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    Fujitsu develops a biodegradable laptop chassis from corn-starch bioplastic. The material reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 15% compared to a chassis made from petroleum-based plastics. CNET Asia - August 20, 2007.

    India's Rana Sugars Ltd has decided to set up a new plant for producing ethanol in Uttar Pradesh with an estimated investment of €9 to 10.9 (US$12.2 to 14.7). The facility will have a capacity of 180,000 liters per year and will generate, besides ethanol, 26MW of carbon-neutral power from bagasse. Economic Times India - August 20, 2007.

    Prominent pro-democracy activists staged a rare protest in Myanmar's biggest city Sunday, marching against a massive recent fuel price hike. "We are staging this performance to reflect the hardship our people are facing due to the government's fuel price hike," said Min Ko Naing, a leader of the 88 Generation Students' Group. Myanmar's ruling military junta imposed a surprise 100 percent hike on fuel at state-owned gas stations on Wednesday. The move was followed by increases in bus fares and commodity prices. The Star - August 19, 2007.

    Canada's Cavendish Farms, one of the country's largest food processing companies is to build a biogas plant to recycle spent cooking oils, starch and sludge from its waste-water plant to fuel its potato processing operation. Use of the carbon-neutral biofuel will limit the amount of bunker C fuel oil currently in use by the company. The plant, expected to be ready for operation by next fall, has received a $14-million loan from the Province of Prince Edward Island. CBC - August 18, 2007.

    Basin Electric Power Cooperative told a U.S. Senate Energy Appropriations subcommittee that it is looking into capturing carbon dioxide from its Antelope Valley Station and sell it for enhanced oil recovery in the Williston Basin. Carbon capture technologies have not yet been applied to a power plant that uses lignite, or even subbitumious coal. The trial would be the first one to do so in the Midwest. Bismarck Tribune - August 17, 2007.

    The BBC World Service's current 'One Planet' programme focuses on revolutionary technologies and research that uses a next-generation of GM crops as factories for the production of new pharmaceuticals, green products and alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals. One Planet - August 16, 2007.

    Germany's Biogas Nord has been commissioned to construct a large multi-feed biogas plant with a capacity of 2.8 MW of electrical power in Romania. The value of the order is approximately €3.5 million. The plant will be built in the Transylvanian region close to the county town of Oradea. Interestingly, a synergy will be created by coupling the facility to the construction of a biodiesel plant. In so doing, the waste products resulting from the production of biodiesel, such as rapeseed pellets and glycerin, will be brought to the biogas plant as substrates. Ad-Hoc News - August 16, 2007.

    The University of Western Ontario's Research Park at Sarnia has received $10-million in funding for the development of biofuel technologies. The funds will be used for the creation of the 'Ontario Bioindustrial Innovation Centre' at the University, including the addition of a commercialization centre with incubator suites, laboratory equipment, pilot plant space and space for startup companies. The Observer - August 16, 2007.

    Philippine Bio-Sciences Co., Inc. (PhilBio) and its Clean Development Mechanism subsidiary in Cebu, has told the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) that it will soon open a 10 megawatt biogas plant in Cebu. According to the company, under current conditions electricity generated from biogas is around 20% less costly than that generated from fossil fuels. Philippine Bio-Sciences - August 15, 2007.

    Scientists, economists and policy experts representing government and public institutions from more than 40 countries will exchange the latest information on economic and technology opportunities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Global Conference on Agricultural Biofuels: Research and Economics", to be held Aug. 20-21 in Minneapolis. USDA ARS - August 14, 2007.

    A company owned by the Chinese government has expressed interest in investing up to 500 million US dollars in a biofuel project in Indonesia. The company is planning to use jatropha as its raw material and is targeting an annual output of around 1 million tons. Forbes - August 13, 2007.

    Virgin Atlantic, Boeing and General Electric are within weeks of selecting the biofuel for a flight demonstration in the UK early next year. The conversion of biomass via the Fischer-Tropsch process is no longer amongst the biofuel candidates, because the process has already been demonstrated to work. Ground testing of the chosen fuel in a development engine at GE is expected to begin in October-November. The limited flight-test programme will involve burning biofuel in one GE CF6-80C2 engine on a Virgin Boeing 747-400. Flight Global - August 13, 2007.

    Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said Saturday it plans to introduce a new preferential tax system in fiscal 2008 aimed at promoting a wider use of biofuel, which could help curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Under the envisaged plan, biofuel that has been mixed with gasoline will be exempt from the gasoline tax--currently 53.8 yen per liter--in proportion to the amount of biofuel included. If blended with diesel oil, biofuel will be free from the diesel oil delivery tax, currently 32.1 yen per liter. Daily Yomiuri - August 13, 2007.

    Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said Saturday it plans to introduce a new preferential tax system in fiscal 2008 aimed at promoting a wider use of biofuel, which could help curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Under the envisaged plan, biofuel that has been mixed with gasoline will be exempt from the gasoline tax--currently 53.8 yen per liter--in proportion to the amount of biofuel included. If blended with diesel oil, biofuel will be free from the diesel oil delivery tax, currently 32.1 yen per liter. Daily Yomiuri - August 13, 2007.

    Buenos Aires based ABATEC SA announces the release of a line of small biodiesel plants with modular design, high temperature reaction for the best yield, to produce from 50 to 1000 gal/day (190 to 3785 liter/day) of high quality methylester and valuable glycerol. PRWeb - August 10, 2007.

    Vegetable growers in North Queensland are trying to solve the problem of disposing of polyethylene plastic mulch by using a biodegradable, bioplastic based alternative. Trials are a collaboration of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries with the Bowen District Growers Association. Queensland Country Life - August 8, 2007.

    Hawaii's predominant utility has won approval to build the state's first commercial biofuel plant. It is the first substantial new power generator that Hawaiian Electric Co. has added in 17 years. HECO will build the $142.3 million facility at Campbell Industrial Park on Oahu beginning early next year, and expects to begin commercial operation in mid-2009. It will run exclusively on fuels made from ethanol or biodiesel. Star Bulletin (Honolulu) - August 8, 2007.

    PetroSun Inc. announced today that it conducted its initial algae-to-biofuel program held at Auburn and Opelika, Alabama. The company intends to hold a series of these programs during August and September with biodiesel refiners and firms that are researching the use of algal oil as a potential feedstock for jet fuel production. MarketWire - August 8, 2007.

    To encourage Malaysia's private sector to generate energy from biomass resources, national electricity company Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) has increased the purchase price of electricity produced from palm oil biomass waste to 21 sen per kilowatt hour from 19 sen now. According to Minister of Enegry, Water and Communications, Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik the new price structure, under the Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreement (REPPA), will be implemented immediately. Such projects are eligible for the Clean Development Mechanism. Under the 9th Malaysian Plan, the country's government aims to achieve the installation of 300MW and 50MW of grid-connected electric power from renewable energy sources in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, respectively. Bernama - August 7, 2007.

    Aspectrics, which develops encoded photometric infrared and near infrared spectroscopy, will be launching a new range of biofuels analyzers designed to meet the demands of scientists and analysts to carry out biodiesel quality control and analyze biodiesel blend percentages in real time. Bioresearch Online - August 7, 2007.

    Irish start-up Eirzyme has secured a €10m investment from Canadian company Micromill System. The new company will produce low-cost enzymes to convert biological materials such as brewers' grains into bioethanol and biogas. RTE - August 6, 2007.

    Imperium Renewables says it has a deal to provide Royal Caribbean Cruises with biodiesel. The Seattle-based biodiesel maker, which is scheduled to inaugurate its Grays Harbor plant this month, will sell the cruise line 15 million gallons of biodiesel in 2007 and 18 million gallons annually for four years after that. The Miami-based cruise line has four vessels that call in Seattle. It is believed to be the single-largest long-term biodiesel sales contract to an end user in the U.S. Seattle Times - August 5, 2007.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Brazil initiates WTO case against U.S. ethanol and farm subsidies

Earlier this year, the United States and Brazil pledged to collaborate on the development of biofuels technologies and markets in the Americas. Even though the agreement was hailed by Brazil as a recognition of its expertise and leadership in the sector, the country could not convince the U.S. to give up its trade barriers imposed on imported ethanol or its large farm and biofuel subsidies. To challenge this state of affairs, Brazil has now initiated [*Portuguese] a case against the U.S. at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the global body that settles trade related disputes. The move could threaten the U.S. biofuel industry.

In Brazil, ethanol is produced in a highly efficient, sustainable and cost-effective manner, making the biofuel the most competitive available and considerably less costly than gasoline. Compared to ethanol made from corn in the U.S., Brazil's sugarcane ethanol is around 3 times less costly and has an energy balance 8 to 10 times stronger. Not surprisingly, the country is trying to create a global market for its green product and wants to export to the largest consumers. However, the U.S. protects its own ethanol producers by a steep $0.54 per gallon tariff, blocking direct imports. Moreover, American farmers and biofuel manufacturers receive lavish subsidies, estimated to cost U.S. tax payers as much as $5.1 billion in 2006 for ethanol alone (earlier post).

