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    Netherlands-based oil, gas, power and chemical industries service group Bateman Litwin N.V. announces it has signed an agreement to acquire Delta-T Corporation, a leading US-based bioethanol technology provider, with a fast growing engineering, procurement and construction division for a total consideration of US$45 million in cash and 11.8 million new ordinary shares in Bateman Litwin. Bateman Litwin - July 18, 2007.

    TexCom, Inc. announced today that it has signed a letter of intent to acquire Biodiesel International Corp. (BIC), and is developing a plan to build an integrated oilseed crushing and biodiesel production facility in Paraguay. The facility, as it is currently contemplated, would process 2,000 metric tons of oil seeds per day, yielding approximately 136,000 metric tons (approximately 39 Million Gallons) of biodiesel and 560,000 metric tons of soy meal pellets per year. Initial feedstock will consist mainly of soybeans that are grown in the immediate area of the proposed production plant in the Provinces of Itapua and Alto Parana. MarketWire - July 18, 2007.

    Spanish power company Elecnor announced that it will build Spain's biggest biodiesel production plant for €70 million (US$96.48 million). The plant, in the port of Gijon in northern Spain, will be ready in 22 months and will produce up to 500,000 tonnes of biodiesel a year from vegetable oil. The plant will be one of the world's biggest. Spain has decided to impose mandatory blending of biofuels with conventional fossil fuels as part of European Union efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Elecnor [*Spanish] - July 18, 2007.

    The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) conducted a feasibility study to determine the most economical solutions to provide biomass energy to the isolated Chugachmiut Tribal Community in the village of Port Graham, Alaska, located on the Kenai Peninsula about 180 miles southwest of Anchorage. The village is only accessible by air or water, making traditional fossil fuel sources expensive to deliver and alternative forms of energy difficult to implement. The case study based on decentralised bioenergy offers interesting parallels to what would be needed to provide energy to the developing world's huge population that lives in similarly isolated conditions. EERC - July 18, 2007.

    According to a basic market report by Global Industries Inc., world biodiesel sales are expected to exceed 4.7 billion gallons (17.8 billion liters) by 2010. Though Europe, with a share estimated at 84.16% in 2006, constitutes the largest market, and will continue to do so for the coming years, major growth is expected to emanate from the United States. The automobile applications market for biodiesel, with an estimated share of 55.73% in 2006 constitutes the largest as well as the fastest growing end use application. Other applications independently analyzed include the Mining Applications market and the Marine Applications market. PRWeb - July 18, 2007.

    O2Diesel Corporation announced that it has received the regulatory approvals necessary to start delivering its proprietary diesel ethanol blended fuel, O2Diesel, in the French market. The approvals pave the way for O2Diesel to move forward into the next stage of its European market development strategy by commencing deliveries to a number of targeted fleets in France. MarketWire - July 17, 2007.

    The BBC World Service is hosting a series of programmes on the global obesity pandemic. Over the coming two weeks a range of documentaries and discussions will be held on the obesity time-bomb that is growing all over the West, but also in the developing world. In North America, a quarter of people are now morbidly obese, 60% is overweight, and one in three children will become obese. The epidemic is spreading rapidly to China and India. BBC World Service - July 16, 2007.

    A new report from Oregon State University shows the biofuels industry is on track to be a $2.5 billion chunk of the state's economy within 20 years. The study identifies 80 potential biodiesel, ethanol and biomass facilities which could produce a combined 400 million gallons (1.5 billion liters) per year of ethanol and another 315 million gallons (1.2 billion liters) of biodiesel. On an oil equivalent basis, this comes down to around 38,000 barrels per day. Oregon State University - July 16, 2007.

    Jatropha biodiesel manufacturer D1 Oils has appointed a leading plant scientist to its board of directors. Professor Christopher Leaver, Sibthorpian professor of plant science and head of the plant sciences department at Oxford University, has joined the Teesside company as a non-executive director. Professor Leaver, who was awarded a CBE in 2000, is a leading expert in the molecular and biochemical basis of plant growth and differentiation. D1Oils Plc - July 16, 2007.

    Panama and South Africa are set to cooperate on biofuels. A delegation consisting of vice-minister of Foreign Affairs Azis Pahad, of Finance, Jubulai Moreketi and of Finance, met with Panama's vice-chancellor Ricardo Durán to discuss joint biodiesel and ethanol production and distribution. Panama's goal is to become a hub for internationally traded bioenergy, making use of the strategic position of the Canal. La Prensa Gráfica [*Spanish] - July 14, 2007.

    Spanish investors are studying the opportunity to invest in agro-industrial projects in Morocco aimed at producing biofuel from the Jatropha plant. Morocco’s Minister for Energy and Mines, Mohammed Boutaleb, said Moroccan authorities are willing to provide the necessary land available to them, provided that the land is not agricultural, is located in semi-arid regions, and that the investors agree to use water-saving agricultural techniques, such as drip-feed irrigation. Magharebia - July 14, 2007.

