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    Massey University and Palmerston North City Council in New Zealand have found a way to increase the production of biogas to help drive the council's cogeneration engine to produce steam and electricity by co-digesting whey, an unwanted byproduct from milk processing, with sludge from a wastewater treatment plant. A full scale trial is under way at the Totara Road Treatment Plant to develop a cheap method of disposing of whey, increase gas production from the city's digesters and ultimately earn more carbon credits. Manawatu Standard - October 30, 2007.

    U.S. oil prices and Brent crude rocketed to all-time highs again on a record-low dollar, tensions in the Middle East and worries over energy supply shortages ahead of the northern hemisphere's winter. Now even wealthy countries like South Korea are warning that the record prices will damage economic growth. In the developing world, the situation is outright catastrophic. Korea Times - October 26, 2007.

    Ethablog's Henrique Oliveira, a young Brazilian biofuels business expert, is back online. From April to September 2007, he traveled around Brazil comparing the Brazilian and American biofuels markets. In August he was joined by Tom MacDonald, senior alcohol fuels specialist with the California Energy Commission. Henrique reports about his trip with a series of photo essays. EthaBlog - October 24, 2007.

    Italy's Enel is to invest around €400 mln in carbon capture and storage and is looking now for a suitable site to store CO2 underground. Enel's vision of coal's future is one in which coal is used to produce power, to produce ash and gypsum as a by-product for cement, hydrogen as a by-product of coal gasification and CO2 which is stored underground. Carbon capture and storage techniques can be applied to biomass and biofuels, resulting in carbon-negative energy. Reuters - October 22, 2007.

    Gate Petroleum Co. is planning to build a 55 million-gallon liquid biofuels terminal in Jacksonville, Florida. The terminal is expected to cost $90 million and will be the first in the state designed primarily for biofuels. It will receive and ship ethanol and biodiesel via rail, ship and truck and provide storage for Gate and for third parties. The biofuels terminal is set to open in 2010. Florida Times-Union - October 19, 2007.

    China Holdings Inc., through its controlled subsidiary China Power Inc., signed a development contract with the HeBei Province local government for the rights to develop and construct 50 MW of biomass renewable energy projects utilizing straw. The projects have a total expected annual power generating capacity of 400 million kWh and expected annual revenues of approximately US$33.3 million. Total investment in the projects is approximately US$77.2 million, 35 percent in cash and 65 percent from China-based bank loans with preferred interest rates with government policy protection for the biomass renewable energy projects. Full production is expected in about two years. China Holdings - October 18, 2007.

    Canadian Bionenergy Corporation, supplier of biodiesel in Canada, has announced an agreement with Renewable Energy Group, Inc. to partner in the construction of a biodiesel production facility near Edmonton, Alberta. The company broke ground yesterday on the construction of the facility with an expected capacity of 225 million litres (60 million gallons) per year of biodiesel. Together, the companies also intend to forge a strategic marketing alliance to better serve the North American marketplace by supplying biodiesel blends and industrial methyl esters. Canadian Bioenergy - October 17, 2007.

    Leading experts in organic solar cells say the field is being damaged by questionable reports about ever bigger efficiency claims, leading the community into an endless and dangerous tendency to outbid the last report. In reality these solar cells still show low efficiencies that will need to improve significantly before they become a success. To counter the hype, scientists call on the community to press for independent verification of claimed efficiencies. Biopact sees a similar trend in the field of biofuels from algae, in which press releases containing unrealistic yield projections and 'breakthroughs' are released almost monthly. Eurekalert - October 16, 2007.

    The Colorado Wood Utilization and Marketing Program at Colorado State University received a $65,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service to expand the use of woody biomass throughout Colorado. The purpose of the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant program is to provide financial assistance to state foresters to accelerate the adoption of woody biomass as an alternative energy source. Colorado State University - October 12, 2007.

    Indian company Naturol Bioenergy Limited announced that it will soon start production from its biodiesel facility at Kakinada, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The facility has an annual production capacity of 100,000 tons of biodiesel and 10,000 tons of pharmaceutical grade glycerin. The primary feedstock is crude palm oil, but the facility was designed to accomodate a variety of vegetable oil feedstocks. Biofuel Review - October 11, 2007.

