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    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.

    The J. Craig Venter Institute, leading the synthetic biology revolution, is expanding its Bio-Energy Program, seeking a senior scientist to head the new dedicated department. With ongoing research in biohydrogen, cellulosic ethanol, microbial fuel cells, and bacterial nanowires, the Environmental Genomics and Plant Genomics groups within JCVI are working on active components related to bio-energy. NatureJobs - August 5, 2007.

    Polish power and heat firm Praterm has decided to invest 50 to 100 mln zloty (€13.2-26.4 /US$18.1-36.4 mln) by 2013 in biomass production. The company has already bought Bio-Energia, an operator of four biomass heating plants with a total capacity of 14 MW. Wirtualna Polska - August 5, 2007.

    Brazil and Mexico will sign a cooperation agreement to collaborate on the production of ethanol from sugarcane, Gonzalo Mourão of the Brazilian chancellory's Departamento do México, América Central e Caribe said. Brazil's President Lula is on a tour of Central America and is currently in Mexico, after which he will visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Panama. He is set to sign several bilateral agreements on energy and biofuels with these countries. Reuters Brasil - August 4, 2007.

    Evergreen Pulp Inc. announced that it and Diversified Energy Corp. have been selected by the state of California for a $500,000, 36-month renewable energy project that aims to dramatically reduce natural-gas-use residue and natural gas at its Samoa mill. The Public Interest Energy Research Natural Gas Program, a part of the California Energy Commission, awarded four contracts for research, development and demonstration of technologies to replace natural gas with renewable resources, to four applicants from among a pool of 25. The state’s focus for the contracts was for biomass-to-gas and/or hybrid projects specifically addressing industrial and commercial process heating or combined heat and power needs. Eureka Reporter - August 4, 2007.

    Greenline Industries, which designs and builds biodiesel production facilities, and ULEROM, one of Romania's largest agri-business corporations, today announced the formal opening of their largest facility in Vaslui, Romania. The plant will produce some 26.5 million liters (7 mio gallons) per year. The Romanian facility is the 17th example of Greenline's technology featuring waterless wash, computerized, continuous flow and modular construction. PRNewswire - August 1, 2007.

    US Renewables Holdings announced today that it has successfully closed on $475 million of third party capital commitments in its most recent private equity fund, USRG Power & Biofuels Fund II, LP and related vehicles (collectively, "Fund II"), ahead of the fund's original target of $250 million. PRNewswire - August 1, 2007.

    Malaysian palm oil company Kim Loong Resources Bhd has secured European energy trading group Vitol as buyer for all its carbon credits from its planned biogas plant in Kota Tinggi. The biogas facility generates methane from palm oil mill effluent, a waste product. The project is expected to generate over RM2 million (€423,000/US$579,000) of earnings annually. The methane capture and power generation project was registered and approved by the Clean Development Mechanism. The Edge Daily - July 31, 2007.

    GreenHunter Energy, Inc. announces that its wholly-owned subsidiary, GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., located in Houston, Texas has successfully acquired Air Emission Permits from TCEQ (Texas Commission of Environmental Quality) under TCEQ's Permit by Rule (PBR) programs. These permits open the way for construction of a 105 million gallon per year (mgy) biodiesel facility including a separate but related methanol distillation facility. PRNewswire - July 30, 2007.

    Together with Chemical & Engineering News' Stephen K. Ritter, the journal Environmental Science & Technology sent Erika D. Engelhaupt to Brazil from where she wrote daily dispatches of news and observations about biofuels research. In particular she focuses on a bioenerrgy research partnership between the American Chemical Society, the Brazilian Chemical Society, and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA). Check out her blog. Dipatches from Brazil - July 28, 2007.

    Consultation is under way on a £50 million (€74/US$101million) renewable energy plant planned for the South Wales Valleys. Anglo-Dutch company Express Power plans to build a wood-fuelled biomass plant on Rassau Industrial Estate in Blaenau Gwent. The plant will generate an annual 160,000 MWh (Mega Watt hours) of green electricity for Wales from forestry, recycled wood and wood derivatives. ICWales - July 27, 2007.

