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

    A group of Spanish investors is building a new bioethanol plant in the western region of Extremadura that should be producing fuel from maize in 2009. Alcoholes Biocarburantes de Extremadura (Albiex) has already started work on the site near Badajoz and expects to spend €42/$59 million on the plant in the next two years. It will produce 110 million litres a year of bioethanol and 87 million kg of grain byproduct that can be used for animal feed. Europapress - September 28, 2007.

    Portuguese fuel company Prio SA and UK based FCL Biofuels have joined forces to launch the Portuguese consumer biodiesel brand, PrioBio, in the UK. PrioBio is scheduled to be available in the UK from 1st November. By the end of this year (2007), says FCL Biofuel, the partnership’s two biodiesel refineries will have a total capacity of 200,000 tonnes which will is set to grow to 400,000 tonnes by the end of 2010. Biofuel Review - September 27, 2007.

    According to Tarja Halonen, the Finnish president, one third of the value of all of Finland's exports consists of environmentally friendly technologies. Finland has invested in climate and energy technologies, particularly in combined heat and power production from biomass, bioenergy and wind power, the president said at the UN secretary-general's high-level event on climate change. Newroom Finland - September 25, 2007.

    Spanish engineering and energy company Abengoa says it had suspended bioethanol production at the biggest of its three Spanish plants because it was unprofitable. It cited high grain prices and uncertainty about the national market for ethanol. Earlier this year, the plant, located in Salamanca, ceased production for similar reasons. To Biopact this is yet another indication that biofuel production in the EU/US does not make sense and must be relocated to the Global South, where the biofuel can be produced competitively and sustainably, without relying on food crops. Reuters - September 24, 2007.

    The Midlands Consortium, comprised of the universities of Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham, is chosen to host Britain's new Energy Technologies Institute, a £1 billion national organisation which will aim to develop cleaner energies. University of Nottingham - September 21, 2007.

    The EGGER group, one of the leading European manufacturers of chipboard, MDF and OSB boards has begun work on installing a 50MW biomass boiler for its production site in Rion. The new furnace will recycle 60,000 tonnes of offcuts to be used in the new combined heat and power (CHP) station as an ecological fuel. The facility will reduce consumption of natural gas by 75%. IHB Network - September 21, 2007.

    Analysts fear that record oil prices will fuel general inflation in Kenya, particularly hitting the poorest hard. They call for the development of new policies and strategies to cope with sustained high oil prices. Such policies include alternative fuels like biofuels, conservation measures, and more investments in oil and gas exploration. The poor in Kenya are hit hardest by the sharp increase, because they spend most of their budget on fuel and transport. Furthermore, in oil intensive economies like Kenya, high oil prices push up prices for food and most other basic goods. All Africa - September 20, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Power has won an order to supply Kalmar Energi Värme AB with a biomass-fired power boiler for the company’s new combined heat and power plant in Kalmar on the east coast of Sweden. Start-up for the plant is scheduled for the end of 2009. The value of the order is approximately EUR 55 million. The power boiler (90 MWth) will utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology and will burn biomass replacing old district heating boilers and reducing the consumption of oil. The delivery will also include a flue gas condensing system to increase plant's district heat production. Metso Corporation - September 19, 2007.

    Jo-Carroll Energy announced today its plan to build an 80 megawatt, biomass-fueled, renewable energy center in Illinois. The US$ 140 million plant will be fueled by various types of renewable biomass, such as clean waste wood, corn stover and switchgrass. Jo-Carroll Energy - September 18, 2007.

    Beihai Gofar Marine Biological Industry Co Ltd, in China's southern region of Guangxi, plans to build a 100,000 tonne-per-year fuel ethanol plant using cassava as feedstock. The Shanghai-listed company plans to raise about 560 million yuan ($74.5 million) in a share placement to finance the project and boost its cash flow. Reuters - September 18, 2007.

    The oil-dependent island state of Fiji has requested US company Avalor Capital, LLC, to invest in biodiesel and ethanol. The Fiji government has urged the company to move its $250million 'Fiji Biofuels Project' forward at the earliest possible date. Fiji Live - September 18, 2007.

    The Bowen Group, one of Ireland's biggest construction groups has announced a strategic move into the biomass energy sector. It is planning a €25 million investment over the next five years to fund up to 100 projects that will create electricity from biomass. Its ambition is to install up to 135 megawatts of biomass-fuelled heat from local forestry sources, which is equal to 50 million litres or about €25m worth of imported oil. Irish Examiner - September 16, 2007.

    According to Dr Niphon Poapongsakorn, dean of Economics at Thammasat University in Thailand, cassava-based ethanol is competitive when oil is above $40 per barrel. Thailand is the world's largest producer and exporter of cassava for industrial use. Bangkok Post - September 14, 2007.

    German biogas and biodiesel developer BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has generated gross proceeds totaling €5.5 million as part of its capital increase from authorized capital. Ad Hoc News - September 13, 2007.

    NewGen Technologies, Inc. announced that it and Titan Global Holdings, Inc. completed a definitive Biofuels Supply Agreement which will become effective upon Titan’s acquisition of Appalachian Oil Company. Given APPCO’s current distribution of over 225 million gallons of fuel products per year, the initial expected ethanol supply to APPCO should exceed 1 million gallons a month. Charlotte dBusinessNews - September 13, 2007.

