 4400 hectares of land. PressTv (Iran) - April 9, 2007.

    The Africa Power & Electricity Congress and Exhibition, to take place from 16 - 20 April 2007, in the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa, will focus on bioenergy and biofuels. The Statesman - April 7, 2007.

    Petrobras and Petroecuador have signed a joint performance MOU for a technical, economic and legal viability study to develop joint projects in biofuel production and distribution in Ecuador. The project includes possible joint Petroecuador and Petrobras investments, in addition to qualifying the Ecuadorian staff that is directly involved in biofuel-related activities with the exchange of professionals and technical training. PetroBras - April 5, 2007.

    The Société de Transport de Montréal is to buy 8 biodiesel-electric hybrid buses that will use 20% less fuel and cut 330 tons of GHG emissions per annum. Courrier Ahuntsic - April 3, 2007.

    Thailand mandates B2, a mixture of 2% biodiesel and 98% diesel. According to Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand, the mandate comes into effect by April next year. Bangkok Post - April 3, 2007.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

IEA Chief: "no silver bullet to cut greenhouse gas emissions"

Speaking at a meeting of the UN's Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in which energy security, efficiency and climate change took central stage, International Energy Agency (IAE) chief Claude Mandil warned there was no "silver bullet" which by itself would cut greenhouse-gas emissions that drive dangerous climate change.

Mandil set a target of an early cut of a billion tonnes of emissions per year and said a full range of measures - which he said included renewable energy, carbon storage, nuclear power and energy efficiency - should be harnessed. His statements come on the eve of the publication of the report on mitigating climate change to be released early May by Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The unsustainable present
Current fossil-fuel dominated energy demand increases carbon dioxide (CO2) by one billion tonnes every two years, according to IEA data. Energy demand will grow by more than 50 percent by 2030 if the pattern of consumption remains unchanged. "This is not sustainable," Mandil reiterated.

Even very basic energy savings like phasing out wasteful incandescent light bulbs from 2008 and better street lighting could make significant inroads, the IEA chief argued. The global cost of lighting could be reduced by 2.6 trillion dollars by 2030 and a cumulative 16 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide could be saved, according to the agency. "The difference could reach one-third of lighting costs in 2030," Mandil said. "The additional investment costs would easily be offset by consumption savings."

However, none of the technological steps could be implemented on the kind of scale needed to tackle greenhouse gas emissions on their own, he cautioned. About 78 percent of CO2 savings were likely to come from more efficient use of energy and 22 percent from cleaner energy sources by 2030, according to the agency.

Mandil said that to avoid one billion tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, the world would need to replace 300 convention coal-fired power plants with zero emission electricity generation every year, or build 150 one-gigawatt nuclear power plants. That is also the equivalent of multiplying the United States's current solar power capacity by about 1,300 every year or 200 times the US wind farm capacity.

Carbon capture and storage
So-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) techniques - which involve pumping carbon dioxide underground - are still largely untested and very costly with current technology. CCS is also contested in some scientific quarters, with experts fearing that storage chambers could be breached by earthquake or porous geology, spewing the CO2 into the atmosphere. (Which is why the Biopact thinks using CCS with carbon neutral biofuels is the safest way forward to test the technology - see our text at EurActiv; such a 'Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage' concept would also result in a carbon-negative energy system).

Mandil said 1,000 large carbon sequestration plants would have to be built annually to meet climate change targets. "But we're afraid that in 2030, carbon capture and sequestration technologies would not be available at an affordable cost on a large scale at that time," he said.

Thierry Desmarest, chairman of French oil giant Total which has a pilot CCS unit in Lacq in southwest France (earlier post), said it costs $100 a metric ton to capture and store CO2. An important objective would be to divide this cost by one-half or one-third, Desmarest told the forum in Geneva. CCS used in combination with biogas would be considerably less costly (previous post).

Biofuels to play major role
IEA chief Mandil said that biofuels had the potential to play a major role, but here again the challenge would be to reduce cost. "It will not be possible in the long term to sustain in the future with sustained subsidies," he said. Both Mandil and the IEA's Chief Economist earlier called on the EU and the US stop subsidizing their inefficient biofuels, to lift their trade barriers on imported biofuels, and to source the green fuels there where they can be produced cost-effectively and efficiently (earlier post):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Brazil and the United States, the two largest producers of ethanol, accounting for about 70 percent of world output, last month signed a broad agreement to work together to advance biofuels technology and set common standards for ethanol trade (earlier post).

Gregory Manuel, special advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said the United States was working with India, China, South Africa and the European Commission "to bring a standard to biofuels use such that the exponential potential for biofuels can be carried through with maximum efficiency". We reported on this recently launched effort, here.

The United States was looking at bringing the benefits of biofuels to certain countries, starting in the Western Hemisphere, but also in Africa and south-east Asia, he said. "The sustainability issues are critical and are integrated into that approach," Manuel said. The United States was also working with Brazil on research and development, "bringing second generation biofuels to the marketplace, hopefully faster than predicted," he said.

Global effort and US commitment needed
The chairman of French oil group Total, also addressing the meeting, welcomed Europe's role in spearheading movement on climate change but underlined the need for a global response. "That has to be welcomed, but that pioneering venture will only work if the United States and major emerging nations, which produce the most (greenhouse gas) emissions commit themselves to an equivalent effort," Thierry Demarest said.

The Total chief warned that unless that happened, the European effort could harm its industry's competitiveness in the longer term. The UN's Kyoto protocol set targets for industrialised countries to trim outputs of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases that trap solar heat, unbalancing the planet's delicate climate system, by 2012.

However, the United States and Australia have stayed out of the binding agreement, while efforts to draw up a post-2012 deal drawing in developing countries are mired in problems.

More information:
Reuters: No silver bullet to cut emissions: IEA chief - April 28, 2007.

France24: AFP News Brief: No silver bullet to combat climate change: IEA chief - April 28, 2007.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe: Sixty-second session 25-27 April 2007, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe: Sustainable Energy Policies: the Key to Energy Security in the UNECE Region - Speakers Briefing Note [*.pdf], April 27, 2007.


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