<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home » Archive »
Nature Blog Network

    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.

Creative Commons License

Friday, August 17, 2007

Study states the obvious: cutting down rainforests for biofuels is not a good idea

In an article published in the Policy Forum of Science, researchers at the University of Leeds and a conservationist from the World Land Trust have succeeded in stating the obvious: cutting down rainforests to grow biofuel crops leads to more greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels based on deforestation, are larger than those of petroleum fuels.
The only biofuel currently made from crops grown on rainforest land is biodiesel from palm oil. This fuel may add up to nine times as much carbon dioxide compared to conventional petrol and diesel, they found. The report concludes that - if reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the primary concern - then protecting and restoring natural forests is a better way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions than cutting them down for palm oil.

Study co-author Dominick Spracklen of the School of Earth and the Environment at the University of Leeds says:
This study shows that if your primary concern is reducing carbon dioxide emissions, growing biofuels is not the best way to do it. In fact it can have a perverse impact elsewhere in the world. The amount of carbon that is released when you clear forests to make way for the biofuel crop is much more than the amount you get back from growing biofuels over a 30-year period.
The relevance of this study to the biofuels debate is marginal. Especially because it could be misinterpreted as saying that we are faced with a simplistic choice: rainforests versus biofuels. Nothing is further from the truth. Studies by scientists working for the International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Task 40 have shown that billions of hectares of non-forest land are available where energy crops for biofuels with a strong GHG balance can be grown sustainably. The projections explicitly start from a scenario that does not allow deforestation (earlier post). The conservationists writing in Science do not cite these studies.

The fact is that most biofuel crops are grown on non-forest land. Sugarcane in Brazil offers the best example: the crop is grown 1000 miles South of the Amazon, and has no impact whatsoever on deforestation rates (previous post and here). Brazil even succeeds in vastly expanding its biofuels acreage while at the same time slowing down deforestation (earlier post). Likewise, most other biofuel crops, from rapeseed and corn, over jatropha and pongamia to sorghum and cassava do not grow in rainforest soils.

In several cases, biofuels even succeed in greening the desert and pushing back desertification. A good recent example comes from Inner Mongolia, where fast-rotation sand willow is pushing back the desert (earlier post). Other examples are based on jatropha, with trials in the middle of the Southern Egyptian desert (earlier post). Apparently, the authors of the article are not aware of these initiatives.

The study does not take into account the opportunity for the production of carbon-negative biofuels either. Such biofuels reduce carbon emissions more than most temperate forests, which are net contributors (here and here). Carbon-negative biofuels can be obtained either by relying on the sequestration of biochar into soils (previous post and here), or by storing the carbon into large geological sites (more here).

Ultimately, the reduction of greenhouse gases is only one of a much larger set of more important reasons behind the interest in biofuels. The green fuels offer the only realistic way to overcome high oil prices. This is especially important for developing countries, some of which are already forced to spend twice as much on importing expensive oil than on health care services. Biofuels would reduce this disastrous effect of oil. High oil prices kill people. Biofuels may save them.

Importantly, as the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and many other think tanks and analysts have said: biofuels can help reduce poverty alleviation on a massive scale (earlier post). This could have major beneficial effects on the environment in developing countries, because poverty is the single biggest factor driving environmental destruction there. But more importanly, the biofuels opportunity can help lift millions of poor people out of misery, improve their livelihoods, and strengthen their access to food and energy. For these reasons, African scientists recently concluded that bioenergy and biofuels are key to help achieve the UN's ambitious Millennium Development Goals (previous post):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Likewise, the UNIDO, the IEA, the EU, the Worldwatch Institute and several food research organisations stressed the same basic facts.

In short, the recuction of greenhouse gas emissions is only one reason why biofuels are receiving so much interest. Many far more important factors are at play.

The report in Science is co-authored by Renton Righelato of the World Land Trust - a charity that protects and restores threatened habitats around the world.

The study compared the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that would be saved from entering the atmosphere by growing biofuels with the amount saved from slowing deforestation and restoring forests over a 30-year period.

The study also found that converting large areas of land back to forest provides other environmental benefits such as preventing desertification and regional climate regulation. The conversion of large areas of land to make biofuels will place further strains on the environment, the study concluded.