    Oil prices reach record highs as the U.S. Energy Information Agency releases a report that showed crude oil inventories fell by more than seven million barrels last week. The rise comes despite a decision by the international oil cartel, OPEC, to raise its output quota by 500,000 barrels. Reuters - September 12, 2007.

    OPEC decided today to increase the volume of crude supplied to the market by Member Countries (excluding Angola and Iraq) by 500,000 b/d, effective 1 November 2007. The decision comes after oil reached near record-highs and after Saudi Aramco announced that last year's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent. OPEC - September 11, 2007.

    GreenField Ethanol and Monsanto Canada launch the 'Gro-ethanol' program which invites Ontario's farmers to grow corn seed containing Monsanto traits, specifically for the ethanol market. The corn hybrids eligible for the program include Monsanto traits that produce higher yielding corn for ethanol production. MarketWire - September 11, 2007.

Creative Commons License

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Seven Commandments of Mexican biofuels: from social justice to sustainability

In a very interesting essay Ricardo Cantú of Mexico's School of Public and Political Administration at Monterey's Technological University explores how one might go about creating a sustainable ethanol economy that simultaneously serves the interests of social justice, the environment, and energy security, in the context of Mexico. A project much like that of the Biopact, focused on Sub-Saharan Africa.

The overriding goal emerging from Cantú's excellent paper titled "Ethanolomics: The Think-About's of the Mexican Ethanol Project" [*.pdf] is to devise a strategy for improving the living standards of the rural poor in Mexico via an invigoration of the agricultural economy, boosting energy security for the population at large while limiting the catastrophic effects of high oil prices on the poor, and contributing to the fight against climate change by producing fuels that effectively reduce carbon emissions.

In theory, biofuels "could potentially [...] solve all of the above problems" writes Cantú, an argument voiced by many biofuel proponents in the Global South (and partially by organisations like the FAO, the WorldWatch Institute and the IEA). Plant based alternatives to oil could:
diminish the global ecological harm that the fossil fuels are making; lessen the economical dependence of some countries with the global markets and foreign policies [...]; be a renewable energy source, because it would use biomass inputs; and power up rural economical dynamism.
But this is theory. The same theory set out in our 'Biofuels Manifesto'. In reality, biofuels can go two ways: either perpetuating social injustices, concentrating power in an ever smaller number of hands, and damaging the environment, or they can become an engine for poverty alleviation, rural revival, a healthier environment, reduce hunger and bring global social justice. In order to make sure biofuels take the latter path, Cantú provides a set of ground rules. It won't be easy to follow them, but it is not impossible either. The guidelines are:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

  1. Over the whole chain, the use of biomass should produce fewer emissions of greenhouse gases net than on average with fossil fuel.
  2. Production of biomass for energy must not endanger the food supply and other local applications (such as for medicines or building materials).
  3. Biomass production must not affect protected or vulnerable biodiversity and will, where possible, have to strengthen biodiversity.
  4. In the production and processing of biomass, the quality of soil, surface and ground water and air must be retained or even increased.
  5. The production of biomass must contribute towards local prosperity.
  6. The production of biomass must contribute towards the social well being of the employees and the local population.
  7. The overall ethanol production costs should be cheaper and more accessible than that of the fossil fuels, or at least the same level, excluding all the subsidies or tax benefits to the producers or distributors.
That's quite a checklist. Over at Salon, Andrew Leonard, in his typically succinct and sharp way, picks one of these to see what it really means: The production of biomass must contribute towards local prosperity.

Cantú stresses that a key requirement of a biofuel economy in Mexico is that the farmers capture the rewards of their production. In other words, one wants to avoid a situation in which farmers sell their sugar cane or maize or sorghum at rock-bottom prices to middlemen who then grab all the upstream profits. Cantú envisions farmer cooperatives setting up their own ethanol mills, and dealing directly with distributors.

Such a model is not uncommon in the U.S. and in Europe, and there's no reason, in principle, it couldn't work in Mexico or in other developing countries, says Leonard. But it would require strong government leadership and the sharp eye of civil society organisations to check whether policies are enacted.

Indeed, to achieve all the goals outlined above would require a tightly regulated market with significant government intervention: in other words, a direct repudiation of the kind of Washington Consensus policies of deregulation and privatization that the West has been pushing on Latin America and elsewhere for decades.

Ricardo Cantú, "Ethanolomics: The Think-About’s of the Mexican Ethanol Project" [*.pdf], Cátedra de Integración Económica y Desarrollo Social, Escuela de Graduados en Administración Pública y Politica Pública, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Working Paper No. 2007-3.

Salon: The Seven Commandments of Mexican ethanol - September 28, 2007.

Biopact: Worldwatch Institute chief: biofuels could end global malnourishment - August 23, 2007

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

Biopact: IEA report: bioenergy can meet 20 to 50% of world's future energy demand - September 12, 2007

Biopact: High oil prices disastrous for developing countries - September 12, 2007


rufus said...

Let me get this straight. He wants to achieve the same result that was made possible by the U.S.'s less regulated, less Centralized system; but, above all else, Mexico shouldn't copy the U.S.'s less bureaucratic, centralized system.

Is that about it?

8:04 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home