    The price of New York crude leapt to 77.24 dollar a barrel on Thursday, marking the highest level since August 9, 2006, as keen global demand and tight supplies fuelled speculative buying, traders said. On Wednesday, the US government had revealed that inventories of American crude fell by 1.1 million barrels last week. France24 - July 26, 2007.

    Arriva, one of Europe's largest transport groups is trialling B20 biodiesel for the first time on 75 of its buses. The company is aiming to reduce total carbon emissions by around 14 per cent by using biodiesel as a 20 per cent blend (predominantly be a mixture of sustainable soya products, along with used cooking oil and tallow). The 75 buses in the innovative trial will carry around 130,000 passengers every week. Minimal engineering changes will be required to the fleet as part of the scheme. Arriva - July 26, 2007.

    Marathon Oil Corporation announces that it has completed two more projects adding biodiesel blended fuel at its Robinson and Champaign terminals in Illinois. The terminals now feature in-line ratio blending in order to provide soy-based B-2 (two percent biodiesel) and B-11 (eleven percent biodiesel). Marathon Oil - July 25, 2007.

    Norway-based renewable energy firm Global Green One has agreed to set up a € 101.6 million bioethanol plant in Békéscsaba (southeast Hungary), with more facilities planned for Kalocsa, Szombathely and Kõszeg, the latter of which was already a target for a €25 million plant in May this year. The Békéscsaba plant would process 200,000 tonnes of maize per year, employing around 100 people. The logistics part of the facility would also create 100 jobs. The company expects the factory to generate €65 million in revenues each year. Portfolio - July 25, 2007.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Study: economic growth and Green Revolution reduced fertility in India by 46% between 1982 and 1999

Development economists, sociologists and environmentalists alike know that there is a widely observed correlation between economic growth, poverty alleviation and a decline in fertility. The issue of population growth has now become important again within the context of sustainable development and climate change, after having been a 'taboo' within development discourse for the past 10 years.

Rapidly growing populations put pressures on the environment and result in a cycle of ever deeper poverty and underdevelopment. When societies cannot guarantee women and households that their children will survive and live in a decent manner that brings them a certain degree of wealth and security, they tend to fall back on the potent logic of 'wealth in people' instead. In many developing countries this logic still prevails.

Indirectly, demographic transitions towards declining fertility rates can be induced by a set of factors, from economic growth to education for girls, providing access to maternal health and by targeted policies aimed at alleviating poverty amongst vulnerable groups. Direct interventions consist of fertility policies (e.g. China's one child policy) and reproductive health campaigns. However, these cannot succeed if they are not embedded in a broader context of development. Of all the factors, 'economic growth' remains the single most important guarantee for success.

But economic growth in itself brings a range of pressures on the environment and usually implies a switch to fossil fuels and modern energy - the very sources of climate change we now want to prevent. Reducing the use of energy and increasing efficiency may be an option for wealthy countries that already made the demographic transition, but for poor, energy-intensive economies in the South, access to abundant energy remains key for development. Reliance on costly petroleum however has dramatic consequences, blocking development and economic growth. If this situation were to persist for a longer period of time, generalized poverty and increased fertility would follow.

It is here that bioenergy and biofuels get an obvious place and can be tied to a development paradigm that aims to boost economic growth, reduce fertility rates, mitigate climate change but at the same time strengthens energy security and access to energy. The major advantage of modern bioenergy production is that the very groups responsible for rapid population growth - poor rural households in the developing world forced to rely on the logic of 'wealth in people' - can in theory become major participants in this industry. This would especially be true of sub-Saharan African countries, which have a huge sustainable bioenergy potential, but also the world's largest populations employed in agriculture (more here), and the highest fertility rates (map, click to enlarge). If these populations were to be allowed to take part as producers in this huge market, and if 'the rural' were to be transformed into a productive space, the poverty alleviating power of bioenergy could have a straightforward impact on the fertility of rural populations.