    Brazil's state energy company Petrobras says it will ship 9 million liters of ethanol to European clients next month in its first shipment via the northeastern port of Suape. Petrobras buys the biofuel from a pool of sugar cane processing plants in the state of Pernambuco, where the port is also located. Reuters - October 11, 2007.

    Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation, a leader in biomass-to-biofuel technology, announces that it has completed a $10.5 million equity financing with Quercus Trust, an environmentally oriented fund, and several other private investors. Ardour Capital Inc. of New York served as financial advisor in the transaction. Business Wire - October 10, 2007.

    Cuban livestock farmers are buying distillers dried grains (DDG), the main byproduct of corn based ethanol, from biofuel producers in the U.S. During a trade mission of Iowan officials to Cuba, trade officials there said the communist state will double its purchases of the dried grains this year. DesMoines Register - October 9, 2007.

    Brasil Ecodiesel, the leading Brazilian biodiesel producer company, recorded an increase of 57.7% in sales in the third quarter of the current year, in comparison with the previous three months. Sales volume stood at 53,000 cubic metres from August until September, against 34,000 cubic metres of the biofuel between April and June. The company is also concluding negotiations to export between 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes of glycerine per month to the Asian market. ANBA - October 4, 2007.

    PolyOne Corporation, the US supplier of specialised polymer materials, has opened a new colour concentrates manufacturing plant in Kutno, Poland. Located in central Poland, the new plant will produce colour products in the first instance, although the company says the facility can be expanded to handle other products. In March, the Ohio-based firm launched a range of of liquid colourants for use in bioplastics in biodegradable applications. The concentrates are European food contact compliant and can be used in polylactic acid (PLA) or starch-based blends. Plastics & Rubber Weekly - October 2, 2007.

    A turbo-charged, spray-guided direct-injection engine running on pure ethanol (E100) can achieve very high specific output, and shows “significant potential for aggressive engine downsizing for a dedicated or dual-fuel solution”, according to engineers at Orbital Corporation. GreenCarCongress - October 2, 2007.

    UK-based NiTech Solutions receives £800,000 in private funding to commercialize a cost-saving industrial mixing system, dubbed the Continuous Oscillatory Baffled Reactor (COBR), which can lower costs by 50 per cent and reduce process time by as much as 90 per cent during the manufacture of a range of commodities including chemicals, drugs and biofuels. Scotsman - October 2, 2007.

    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.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

EU Agricultue Commissioner debunks arguments against EU biofuels policy

The EU's Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer-Boel, has responded to criticism of the EU’s biofuels policy, arguing that, so far, nobody has brought any scientifically or economically sound arguments against it, and that instead the sector will bring real benefits to everyone. She also supports the kernel of a 'Biopact' with the South, promoted recently by Brazil's president Lula at the landmark International Biofuels Conference organised by the EU last July (previous post). Such a Biopact offers a win-win situation for all of us.

Fischer-Boel is appalled by the weakness of many of the arguments against biofuels, none of which have been credible up til now:
While we take well-reasoned arguments extremely seriously, we have not seen anything yet to deflect us from the goals [that biofuel will make up 10 per cent of transport fuel by 2020] signed up to earlier this year by EU leaders. - Mariann Fischer-Boel, EU Agriculture Commissioner
She adds that many of the NGOs who have been complaining for years about a lack of agricultural opportunities in developing countries, now suddenly criticize the emergence of the largest such opportunity in decades.

Biopact certainly agrees that much of the criticism against biofuels in general is not supported by any credible facts. However, there definitely are some highly problematic aspects, like the lavish subsidies in the EU and the US, the tariffs which keep much better biofuels from the South out of the market, and the lack of courage to help developing countries tap their huge sustainable biofuels potential by means of science and tech transfers.

The good thing is that Fischer-Boel indicates she is willing to further review the EU's current biofuel subsidy schemes (one of which, for energy crops, was recently scaled back, earlier post), and that the Union will import fuels from the South, where they can be produced much more efficiently and yield major social and economic benefits.

