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    Abraaj, a Dubai-based firm, has bought the company Egyptian Fertilizers in order to benefit from rising demand for crops used to make biofuels. The Abraaj acquisition of all the shares of Egyptian Fertilizers values the company based in Suez at US$1.41 billion. Egyptian Fertilizers produces about 1.25 million tons a year of urea, a nitrogen-rich crystal used to enrich soils. The company plans to expand its production capacity by as much as 20 percent in the next two years on the expected global growth in biofuel production. International Herald Tribune - June 4, 2007.

    China and the US will soon sign a biofuel cooperation agreement involving second-generation fuels, a senior government official said. Ma Kai, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a media briefing that vice premier Wu Yi discussed the pact with US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and other US officials during the strategic economic dialogue last month. Forbes - June 4, 2007.

    German biogas company Schmack Biogas AG reports a 372% increase in revenue for the first quarter of the year, demonstrating its fast growth. Part of it is derived from takeovers. Solarserver [*German] - June 3, 2007.

    Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC has suspended the export of 150,000 barrels per day of crude oil because of community unrest in southern Nigeria, a company spokesman said. Villagers from K-Dere in the restive Ogoniland had stormed the facility that feeds the Bonny export terminal, disrupting supply of crude. It was the second seizure in two weeks. Shell reported on May 15 that protesters occupied the same facility, causing a daily output loss of 170,000 barrels. Rigzone - June 2, 2007.

    Heathrow Airport has won approval to plan for the construction of a new 'green terminal', the buildings of which will be powered, heated and cooled by biomass. The new terminal, Heathrow East, should be completed in time for the 2012 London Olympics. The new buildings form part of operator BAA's £6.2bn 10-year investment programme to upgrade Heathrow. Transport Briefing - June 1, 2007.

    A new algae-biofuel company called LiveFuels Inc. secures US$10 million in series A financing. LiveFuels is a privately-backed company working towards the goal of creating commercially competitive biocrude oil from algae by 2010. PRNewswire - June 1, 2007.

    Covanta Holding Corp., a developer and operator of large-scale renewable energy projects, has agreed to purchase two biomass energy facilities and a biomass energy fuel management business from The AES Corp. According to the companies, the facilities are located in California's Central Valley and will add 75 MW to Covanta's portfolio of renewable energy plants. Alternative Energy Retailer - May 31, 2007.

    Two members of Iowa’s congressional delegation are proposing a study designed to increase the availability of ethanol across the country. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., held a news conference Tuesday to announce that he has introduced a bill in the U.S. House, asking for a US$2 million study of the feasibility of transporting ethanol by pipeline. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., has introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Des Moines Register - May 30, 2007.

    A new market study by Frost & Sullivan Green Energy shows that the renewables industry in the EU is expanding at an extraordinary rate. Today biofuels and other renewables represent about 2.1 per cent of the EU's gross domestic product and account for 3.5 million jobs. The study forecasts that revenues from renewables in the world's largest economy are set to double, triple or increase even more over the next few years. Engineer Live - May 29, 2007.

    A project to evaluate barley’s potential in Canada’s rapidly evolving biofuels industry has received funding of $262,000 from the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI). Western Barley Growers Association [*.pdf] - May 27, 2007.

    PNOC-Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC), the biofuel unit of Philippine National Oil Company, is planning to undertake an initial public offering next year or in 2009 so it can have its own cash and no longer rely on its parent for funding of biofuels projects. Manila Bulletin - May 27, 2007.

    TMO Renewables Limited, a producer of ethanol from biomass, has licensed the ERGO bioinformatics software developed and maintained by Integrated Genomics. TMO will utilize the genome analysis tools for gene annotation, metabolic reconstruction and enzyme data-mining as well as comparative genomics. The platform will enable the company to further understand and exploit its thermophilic strains used for the conversion of biomass into fuel. CheckBiotech - May 25, 2007.

    Melbourne-based Plantic Technologies Ltd., a company that makes biodegradable plastics from plants, said 20 million pounds (€29/US$39 million) it raised by selling shares on London's AIM will help pay for its first production line in Europe. Plantic Technologies [*.pdf] - May 25, 2007.

    Shell Hydrogen LLC and Virent Energy Systems have announced a five-year joint development agreement to develop further and commercialize Virent's BioForming technology platform for the production of hydrogen from biomass. Virent Energy Systems [*.pdf] - May 24, 2007.

    Spanish energy and engineering group Abengoa will spend more than €1 billion (US$1.35 billion) over the next three years to boost its bioethanol production, Chairman Javier Salgado said on Tuesday. The firm is studying building four new plants in Europe and another four in the United States. Reuters - May 23, 2007.

    According to The Nikkei, Toyota is about to introduce flex-fuel cars in Brazil, at a time when 8 out of 10 new cars sold in the country are already flex fuel. Brazilians prefer ethanol because it is about half the price of gasoline. Forbes - May 22, 2007.

    Virgin Trains is conducting biodiesel tests with one of its diesel engines and will be running a Voyager train on a 20 percent biodiesel blend in the summer. Virgin Trains Media Room - May 22, 2007.

    Australian mining and earthmoving contractor Piacentini & Son will use biodiesel from South Perth's Australian Renewable Fuels across its entire fleet, with plans to purchase up to 8 million litres from the company in the next 12 months. Tests with B20 began in October 2006 and Piacentinis reports very positive results for economy, power and maintenance. Western Australia Business News - May 22, 2007.

    Malaysia's Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui announces he will head a delegation to the EU in June, "to counter European anti-palm oil activists on their own home ground". The South East Asian palm oil industry is seen by many European civil society organisations and policy makers as unsustainable and responsible for heavy deforestation. Malaysia Star - May 20, 2007.