Two problems would be tackled at once: a reduction of pressures on the environment because of rapid population growth would occur, and a switch to renewable, low-carbon fuels would follow which would allow poor countries to 'leapfrog' beyond a fossil fuel based development parcours. Obviously reality is far more complex than this idealised picture, and much would depend on strong policies that ensure the rural poor get a valuable stake in this new energy market. However, conceptually speaking, biofuels could be key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and fuel economic growth in the poorest countries, as was concluded by a panel of African scientists at the first high-level bioenergy seminar on the continent that took place earlier this month (earlier post).

The link between population growth and the Millennium Development Goals was highlighted recently by a group of British MPs as well, who stated that a tragic failure to reduce poverty and empower women has been the result of the taboo on population that emerged in the lead-up to the International Conference on Population and Development (IPPD) in 1996. The report, "Return of the Population Growth Factor. Its impact on the MDGs", deplores the 'lost decade' which it says resulted from a move away from talking about population size and growth to the 'language of reproductive health'.
"The language of reproductive health did not spur enthusiasm in parliaments or in wider debate. AIDS was seen as the new health problem, leaving high fertility as yesterday's problem. The impact of population growth in the world's poorest countries was barely noticed." - British MP report on Population Growth
Meanwhile, from India, the world's most populated country, comes a new publication showing how 'economic growth' over the period from 1982 to 1999 reduced fertility by 46 per cent, whereas during the stagnant 1970s no major changes occured. Andrew D. Foster, Brown University and Mark R. Resonzweig of Yale University report their findings in a paper titled "Whether Economic Growth Reduces Fertility" in the latest issue of 'India Policy Forum', published jointly by the National Council of Applied Economic Research and the Brookings Institution.

In it, they show that improved access to maternal health and the establishment of health centers in rural areas contributed marginally to the steep fertility decline. Instead, economic growth as such was the major factor, with the 'Green Revolution' playing a key role. This agricultural and economic revolution led to occupational diversity, expanded labor demand, and resulted in a shift in occupational activities amongst women:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Richer, more developed economies tend to have lower fertility rates than poorer less developed ones. Over time many formerly poor countries have begun to develop and this process of development has typically been accompanied by sustained fertility declines, Foster and Resonzweig say in their book.

The rapid economic growth enjoyed by India in the period since 1999 has continued to alter the nature of economic relations and thus is likely to further impact the decisions that parents make regarding child bearing.

Rural India over the last three decades can provide the appropriate setting for carrying out such an analysis and as figures show, there was pronounced decline in fertility across all groups in the 1982-1999 while there was relatively limited change in fertility between 1971- and 1982.

Given sustained economic growth that continues to raise wages and increase returns to human capital, the fall in fertility in India will continue for the foreseeable future, the paper notes.

The authors indicate that the findings of the significant literature linking economic growth and fertility decline applies clearly to the Indian situation.

They note that prominence given to maternal education was a source of fertility decline in India. But, on aggregate, only 3.4% of the 46% decline in fertility could be attributed to the growth of health centres in the rural areas. The authors point out that during this period health centre coverage in the rural areas increased by less than ten percentage points.

The Green Revolution, along with other economic changes that were partly responsive to the increased growth and occupational diversification were far more important. These developments led to an expansion of labour demand. The resulting rise in wages not only made child-rearing more expensive but shifted the nature of women's activities both within and outside the household. As a result patterns emerged that mark a fundamental change in women's autonomy, they say.

The analysis by the authors suggests that the areas of high agricultural productivity growth not only experience decline in fertility but also increases in the schooling of children and in the time devoted by married women to non-household work. It also suggests that aggregate wage changes in dominated by increase in the value of female wages explain 15 per cent of the decline in fertility over the 1982-99 period.

Map: World fertility rates, 2000. Credit: World Health Organisation.

Andrew D. Foster, Mark R. Resonzweig, "Whether Economic Growth Reduces Fertility", India Policy Forum, Volume 3, 2006-07.

The Economic Times: Does economic growth reduce fertility? August 12, 2007.

British All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health: Return of the Population Growth Factor. Its impact upon the Millennium Development Goals [*.pdf]. Report of Hearings, January 2007.

Biopact: Report: biofuels key to achieving Millennium Development Goals in Africa - August 02, 2007

Biopact: Worldwatch Institute: biofuels may bring major benefits to world's rural poor - August 06, 2007


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