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    A report by the NGO Christian Aid predicts there may be 1 billion climate refugees and migrants by 2050. It shows the effects of conflicts on populations in poor countries and draws parallels with the situation as it could develop because of climate change. Christian Aid - May 14, 2007.

    Dutch multinational oil group Rompetrol, also known as TRG, has entered the biofuel market in France in conjunction with its French subsidiary Dyneff. It hopes to equip approximately 30 filling stations to provide superethanol E85 distribution to French consumers by the end of 2007. Energy Business Review - May 13, 2007.

    A group of British organisations launches the National Forum on Bio-Methane as a Road Transport Fuel. Bio-methane or biogas is widely regarded as the cleanest of all transport fuels, even cleaner than hydrogen or electric vehicles. Several EU projects across the Union have shown its viability. The UK forum was lauched at the Naturally Gas conference on 1st May 2007 in Loughborough, which was hosted by Cenex in partnership with the NSCA and the Natural Gas Vehicle Association. NSCA - May 11, 2007.

    We reported earlier on Dynamotive and Tecna SA's initiative to build 6 bio-oil plants in the Argentinian province of Corrientes (here). Dynamotive has now officially confirmed this news. Dynamotive - May 11, 2007.

    Nigeria launches a national biofuels feasibility study that will look at the potential to link the agricultural sector to the automotive fuels sector. Tim Gbugu, project leader, said "if we are able to link agriculture, we will have large employment opportunity for the sustenance of this country, we have vast land that can be utilised". This Day Onlin (Lagos) - May 9, 2007.

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva meets with the CEO of Portuguese energy company Galp Energia, which will sign a biofuel cooperation agreement with Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras. GP1 (*Portuguese) - May 9, 2007.

    The BBC has an interesting story on how biodiesel made from coconut oil is taking the pacific island of Bougainville by storm. Small refineries turn the oil into an affordable fuel that replaces costly imported petroleum products. BBC - May 8, 2007.

    Indian car manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra is set to launch its first B100-powered vehicles for commercial use by this year-end. The company is confident of fitting the new engines in all its existing models. Sify - May 8, 2007.

    The Biofuels Act of the Philippines has come into effect today. The law requires all oil firms in the country to blend 2% biodiesel (most often coconut-methyl ester) in their diesel products. AHN - May 7, 2007.

    Successful tests based on EU-criteria result in approval of 5 new maize hybrids that were developed as dedicated biogas crops [*German]. Veredlungsproduktion - May 6, 2007.

    With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation for Regional Economic Development (WIRED), Michigan State University intends to open a training facility dedicated to students and workers who want to start a career in the State's growing bioeconomy. Michigan State University - May 4, 2007.

    Researchers from the Texas A&M University have presented a "giant" sorghum variety for the production of ethanol. The crop is drought-tolerant and yields high amounts of ethanol. Texas A & M - May 3, 2007.

    C-Tran, the public transportation system serving Southwest Washington and parts of Portland, has converted its 97-bus fleet and other diesel vehicles to run on a blend of 20% biodiesel beginning 1 May from its current fleet-wide use of B5. Automotive World - May 3, 2007.

    The Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) and France's largest research organisation, the CNRS, have signed a framework-agreement to cooperate on the development of new energy technologies, including research into biomass based fuels and products, as well as carbon capture and storage technologies. CNRS - April 30, 2007.

    One of India's largest state-owned bus companies, the Andra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation is to use biodiesel in one depot of each of the 23 districts of the state. The company operates some 22,000 buses that use 330 million liters of diesel per year. Times of India - April 30, 2007.

    Indian sugar producers face surpluses after a bumper harvest and low prices. Diverting excess sugar into the ethanol industry now becomes more attractive. India is the world's second largest sugar producer. NDTVProfit - April 30, 2007.

    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.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Survey: oil execs serious about Peak Oil, but mass-produced biofuels years away

A poll by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG questioning 553 financial executives from oil and gas companies on the future of oil and biofuels, was recently released. The survey gives a snapshot of oil execs' attitudes to global warming, Peak Oil and the potential of renewable fuels. The fact that a majority of them considers climate change to be a 'natural weather cycle' is highly significant: it shows the oil industry will go against the scientific consensus in order to maintain its power position in the energy matrix of our world.

Peak Oil is real
Twenty-five percent of the respondents said that at least 75 percent of government funding into energy should be directed at the renewable fuels sector, and a further 44 percent said that at least 50 percent of funding should be allocated in the same way. These feelings stem from the overwhelming majority, or 82 percent, citing declining oil reserves as a concern.
"These executives are deeply concerned about declining oil reserves, a situation they see as irreversible and worsening. Oil and gas companies are sending a clear signal to the government that intervention is needed." - Bill Kimble, National Line of Business Leader, Industrial Markets for KPMG LLP.
Sixty percent of the executives said they believe the trend of declining oil reserves is irreversible. And, when asked about the impact of emerging markets, such as China, will have on declining oil reserves, almost 70 percent of the executives said that it would lead the situation to worsen.

Biofuels: 'not yet'
However, more than half of the five hundred plus oil and gas executives said they didn't think 'mass production' of renewable fuels would happen in the near future.

While the petroleum company leaders said they're keen to see renewable energy sources becoming a mass produced reality, 60 percent said it will not be possible by 2010. Of those that believe it will, 18 percent identified ethanol is the most viable for mass production by then, 13 percent said biodiesel and only 3 percent said cellulosic ethanol.

Bill Kimble stressed the survey was not qualitative, only quantitative, so survey leaders didn't have a chance to probe responses in detail. But he speculated the findings reflected two big big issues regarding alternative fuels.

"What is the definition of mass production? Ethanol is a very small, small percentage of fuel production today. And secondly, what's embedded in here is the economics. Without incentives from the government, I don't think people are that positive on it until we get it right," he said. On the other hand, the Brazilian case shows that within a single country where conditions are favorable (climate, crops, land), 'mass production' of biofuels is not unfeasible.

Climate change
An amazing majority of 65 percent of the respondents said that they believe global warming is occurring, but they called it a 'natural weather cycle'. Eleven percent said that they do not believe it is occurring. Just under a quarter said they believed global warming was CO2-induced:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Managing declining oil reserves
When asked about their upstream capital spending, the majority indicated that investment will be a factor in helping them manage declining oil reserves. Sixty-nine percent said that it would increase by more than 10 percent, a jump of 49 percent over 2005.

"The reserve opportunities are tougher, so what are you going to do? You could invest in technology, or start playing more in the alternative energy space," said Kimble.

Mergers and acquisitions continue to be a trend, with 24 percent of the executives saying that they expect their company to be involved in one in the next year. Sixty eight percent of respondents expect private equity to play a larger role over the next year than it has in previous years.

Risks in the industry
Responding to perceived risks facing their companies, KPMG's Kimble told Inside Greentech it was a "jaw-dropper" that forty-four percent identified their biggest risks as financial, specifically issues like satisfying regulatory requirements like Sarbanes-Oxley, shareholder demands and corporate social responsibility requirements.

"We put in things like access to access to drilling rigs, political unrest in foreign countries, like the west coast of Africa, environmental damage, plants having problems, access to equipment," said Kimble. "None of those emerged as big factors."

"Corporate social responsibility seemed important. They've got to get that right. That could have an impact on the market value of a company."

Image: Peak Oil scenario by the Association for the study of Peak Oil and Gas.

More information:

Inside Greentech: Oil and gas execs say biofuel mass production years away - May 11, 2007.


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