European Union member states have pledged to replace 10% of transport fuel with biofuel from crops by 2020 in an effort to reduce reliance on imported oil and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Meeting the EU target would require an area larger than one third of all the agricultural land in Europe to be used for growing biofuel crops.

He says: "There is a big push in the EU and US to promote biofuels as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. What we do here has an impact on the rest of the world. Although biofuels may look a good idea in places like Europe, they have a perverse effect when you take into the rest of the world."

Biopact does not agree with the latter statement, because the world is far bigger than the few countries that are cutting down rainforests for biofuels. There are groups of countries much larger than Europe, where biofuels can be grown without any major environmental side-effects. Countries like the Central-African Republic, South Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, to name but a few. Apparently, some scientists utilize maps that do not show these countries. Or they are simply eurocentric. The amount of non-forest land available for biofuel crops, is estimated to be around 2 billion hectares.

Renton Righelato and Dominick V. Spracklen, "Carbon Mitigation by Biofuels or by Saving and Restoring Forests?", Science 17 August 2007, Vol. 317. no. 5840, p. 902, DOI: 10.1126/science.1141361

Biopact: Greening the desert with biofuels: Inner Mongolia peasants show it's possible - August 14, 2007

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

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

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

Biopact: African Union, Brazil and UNIDO organise first High-Level Conference on Biofuels in Africa - July 23, 2007

Biopact: IEA chief economist: EU, US should scrap tariffs and subsidies, import biofuels from the South - March 06, 2007

Biopact: A look at Africa's biofuels potential - July 30, 2006


Renton Righelato & Dominick Spracklen said...

We (the authors of the paper reviewed here) are fully aware that much of the land used for transport biofuels, such as the cane areas of Brasil and the oilseed rape areas of Europe, has not been forest for a long time. We make the point in our paper that it is many times more effective as a carbon mitigation measure to restore forest on such land than to use it for biofuels.

We also note in our paper that ligno-cellulosic raw materials, though still in development for transport biofuels, may be more effective. The same may be true of a crop that can be grown on semi-desert or marginal land, such as jatropha.

4:36 PM  
Biopact team said...

Hi Renton and Dominick, the problem with the interviews you gave, which 'clarified' your study, is that they are being interpreted by journalists in a very questionable way. Just read the headlines your study provoked. Moreover, they contain some extremely problematic information, such as the suggestion that biofuels 'are typicallygrown on rainforest land'. This is false. You know very well that Brazilian ethanol - the single largest mass of biofuels currently produced - grows 1000 miles away from the Amazon. Sugarcane doesn't even grow in this type of soil.

But on substance: most incredibly, you have failed to include the strong science which clearly shows that temperate forests are actually net carbon contributers - making your case as it is being presented by yourselves and the media untenable.

The graph that accomodates some journalist reviews of your study thus contains grave errors: in these graphs, "converting cropland to temperate forest" shows a positive emission reduction, whereas in fact it should be a negative one. The same is true for grasslands in the semi-tropics.

We don't understand why you have left this crucial information out.

These studies, by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Université Montpellier II, the Carnegie Institution, Duke University, by the Free Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) program and several others, have been widely publicized:

Livermore, Carnegie: Study: Temperate Forests Could Worsen Global Warming

DOE: Growing more forests in United States could contribute to global warming

University of Michigan: Soil fertility limits forests capacity to absorb excess CO2

Duke University: Duke open-air experiment results could deflate hopes that forests can alleviate global warming

FACE: Experiment suggests limitations to carbon dioxide 'tree banking'

FACE: Temperate forests not a fix for global warming - Carbon offsets based on northern plantations may be bunk

Your generalized statement that any type of forests is better to combat global warming is incorrect too; high-latitude forests warm the planet:
Carnegie's Department of Global Ecology: Snowy forests increase warming, while tropical forests cool the planet

The list of studies is pretty long. Nothing of this research in your paper.

In short, it's amazing to see you did not at least include these basics.

Moreover, no word about carbon-negative biofuels that sequester many times more carbon than any forest and which restore and fertilize soils.

All this, but especially the failure to include the science on the carbon balance of forests in high to mid-latitudes, leads us to conclude that the study is not very robust and might have been written on the basis of less than scientific principles.

On the other hand, the greenhouse gas balance of biofuels and forests must be studied far more in-depth, and your paper - even though of questionable quality - must be welcomed in this respect.

the Biopact Team

10:55 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home