    Philippine Basic Petroleum Corp. plans to raise as much as 2.8 billion pesos (€44.4/US$61.2 million) through a follow-on offering and loans to finance a 200,000 liter per day bio-ethanol plant in the province of Zamboanga del Norte. The move into biofuels comes in anticipation of the implementation of RA 9367 or the Philippines biofuels law. RA 9367 mandates five percent bioethanol blending into gasoline by 2009, and 10 percent by 2011. Manila Bulletin - July 14, 2007.

    The Michigan Economic Development Corporation last week awarded a $3.4 million grant to redevelop the former Pfizer research facility in Holland into a bioeconomy research and commercialization center. Michigan State University will use the facility to develop technologies that derive alternative energy from agri-based renewable resources. Michigan.org - July 13, 2007.

    Fuel prices increased three times in Mozambique this year due to high import costs. For this reason, the country is looking into biofuels as an alternative. Mozambique's ministries of agriculture and energy presented a study showing that more than five million hectares of land can be used sustainably in the production of crops that would produce biodiesel fuels. The first phase of a biofuel implementation plan was also presented, identifying the provinces of Inhambane, Zambezia, Nampula and Cabo Delgado as the first to benefit. News24 (Capetown) - July 12, 2007.

    The Malaysian Oleochemical Manufacturers Group (MOMG) has urged the government for incentives and grants to companies to encourage the development of new uses and applications for glycerine, the most important byproduct of biodiesel. Global production of glycerine is currently about one million tonnes. For every 10 tonnes of oil processed into biodiesel, one tonne of glycerine emerges as a by-product. Bernama - July 12, 2007.

    BioDiesel International AG has acquired 70 per cent of the shares in Lignosol, a Salzburg based company that is making promising progress in Biomass-to-Liquids conversion techniques. The purchase price is in the single-digit million Euro range. ACN - July 10, 2007.

    Gay & Robinson Inc. and Pacific West Energy LLC announced today a partnership to develop an ethanol plant in Hawaii based on sugarcane feedstocks. The plant's capacity is around 12 million gallons (45 million liters) per year. The partnership called Gay & Robinson Ag-Energy LLC, will also ensure the continuation of the Gay & Robinson agricultural enterprise, one of the oldest in Hawaii. Approximately 230 jobs will be preserved, and a large area of West Kauai will be maintained in sustainable agriculture. Business Wire - July 10, 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.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Report: community forest enterprises drive sustainable forestry, but stifled by red tape

A new study reports that Community Forest Enterprises (CFEs) represent an invisible investment of US$2.5 billion in management and conservation in some of the planet's richest forest habitats. This is more than governments in tropical regions spend directly on forest conservation. However, these enterprises are being side-lined in the international forestry arena, putting forests at risk the world over. The report was commissioned by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), an intergovernmental NGO based in Yokohama, Japan. The report was released at a conference on the subject in the capital of Acre, one of eight states that comprise the Brazilian Amazon.

According to the new report titled Community-based Forest Enterprises in Tropical Forest Countries: Status and Potential, the sector employs more than 110 million people worldwide. Such community forest enterprises harvest wood on a sustainable basis, and collect bamboo, rattan, fibers, nuts, resins, medicinal herbs, honey and wood for energy and other natural products to increase local wealth. At the same time, they are having an important impact on conservation of natural resources.
As the fastest growing segment of the global forest sector, community forest enterprises (CFEs) have the potential to lift millions of forest communities out of poverty. But only if they are given secure rights to forest resources and assistance with removing the red tape that impedes progress in almost every tropical region. - Andy White, Coordinator of the Rights and Resources Initiative, and a co-author of the report.
The report concludes that the potential for growth of the CFE sector is 'huge' but will require government action to provide clear rights to forest resources for community enterprises, fewer burdensome taxes, greater flexibility in the way rules are applied, rapid approval of applications submitted to relevant agencies, and an end to indirect subsidies to large-scale producers.

Produced for ITTO by Forest Trends and its partners in a global coalition, the Rights and Resources Initiative, the report bases its conclusions on a review of current research and on 20 case-studies of successful enterprises in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Islands:
The report shows that there is a great deal of untapped potential for CFE development in many tropical countries. In the Gambia, for example, 170,000 hectares have been categorized as community forests, but only 13,000 hectares are in the hands of local villagers. In Cameroon, 4 million hectares are designated for communities, yet only 40,000 hectares are approved for legal use. - Manoel Sobral Filho, ITTO Executive Director
A growing force of conservation
Despite the continuing challenges, CFEs are becoming a significant force, particularly in terms of their impact on the economies of poor nations, according to the study. Communities worldwide now own or have the right to manage 11 percent of the world's natural forests, and in developing countries, this share rises to 22 percent:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The study suggests that CFEs can generate a wide range of goods and services, while reducing poverty among local populations, and fostering biodiversity conservation and investments in social infrastructure, including schools and healthcare facilities. Several of the enterprises studied, including two in Mexico and one in the Gambia, reported returns of 10 to 30 percent from forest-based activities.