Brazil has now launched a case against the U.S. at the WTO. Trade negotiators of both countries will soon meet to discuss the issue of agricultural subsidies, in particular those offered to American maize farmers.

The move comes at a time when the U.S. presidential elections come closer and more and more candidates are speaking out in favor of locally produced ethanol. According to the Estado de S.Paulo [*Portuguese], these politicians are heavily influenced by the powerful corn and agribusiness lobbies, who want to shield themselves from much more competitive biofuels produced in the Global South. By promising ever higher subsidies, candidates hope to gain support from these lobbies.

The strategy of the Brazilian government is to focus on all American farm subsidies, which stretch from the cotton, sugar and soy sector to corn and many other commodities. These subsidies keep millions of farmers in the developing world in poverty. Brazil leads the G20, a group of developing and transition economies who work towards changing this state of affairs. And even though the group has achieved several successes, the crucial Doha Round of trade negotiations, aimed specifically at helping developing countries, still faces a deadlock, mainly over agricultural subsidies.

However, the case against U.S. farm subsidies, with a focus on biofuels, is receiving more and more support:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Besides the G20, Canada, potentially a large biodiesel producer, has joined Brazil as has India, the world's second largest sugar producer.

In a similar development, the governments of Sweden and the Netherlands launched a formal request for a study to be performed by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to assess the damages brought about by farm subsidies and biofuel trade barriers both in the U.S. and the EU (earlier post). Sweden, one of Europe's leading green nations, wants all barriers for biofuels removed, so that a global trade can emerge that allows countries in the South to make use of their comparative advantages (more here).

Experts agree that biofuels offer one of the most important opportunities for the developing world to lift millions of farmers out of poverty. But for this to succeed, thorough trade reform is needed. Most recently, the chief of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, spoke out about the issue in no uncertain terms (previous post).

Thanks Marcelo Acuna of EthanolBrasil.

Agencia Estado: Brasil ataca etanol dos EUA na OMC - August 14, 2007.

Estado de Sao Paulo: Etanol vira bandeira eleitoral nos Estados Unidos - August 14, 2007.

Biopact: FAO chief calls for a 'Biopact' between the North and the South - August 15, 2007

Biopact: Sweden and Netherlands ask OECD to study unfair biofuel subsidies - May 20, 2007

Biopact: Sweden calls for international biofuels trade - August 11, 2007

Biopact: Subsidies for uncompetitive U.S. biofuels cost taxpayers billions - report - October 26, 2006


rufus said...

Anyone who understands American Electoral Politics will tell you that we will drop out of the WTO before we will drop the Ethanol Tariff. It's really as simple as that.

BTW, "3 Times Less?" If that were true I would think that they could undercut American producers even with the tariff. Or, did we not consider Coproducts when making that statement?

10:07 PM  
Biopact team said...

The tariff is set to expire by 2009 anyways, isn't it?

The subsidies are another matter though.

Anyways, American taxpayers carry the costs. It's their problem. I think the developing world has more than enough other, more open, markets, especially in Asia.

And the EU is tilting towards dropping tariffs and trade barriers too.

10:57 PM  
rufus said...

We'll let about Five Hundred Million Gallons in Duty Free, this year. That's about 500 Million Gallons more than anybody else, right?

If the Brazilians thought it through (and, if they had a clue about American Politics) they would be tickled to death with the way things now stand.

The Market is being developed, and with the tax credits Big Oil can't jump in and strangle the baby in the crib, and they're getting to export a large amount of ethanol to us tariff-free in the meantime.

The tax credit will be extended, and with it the tariff. Probably the only way the tariff will ever be dropped will be when the tax credit, which applies to Brazilian ethanol as well as domestically produced, is killed (we have small oil producers, too.)

BTW, If you think I'm way out on a limb about the U.S. pulling out of the WTO, you had better take a fresh look at American Politics. It could happen in a heartbeat. The American people are just a bit short-tempered with the rest of the world, right now; and, don't ever think that we don't have a bunch of populist, pandering, demogogic politicians that will take advantage of the crotchetiness. Jes Sayin.

Oh, BTW, you've been putting up some absolutely Fantastic posts, recently. It's just a Wonderful Website.

3:43 AM  

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