    Paraguay and Brazil kick off a top-level seminar on biofuels, cooperation on which they see as 'strategic' from an energy security perspective. 'Biocombustiveis Paraguai-Brasil: Integração, Produção e Oportunidade de Negócios' is a top-level meeting bringing together the leaders of both countries as well as energy and agricultural experts. The aim is to internationalise the biofuels industry and to use it as a tool to strengthen regional integration and South-South cooperation. PanoramaBrasil [*Portuguese] - May 19, 2007.

    Portugal's Galp Energia SGPS and Petrobras SA have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a biofuels joint venture. The joint venture will undertake technical and financial feasibility studies to set up a plant in Brazil to export biofuels to Portugal. Forbes - May 19, 2007.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bioenergy best opportunity to help poor since Green Revolution - FAO, Brazil VP

The massive misinformed campaign against biofuels is reaching questionable levels, an expert from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says. The complexity of the global food and energy markets does not allow for the simplistic assessments that are currently being expressed by uninformed people. To understand the basics of bioenergy, a holistic vision is needed, and such a view shows an entirely different picture than that sketched by some environmentalists and single-minded media. The serious critics must therefor begin to ask themselves whether their misinformed allies who do not rely on science or research, aren't damaging their case. By exaggerating some of their valid criticisms, they may be making themselves irrelevant as stakeholders in the debate.

The food versus fuel debate is in fact very old, and has been studied by many scientists and development economists. As the biofuels industry grows, they do not fundamentally change their position: biofuels offer a unique chance for poverty alleviation on a global scale, and to help mitigate climate change. But this is only so provided some criteria are met: the biofuels must be produced in a sustainable way and social equity must be introduced in all stages of the production process. This can be done, but it requires good policies and fundamental global trade reform.

The science is clear: the planet today produces enough food to feed 9 billion people. Lack of access to food and food insecurity amongst the poor is a purely political, social, economic and infrastructural problem, not at all an environmental one. Moreover, scientific projections show that - after the food, feed and fiber requirements for the growing world population is met - the planet has a further carrying capacity to produce around 1400 exajoules of modern, sustainably produced bioenergy by 2050. Given these facts and projections, two bioenergy experts once again stress that the green fuels can help the poor and mitigate dangerous climate change.

Biofuels best opportunity to boost food security
Gustavo Best, chief energy policy analyst at the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) - the most authoritative organisation studying global food production and policy - says that rather than being a threat to the poor, bioenergy could boost food production as well as wealth.

Speaking to Reuters, Best said: "It's probably the best opportunity there has been since the 'Green Revolution' to bring really a new wind of development in rural areas". The 'Green Revolution' refers to the huge increase in food production in the developing world, aided in part by new plant technologies that came into vogue in the 1960s.

"If well managed, bioenergy production can bring new areas of development ... new investment, new jobs and new infrastructure that can also benefit the food industry," Best said:
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Likewise, Brazilian vice president Jose Alencar says the growing global output of biofuels can help, rather than hurt, the 1 billion people who live in poverty around the world. However, for this biofuels revolution to succeed in bringing more food to the poor, rich countries must agree to open up their agricultural markets to less developed countries.

The problem of world poverty is "the lack of income that keeps a billion men and women from eating adequately - not sugar-cane plantations". Alencar added that Brazil was already set to offer its advanced sugar and ethanol technology to regions including sub-Saharan Africa, in order to help generate jobs and incomes locally via biofuels cultivation. Mozambique, for example, is already launching a biofuel program with Brazilian help, he adds.

Carbon neutral
Biofuels have come into vogue this decade largely because of increasing evidence that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal are causing global warming. Because plants like sugar cane, palm fruit, maize and rapeseed all absorb CO2 as they grow, their impact on the climate is considered far lower than that of traditional fuels. Experts say if crude oil is trading at above US$40 a barrel, biofuel can be a viable alternative. The last time crude was below US$40 was January 2005.

Demand for biofuels could mean big opportunities for many tropical areas, including large parts of Africa, to grow crops like sugar cane and sorghum to make ethanol, Best said.

Alencar repeated energy crops like sugarcane grown in brazil do "not threaten the environment," as he quoted an essay by President Lula, "neither does sugar cane harm rainforests, for it grows poorly in Amazonian soils."

"One figure one has to remember is that biofuels will never substitute 100 percent for gasoline or diesel," Best said. "It's not the magical solution to substitute oil, no way."

Best said there was no evidence yet that biofuel production had reduced food availability in poor countries, but admitted it was a potential risk. "We have to be careful that that doesn't happen, (farmers) growing diesel for the rich and stopping producing food for their own families," he said, but insisted the risks had been overplayed in the media.

"There's a lot of misinformation on this topic still. It's happening so fast, one has to be very careful. Sometimes the assessment of bio-energy is seen from one perspective only - only the environment, only the prices. One has to really see it in a holistic manner before one can say it is right or wrong."

New Green Revolution requires market access
Besides being a weapon in the fight against climate change, Brazil's biodiesel program is geared to helping small regional farmers in the country's poor north and northeast region, and therefore could help in the redistribution of social weath, said Alencar. Biofuels can be both environmentally and economically sustainable as long as local programs allow for more social inclusion, he added.

"By making access to energy more democratic, biofuels offer hope to poor countries seeking to ally economic growth with social inclusion and environmental protection," he said, quoting Lula.

However, "this revolution will only occur if rich countries agree to open up their agricultural markets to enterprising farmers in developing countries."

More information:

AltertNet (Reuters): Biofuel can help poor as well as climate - FAO - June 5, 2007.

CattleNetwork: Biofuels Can Help, Not Hurt, World's Poor - Brazil VP - June 5, 2007.


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