"This report uncovers something that only a few experts have recognized so far: if allowed to be real players, community forest enterprises can become very profitable, many of them with return rates above 10 percent," said Sobral. And the growing market for ecosystem services promises even greater returns, he added.

Community enterprises augment local incomes and sustain traditional ways of life by establishing environment-friendly plantations, or by gathering forest products in ways that don't normally register in national production and trade figures. But they represent significant wealth, all the same. Rattan, for instance, is a forest product that is worth US$5b in the international markets. An herb used in West African cooking generates US$220m in Europe and the US, and US$20m in Ghana. The wood carving industry in Jodhpur, India, generates US$200m and employs 85,000 people.

Authors of the report argue, however, that much more could be done to support CFEs. Of the 600 million people in Africa, 400 million depend directly or indirectly on the forests. In all, more than 1 billion mostly poor people live within and around the world's forests.

The authors further found that:
  • Illegal logging undermines price structures for forest products and acts as a disincentive for members to remain part of a 'legal' organization.
  • Too much control by government or donor supporters can stifle the ability of CFEs to develop innovative management.
"The study reflects the experience of communities worldwide," said Alberto Chinchilla, a founding board member of the Global Alliance of Community Forestry, a worldwide network of community forestry organizations. "A top-down approach on the part of national governments and international NGOs and donor countries has prevented forestry enterprises from thriving. The bottom line is that local communities need to be part of the equation and not just bystanders."

Among those who rely on the forests for their livelihoods and a significant part of their cash income are indigenous peoples, small landholders, craftsmen and individuals employed by informal forestry enterprises. They are all threatened in their way of life by the destruction of natural habitat.

"In those countries where efforts have been made to reduce barriers and guarantee ownership of forested land, as is the case in Mexico and Guatemala, community-based enterprises soar," said White from Rights and Resources Initiative, who co-authored the study with Augusta Molnar, Megan Liddle, Carina Bracer, Arvind Khare and Justin Bull and a diverse set of case study authors. "And we've found that besides improving income and social cohesion in the communities, these organizations become important biodiversity conservation agents."

Market Evolution in the forestry sector
Growing domestic markets in emerging economies have triggered new demand and new opportunities. China alone more than doubled its imports of forest products in seven years, climbing from US$6.4b in 1997 to US$13b in 2004. CFEs now manage 370 million hectares of forest, about 10% of the world's total. They are expected to jump to 700-800 million hectares in 2015 and reach 50% by 2050, according to estimates from the World Resources Institute (WRI). A growing consumer preference for materials produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable fashion offers a new area for growth, as does interest in services that help the world to combat climate change.

"The market for such services offers new perspectives for equitable payment to local communities involved in the conservation of watersheds and carbon sequestration," said Chinchilla. "But we need the means to develop this enormous social and environmental potential."

"And we need people, particularly in the richer countries, to start paying for these global services," added Sobral. "The benefits in terms of poverty alleviation, forest conservation and community development could be huge."

The ITTO is an intergovernmental organization promoting the conservation and sustainable management, use and trade of tropical forest resources. Its 60 members represent about 80% of the world's tropical forests and 90% of the global tropical timber trade. ITTO's policy work stresses the need for equitable, participatory and community-based processes in forest management and forest landscape restoration and provides practical advice to forest managers on how to develop such processes. ITTO's project work is assisting many small forest communities to develop sustainable, forest-based enterprises.

The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) is a new coalition of organizations dedicated to raising global awareness of the critical need for forest tenure, policy and market reforms, in order to achieve global goals of poverty alleviation, biodiversity conservation and forest-based economic growth. Partners currently include ACICAFOC (Coordinating Association of Indigenous and Agroforestry Communities of Central America), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Civic Response, the Foundation for People and Community Development (FPCD), Forest Peoples Programme, Forest Trends, the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), Intercooperation, the World Conservation Union (IUCN), and the Regional Community Forestry Training Center for Asia and the Pacific (RECOFTC).

Picture: Women tend their plantation in the Volta region, Ghana. Courtesy: J. Gasana


Eurekalert: Report finds forest enterprises stifled by red tape, putting forests, incomes at risk - July 16, 2007.

RRI: Community Forest Management and Enterprises, Global Issues and Opportunities, Conference overview - July 2007.


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