Food 'versus' fuel: a falsified debate
When it comes to food 'versus' fuel, all those who say biofuels are the major cause for increases in food prices are out of line. Fischer-Boel, a former Danish minister for food herself, says the statistics do not support the claim in any way: the EU uses less than two per cent of its cereals output for ethanol, which can never explain the double digit per cent increase in prices for cereal based food.

The real causes are bad weather in Australia, which has had a huge influence, the fact that key suppliers like the Ukraine have banned exports and that food demand in the emerging Asian economies is skyrocketing. Moreover, high oil prices are to blame for increased processing costs - the very prices which can be lowered by cheaper biofuels:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

European MEPs last week called on the commission to conduct an environmental and food-security impact assessment which takes account of existing competition for land and resources between food and plant-based fuel production in the EU. The assessment will bring reason to the debate which has been hijacked by some people who just say whatever they want without looking at the actual numbers and facts.

Fischer-Boel also debunks suggestions from the 'environmental lobby' [note: these are the words of 'The Parliament'] that biofuel production may do more harm than good to the environment. Writing in the latest issue of the Parliament Magazine, the agriculture commissioner says that speeding up the production of the second generation of fuels will have a huge positive impact on Europe’s CO2 emissions.

She is willing to review the current subsidy schemes with this in mind:
I will look into the possibility of abolishing the current aid to first-generation biofuels and diverting the money to promote innovation in second-generation biofuels.
Since 2004, the EU has been granting subsidies to encourage farmers to grow biofuel crops, raising fears of a move away from food production in the EU. Funding applications for 2007 have now reached their annual limit, sparking renewed concern.

Fischer-Boel explains that fixing the biofuels target at 10 per cent is “both realistic and sustainable”. She does add that in order to ensure food security, some of Europe’s bioenergy needs will be met by imports, provided the fuels meet emissions criteria.
Clearly, it makes no sense at all to import biofuels if more CO2 is made during their production than is saved when using them or if they create other environmental problems. The commission will therefore ask for a guarantee that imported biofuels do not come with a negative environmental performance tag.
Many of the biofuels that could be produced in the South have a very strong emissions and energy balance. They reduce carbon emissons far more than fuels produced in the North, and they require far fewer energy inputs. Shipping them in large tankers to the EU is highly efficient and does not change this situation. Next generation conversion processes will make these emissions and energy balances even stronger.

Fischer-Boel sees major chances for the developing world to participate in and profit from the biofuels market:
For years, we have been criticised for dumping subsidised food in the third world. The same critics have always said the answer to Africa’s problems is an end to such subsidies and rising world commodity prices. There is no doubt that the rising food prices can create problems for parts of the population. But it is also true that it will encourage agricultural production in the developing world and many developing countries have special natural advantages in producing input for biofuels. Our internal reform process has reduced production and allowed us to offer to phase out export subsidies.
Fischer-Boel further referred to Brazil's successful biofuel sector and that the country is condifent enough of the environmental and social benefits of the biofuels sector to allow its fuels to be certified:
We take heart from Brazilian president Lula’s statement in July in Brussels that his country is prepared to offer environmental and social certification for bioethanol.
Lula convinced the EU of the need a kind of 'Biopact' with countries from the South. He did so at the recent landmark International Biofuels Conference organised to debate and map out the EU's bioenergy future (earlier post). Biopact was invited to the non-public Conference and was recognized as an interesting voice in the debate.

CAP reform & the environment
Brussels will soon publish a communication setting out its ideas for possible improvements to the common agricultural policy (CAP), the so-called ‘health check’.
The 2003 CAP reforms have placed a much greater premium on reducing the environmental impact of farming. This also applies to the production of bioenergy and to the use of pesticides, where farmers are subject to strict limits.
Fischer-Boel remains convinced that bioenergy will prove to be a strong card for the future of European agriculture.

EU Parliament Magazine: Biofuels: Real benefits - October 29, 2007.

The Parliament: EU agriculture chief: Biofuel policy ‘realistic and sustainable’ - October 30, 2007.

Biopact: EU cuts back on energy crop subsidies - October 18, 2007

Biopact: How Brazil convinced the EU on biofuels - Lula's speech - July 06, 2007

Biopact: Highlights from the International Conference on Biofuels (Day 1) - July 05, 2007


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